Author feature: Timed Out by Barbara Lorna Hudson

By | July 30, 2016
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Jane Lambert thinks she may have made a mistake putting her work ahead of love and family for so long. She’s left wondering what to do with her life now that she has retired.
Taking note of the sentiment from one of her retirement cards – Retirement is NOT the end. It’s a NEW BEGINNING – she decides it’s about time she looked for love again, and places a lonely hearts advertisement. Jane embarks on her new life, suffering disappointments and learning hard truths about herself, while never losing her gift for self mockery or her eye for the absurd.
I do – just sometimes – go on a bit about how difficult it can be to find novels featuring characters that someone of my great age maturity and experience can identify with. So when I spotted a few articles by author Barbara Lorna Hudson on OAPSchat – you’ll find one here about the book, and the others through links in the footer to the article – I thought I’d really like to invite her to be my guest on Being Anne. Timed Out is described as “a contemporary coming-of-age novel about different kinds of love and the search for a meaningful life”, and was published in April for kindle and in paperback.
Barbara, welcome to Being Anne. Tell me more about where the idea for Timed Out came from.
I’d written a lot of short stories and had some modest success with them – competition listings and a handful of publications. Then it struck me that my own experience of retiring, wanting ‘something more’ and Internet dating might resonate with a lot of people.
Writing about your personal experience must be the ultimate in “write what you know”. Were you ever tempted to make it a memoir rather than a novel?
It did start off as a sort of memoir in disguise. But with the help of some highly qualified classmates and my tutor Adam Foulds on the University of East Anglia/Guardian course on the novel it became clear that turning those early outpourings into a novel would be more sensible. So I gave it a shape, a progression and greater richness, and I cut out real events that were hard to believe in.
Reading some of your reviews, I see one that calls the book “bravely honest”. Did you feel it was brave too?
Writing some parts of it did take courage – I cried my way through certain scenes and couldn’t bring myself to read them out to other people – still can’t.  I also wanted to paint a truer picture of ageing than one usually sees, to include the loss of looks (and teeth!) and the loneliness – I suppose you could call that ‘honest’.
Timed Out particularly appeals to me because there are so few books dealing with the challenges of later life. When you were writing, was I the kind of reader you had in your mind’s eye? Or do you think the book would appeal to a wider range of readers?
Initially I felt the novel would appeal mainly to older women, but I have been delighted to get lots of praise from younger people, and from men as well as women. One male reader in his twenties said he ‘totally identified with Jane.’  I suppose taking stock of one’s life, experiencing loss, looking for meaning, discovering the different forms that love can take, are key issues for us all.
I know you’ve put a lot of time and effort into learning your craft with writing workshops, courses and short story competitions. Having previously written short stories, how different was the discipline required to write a novel?
Yes, I had a lot to learn, and those courses do help to motivate you. Before turning to fiction I had published quite a lot of non-fiction and in particular I had to learn not to summarise so much and not to pontificate (my character Jane has some traces of that pompous academic, Barbara Hudson!). Competitions  have  helped too – providing an ego boost sometimes and useful deadlines,  and …well, I enjoy the gambling aspect.
As to the difference between novels and short stories: in some ways  I think short stories are easier – once you have the key idea you can dash off that first draft. But after that, you have to polish and polish and polish. And – in my case at least – you may have wait an awfully long time for another idea to pop up.
I’m really interested in your path to publication. I notice you’re published by Driven Press. How did things happen for you? 
I am 76 and after failing to get myself an agent for Timed Out after about a dozen queries – those who called in the whole manuscript seemed to like it but felt they couldn’t sell it to a mainstream publisher – I decided not to waste any more time. So I tried some of the few independent publishers who don’t insist on you having an agent. 
I read about Driven Press in Writing Magazine. They are a newish ‘small global press’ based in Australia. I am delighted with the cover they produced, which really does capture my protagonist’s wry humour and has a lovely Cambridge background.  And they have been meticulous with all the editing, answering my emails, and just ‘being there’ for me.

Planning, writing, editing, getting ready for launch – what’s been your favourite part of the whole process? And the most difficult?
I’ve loved the writing, I love editing, and I’ve loved the partying. Some parts of the promotion are not so agreeable, for example, trying to get bookshops to stock it, or answering personal questions at events. Perhaps the nicest thing of all is hearing that someone has enjoyed reading Timed Out.
And how do you write? What’s a typical writing day?
Once I get going I find it hard to stop and sometimes I write all night. Being retired I can afford to do that.
What writers do you particularly admire?
For their depiction of characters: Elizabeth Strout and Margaret Atwood.  For his use of language: Adam Foulds.
The way the book has been received must have delighted you – being on the Exeter Novel Prize shortlist and winning the Writers Village Novel Competition the undoubted icing on the cake. What’s next for you – another novel in the making?
My second novel Makeover is finished and with the publishers. Set in Oxford, it is about a rich widowed professor, still grieving for his wife, and a personal shopper with a background of abuse and deprivation who sets her cap at him. He wants sex and she wants security. Like Timed Out it is a mixture of social comedy and some deadly serious issues. And now I’m beginning novel number three.
And I wish you every success Barbara – thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to catch up with your writing before too long.
Barbara has done a really lovely interview with Radio Gorgeous – if you’d like to listen, you’ll find it here.
Author profile
A farmer’s daughter from Cornwall, Barbara Lorna Hudson studied at Newnham College, Cambridge. She started out as a psychiatric social worker before becoming an Oxford tutor. She is an Emeritus Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford.
After many publications in social work, psychiatry, and psychology, she has re-invented herself as a fiction writer over the last few years. Barbara has published over twenty short stories and been listed in several short story competitions. The first draft of Timed Out (written during a University of East Anglia Certificate Course) won first prize in the Writers’ Village Novel Competition and it was on the short list for the Exeter Novel Prize.
Barbara belongs to a writers’ group run by Blackwell’s Bookshop and The Oxford Editors, and she is also a regular performer at a story-telling club.
Follow Barbara on Twitter: she also has an excellent website.

One thought on “Author feature: Timed Out by Barbara Lorna Hudson

  1. Rosy Thornton

    Interesting interview – thanks, both of you. I very much enjoyed 'Timed Out' – so great to read a book about a proper, grown-up woman! And now looking forward to 'Makeover'…

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