Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
Cary J Hansson talks about the inspiration behind her first published novel, A Midlife Holiday.
I’m Cary. I’m 55, a mum of three (Twins of 20 and a late-life baby who is now 11!) I’m from Norfolk, UK, but I now live in Stockholm, with my Swedish husband. I’ve been there for about 10 yrs.
When did you start to write?
At age 40, I went to University to study Creative Writing and English Literature. I finished with a First Class degree, moved to Sweden and have been writing seriously, as in every day, for ten years.
What have been the challenges for you?
Keeping going in the face of so much rejection – which is only par for the course in publishing. The lack of contacts, (being out in Stockholm) and the loneliness. It’s not the most social of jobs!
What did you do prior to this?
Everything! I trained as a dancer when I was 16, worked in pantomime and repertory theatre. Trained as a fitness instructor and worked on cruise ships. Worked on the shopping channel as a presenter and in between all that had jobs in pubs, and restaurants and shops and reception desks. You name it and I’ve sliced it, sent it, served it or sold it!
When was your first book published?
17th May this year
What is the title of your latest book?
A Midlife Holiday – it’s the first part of a trilogy called The Midlife Trilogy.
What was the inspiration behind your latest book?
On my 50th birthday I had a wonderful lunch with my close girlfriends. It started at midday and went onto midnight. So the pivotal early scene, when Helen is celebrating her birthday was definitely inspired by that. But the inspiration for the trilogy comes from my life and the lives of my girlfriends. I’ve always been interested in the unsung heroism, the drama and entertainment going on under our noses in the most domestic of settings.
What can you share with us about the plot – without spoiling the ending!
I can say that the story revolves around an impromptu holiday in Cyprus that three women, who have been best friends since student days, decide to take. It’s the first time in thirty years they’ve spent so much time in each other’s company, and the story focuses on friendship , how important it is but also how fragile – how it changes and how compromises and accommodations must be made – especially because the character who organised the holiday has a secret reason for going, which when revealed, causes such shock the friendship itself is threatened. In-between there are a lot of laughs, and a middle aged romance, as Helen, the leading character re-discovers the joy in life.
Who are the key characters – and how do you hope readers over 50 will relate to them?
Helen, Caro and Kay. There really is something for everyone.
Helen is unhappy in her long marriage, but has never admitted this out loud. Her two children have/are leaving the nest and she’s beginning to realise just how selfish her husband has been chasing his own dreams, while she shelved hers – although she understands that she also allowed this to happen.
Caro is a high flier, a wealthy career woman, with no husband and no kids. But at fifty, she’s beginning to slow down and is increasingly finding her life lonelier and lonelier.
Kay is divorced, with a grown up son who has learning difficulties. She’s never left him alone to cope and is struggling to make the break. She’s also exhausted by her job, as a teacher, and by her elderly parents who live along the road and who have come to depend upon her.
What do like the most about the character/s you have created?
Oh this is easy! I love my characters because at 50 they’ve been there, seen it and done it. They have a great sense of humour, they’re resilient and they’re practical. They really don’t care too much and by the end of the holiday, all of them have realised that far from being over, they’ve barely started! In many ways, the holiday frees them.
Never Too Late
Are there any key issues you wanted to draw attention to?
The fact that it’s never too late to start living your life, based more upon your own terms. Plus, the importance and general reliance of female friendship.
What do want readers to take away having the read the book?
Hope, joy, humour. A stirring of spirit … as in I’d like to do that … or I can see myself doing that.
What’s next for you – will there be a sequel with the same characters?
Definitely. Book two is scheduled for publication in November. The third and final book, will be out in approximately another year.
What 3 tips would you offer women looking to write their first book?
Take a course, do some reading. Equip yourself with a few tools first. I believe that the biggest mistake people make is thinking that writing a book, or a poem, is a ‘gift’ or something that comes naturally, driven only by inspiration. It isn’t. It’s a skill, which is learned.