Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
I love to share inspirational stories which epitomise being Fab after Fifty and show that it’s never too late to follow your dream. Today Tessa talks about how she achieved her ambition to write a book, and the challenges and thrill of having it published at the age of 88!
My name is Tessa Levy, I’m 88 years old and live in a flat in London, opposite Hyde Park. One of my daughters, a successful psychotherapist, lives in the same area as me, and the other is an amazing artist out in America.
When did you start to write?
I always have written, I used to spend a lot of time writing letters from letters to the family in America to love letters. I started writing this actual book a long time ago, but the timing wasn’t right, so I left it for a few years, but it was always there at the back of my mind. It’s been something I’ve always felt I should do.
What have been the challenges for you?
In my heart I knew that I had to write about experiences that were difficult. As my daughter was helping me to write this book, I felt very emotional and she discovered things about me that she didn’t know before. Even reading it now it makes me emotional. For many years I buried some of the challenging things that happened to me and all of a sudden you feel vulnerable, especially as one gets older, during the process of writing and reliving some of my experiences.
The publishing process hasn’t been easy, there’s a lot of pressure. I’ve come a long way from my time as a writer to now being a published author, but it’s a difficult journey that requires a lot of work.
What did you do prior to this?
I had an amazing career in antiques and enjoyed a long and happy marriage and family life raising my two daughters.
When was your first book published?
It’s due for release on May 24th 2018.
What is the title of your latest book?
No One But You.
What was the inspiration behind your latest book?
No One But You is based on my life story – a story that I’ve told plenty of people and all of whom said it sounded like a novel. I didn’t want it to be a straightforward autobiography though so I worked hard with my daughter Shelley to inject plenty of fictional elements to add even more spice and adventure, heart-break and tragedy. It’s fun to speak to people who have read the book and who are guessing which bits are real and which are fiction!
What can you share with us about the plot – without spoiling the ending!
This is the synopsis:
Join this young Jewish girl’s extraordinary journey, from the post-war East End of London to the high life and glamour of America…and back again. Tessa Levy’s yearning for adventure, opportunity, and ultimately love, on both side of the Atlantic is a heart-warming tale of an extraordinary lifetime. As the youngest child of a large family, she takes on the responsibility of caring for her beloved, dying mother. When her mother passes away, her life takes a dramatic turn, with her father quickly re-marrying, her siblings flying the family nest, leaving Tessa to make some big life choices at a very young age. She seeks solace with her distant cousins – a family she had only just discovered and grown to love through a series of letters back and forth across the pond, and at the tender age of 17 she sets off on an adventure of a lifetime…
Who are the key characters – and how do you hope readers over 50 will relate to them?
There are experiences in the book that anyone can relate to which they themselves have experienced over their own 50+ years. My life has been an adventure but there have been many twists and turns, ups and downs. Somehow, I’ve had the strength to come through and my characters have strength in their own right. Everyone faces challenges in their life. My one regret is that my siblings are not here to share this with me.
What do you like the most about the character/s you have created?
While this book is informed by my own life experiences it is primarily a work of fiction. The fictional characters have become akin to my friends, they’re people I would like to have known in real life.
Are there any key issues you wanted to draw attention to?
Although it was scary to go to America and I felt terribly alone, confronting my fears was the best thing I ever did and shaped the rest of my life. I left the comfort and familiarity of my life in London but making that leap was so important to shaping my life. This comes across very well in the book, showing the bravery of choosing the harder path – it’s often the best decision.
What do you want readers to take away having the read the book?
It is possible to truly love more than one person in a lifetime.
I want them to come away with a feeling that they’ve shared my life experience with me. Some reviewers have said that they miss the characters once the book has ended. This is a real pleasure for me.
What’s next for you – will there be a sequel with the same characters?
Never say never, possibly there could be another book in me.
What 3 tips would you offer women looking to write their first book?
- Never give up. It will be difficult, but you need to have faith in yourself.
- Be honest in your writing.
- Surround yourself by people you trust and who can help you. You need great support.