An Interview with Beth O'Leary: Author of the Switch
We sat down (virtually of course) with bestselling author Beth O'Leary, who recently unveiled her second novel The Switch following the success of her first The Flat Share. We find out a little bit more about the inspirations behind the latest novel and where her love for writing came from.
FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT NOT KNOW YOU, WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHAT YOU DO?
I’m Beth, and I’m an author – I write uplifting fiction, the sorts of books you reach for when you need a hug. My first novel, The Flatshare, is a Sunday Times top 5 bestseller and has sold in thirty-three languages, which is still totally mind-boggling to me!
I live in the Hampshire countryside with a very poorly behaved golden retriever and my fiancé (who I probably should have mentioned before the dog, now I think about it…)
YOUR NEW BOOK, THE SWITCH JUST LAUNCHED – WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT?
The Switch is about a grandmother and a granddaughter who swap lives for two months. The grandmother, Eileen, is newly single, and she’d like to find love – but there aren’t many eligible gentlemen in her little Yorkshire village… And her granddaughter, Leena, is on a two-month sabbatical after having a panic attack at work. So the two of them decide to swap homes (and phones!) for two months, to give Leena some rest and relaxation in Yorkshire and Eileen an adventure in London.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THE BOOK?
I was inspired by happy times spent in the little village where my grandmother lived. At first I’d imagined writing a story about a young woman stepping into her grandma’s shoes while her grandmother was poorly, but actually I decided I didn’t want to write a woman in her seventies who was sick, especially after my own grandma sadly passed away. I wanted to write a 79-year-old who is full of life and humour and embarking on a new adventure. So the book became a full-on life swap!
WHO IS THE BOOK AIMED AT AND WHAT’S THE KEY MESSAGE IN THE STORY?
I’d say the book is aimed at anyone who is looking for something uplifting and cheerful. A lovely bookseller described The Switch as ‘hot chocolate for the soul’ and I loved that so much! That’s exactly the feeling I wanted my readers to have. I guess if I had to pin down one key message of the book, it would be that sometimes you need to shake things up to figure out what you really want. And (okay, two key messages) that we all need to look out for one another.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BETH O’LEARY?
I’m working on my next book, which will be publishing in Spring 2021. I’m really trying to see myself as a Proper Author now – shake off the imposter syndrome and own it, basically!
OUTSIDE OF YOUR WORK, WHAT ELSE IS KEEPING YOU BUSY AT THE MOMENT?
To be completely honest, at the moment I am totally immersed in my next book – I can barely think about anything else! I’m not even going to tell you how long it’s been since I cleaned the house or washed my hair.
Usually, though, I’m kept busy with volunteering locally, reading voraciously, and making unnecessarily elaborate dinners (I love to cook and bake). We live out in the countryside and most of our friends live in London, so before lockdown our weekends were almost always full of friends visiting for a rural getaway. I really miss being able to cook for guests!
FINALLY, WHAT ARE THE TOP THREE JOANIE PIECES YOU’RE CURRENTLY COVETING?
The Bleeker dungarees – one of the characters in my new book wears dungarees, and writing about them is making me want some of my own!
Loving the new Natalie Toile De Jouy tea dress too, and I’m infamous for owning way too many woolly jumpers, so it’s no surprise that the Linda Cable Knit cardigan is calling to me…