ORIGINALLY from the West Midlands, local author Georgia Hill regularly holidayed in Lyme Regis as a child and has now realised her long-held dream and moved to the area. She has always enjoyed writing and has now had more than 10 novels and novellas published, focussing on romantic comedy and historical romance.
TELL us a little about your career history…
I’ve done lots of things but I’m not sure if I’ve had a career as such. I’ve worked for a charity, been a road safety advisor, worked in the theatre – an eclectic mix. Being a road safety advisor was fun at times. One of my regular gigs was to teach road safety to members of the US Navy at a base in Marble Arch. I also worked in schools a lot which I loved, so decided to re-train as a teacher. I taught in primary schools for 20 years, became a deputy head and then worked as an educational consultant for a local authority. Then I decided to change direction again and became a writer.
HOW did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always written. Diaries, travel journals, some really bad poetry, bits and pieces. I always had stories going on in my head but didn’t do anything about it. I suppose life kept getting in the way. Back in 2004, I joined an online forum. It was supposed to be all about nineteenth century literature but really was a bit of a swoon-fest for the BBC period drama ‘North and South’ and its leading man, actor Richard Armitage! A section of the forum was dedicated to members’ writing so I began to post a story, chapter by chapter. It was popular and I got instant feedback. I went on to do a couple of creative writing classes and joined a wonderful organisation called The Romantic Novelists’ Association. I went through their New Writers’ Scheme and am currently published by Harper Impulse, which is the digital-first imprint of Harper Collins.
WHAT kind of books do you write?
I write romance in two sub-genres – rom-coms and historical romance. My rom-coms are (hopefully) fun and light while my historical writing has darker themes. Having said that, there’s quite a lot of humour in my First World War novel ‘While I Was Waiting’ and some of my rom-coms often address serious issues such as bullying and dyslexia. You can find out more at www.georgiahill.co.uk
WHAT inspires your work?
Anything and everything is the short answer! For ‘While I Was Waiting’ inspiration initially sprang from my great-grandfather. He died in 1916 while serving with the Worcestershire Regiment. Then I came across the story of three brothers from Berrington Hall, a National Trust property near where I used to live in Herefordshire. All three died during the war.
I became interested in what happened to the women and the large country estates left behind by the men who went to war. I like to mix in a contemporary storyline into my historical novels so added townie Rachel adjusting to her new life in the country.
Inspiration for that came from my own experiences of being ‘from off’ as they call it in Herefordshire – in other words, an outsider. Rachel finds a collection of letters and diaries written during WWI and gradually pieces together the story of a woman who loved and lost. WWI is a period in history with which I’m fascinated.
A time of huge social and technological change, of enormous sacrifice and tragedy. It’s a rich seam to mine for a writer. On a far less serious note, I’ve also written a series of rom-com novellas inspired by my love of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’!
TELL us a little about your latest book?
‘Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Café’ is the story of a woman fighting for her livelihood in the face of a large-chain coffee shop opening up. It’s set in a small seaside town, loosely based on Lyme. Berecombe is entirely fictional and is in Devon, though.
It has a harbour, a prom, a little theatre and a steep hill which climbs up towards Axminster. I always have Lyme in mind when I’m writing about it but, because it’s fictional, I can add things when or if needed.
It’s great fun making up entire communities. ‘Millie Vanilla’ is coming out in three parts, ‘Spring Beginnings’ came out in February, ‘Summer Loves’ in June and ‘Christmas Weddings’ later in the year. Then I’m back to another historical. It’s also set on the coast near Lyme and is about a Victorian woman who yearns to become a fossil expert like Mary Anning but is forced into a society marriage.
The contemporary part of the novel features a boat-builder and a grieving woman investigating a family tragedy. It’s much easier doing research now I’m actually living here and Lyme’s Boat Building Academy were fantastically helpful.
WHAT do you enjoy about being a writer?
Making things up and living in the imaginary world I’ve created is great fun. I love talking to people too – everyone has a story to tell or has the potential to become a character in a book. I
bumped into ‘Fat Les’ the other day – he’s got to go into a story. Elvis, the deaf assistance poodle, is based on a real dog I know, although his owner is thankfully nothing like Biddy in ‘Millie Vanilla’.
I can set my own hours and work when it best suits me. And there’s no ‘working wardrobe.’ I can often be found still in pyjamas way past midday, much to the horror of the postman!
WHAT do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love walking the spaniels on the beach, looking for fossils. I enjoy going to the theatre and cinema and can’t wait for The Regent to open again. I have very fond memories of seeing ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and ‘Doctor Dolittle’ there as a small child – there was a mini zoo in the foyer!
I’m also incapable of walking past a museum of any sort and there are some fantastic ones in the area and I’m proud to be a friend of the Philpot. I’m married to a CAMRA member so you can often find us in a pub enjoying some good ale and pub grub. And, not surprisingly, I love reading. I’m mugging up on local myth and folklore at the moment.
WHAT do you like about living in the local area?
Like many people from the Midlands, my family trundled down the M5 and came to Lyme on holiday. My first time was when I was five when we rented Aunty Marge’s caravan on Timber Vale. We arrived in thick fog but it didn’t put me off – a love affair with the area began!
I’ve been coming to Lyme at least once a year since then, more often if I could manage it. I’d get withdrawal symptoms if I couldn’t get here. Now I’ve realised a long-held dream and am living here. I still can’t quite believe it. I’m fairly well travelled but nowhere compares to Lyme Regis. It has such a rich history, and connections to great literary, scientific and artistic figures, that I get a real thrill out of being here.
The Dorset and Devon countryside is glorious and, for a midlander, being by the sea never loses its appeal. I’ve lived and worked all over the UK but Lyme has been a constant in my life. Walking on the beach or along The Cobb simply makes me happy.