An Interview with Hilly Barmby

Today, I’m delighted to welcome author Hilly Barmby to my blog, and I’m looking forward to chatting with her, so without more ado, perhaps you could tell us a bit about yourself, Hilly?

Thank you so much for inviting me to talk to you, Marcia. I attended Rochester College of Art to experience an excellent Foundation Course, which led to a degree course in Graphic Design at Central School of Art and Design in London. After my degree course, I went on a woodworking course to make furniture. Combining my art and woodworking skills, I got a stall at Covent Garden Craft Market to sell hand-made chess and backgammon sets. After moving to Brighton and teaching Design Technology for fifteen years, I gave it all up to relocate to Órgiva in southern Spain. I have been here for the last seven years, living happily in an old farmhouse on an organic fruit farm in the mountains with my partner and two rescue dogs.

Hilly, I know you’re a talented artist and ceramicist, and thank you for sending me some lovely photos of your work, which I will display in my blog. Here are a couple of photographs you’ve provided, which were taken in Spain. Below on the left is what you tell me is the nearest thing to a traffic jam where you live (the goats), and on the right is your workshop, which I understand is situated on your land between the oranges and the olives.

Working in Covent Garden must have been an amazing experience, but your life now sounds idyllic. Hilly, tell me, what inspired you to start writing?

I’ve been daydreaming all my life, and I finally started to write some of it down. My first novel was a middle-grade science fiction (not published), but this led to further middle-grade and young-adult stories. My first foray into adult books was a chick-lit based on my experiences as a teacher.

Many people ask me where my inspiration came from for my first book, From My Cold Dead Hands. A few years ago, I watched ‘Bowling for Columbine’, a film by activist Michael Moore. It’s a powerful film and made an impression on me. It got me wondering what would happen if someone woke up to find they couldn’t remember a thing about their previous life. And then discovered that they were fabulously wealthy. How marvellous! But if that person then slowly finds out they are alienated from their husband and kids because they advocate reprehensible views, that they now, with a slate wiped clean, find their previous belief system shameful, would they be able to change? Would they still hold those beliefs when they are presented afresh? The challenges were not to be stereotypical or make assumptions without detailed research to back it all up.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love getting that story down in whatever form it arrives, but for me, the special part is when your characters go off and do exactly what they want to, to the point where you sometimes can’t believe what they’ve been up to or what they’ve said. The next part I enjoy is editing. Over and over again. And then more…

What is the best money you have ever spent as a writer?

I have had several of my books critiqued professionally by Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. They offer many services, but I chose an in-depth critique, where they tell you what works and what doesn’t work. They then give recommendations as to how to improve. They cover every aspect of a novel, from characterisation and dialogue, arcs, flow and pace, plotting, concept, how to polish the writing and marketability and next steps. All of this was invaluable but cost quite a bit. I now have three books they critiqued published, so it was worth it.

I’m going to show some more of your lovely artwork here, Hilly. I understand that the painting on the left is a commission you did of a friend’s property down the road from where you live, and on the right is one of your ceramic bowls. I particularly like the painting, and the owner must have been thrilled with it.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre, or are you happy to explore others? Who are your favourite authors?

I read across all genres and target markets. My favourite authors are John Irving, Jane Austen, Tolkien, Clive Barker, Julian May, Lisa Jewell, John Wyndham, Robin Hobb, Suzanne Collins, Jonas Jonasson, George R. R. Martin, Stieg Larsson, Stephen King and Terry Pratchett. To name a few.

Are you a self-published, traditional or hybrid author? Please tell us about your experiences.

I’m traditionally published with three small independent publishers. My first two adult psychological thrillers were published by Bloodhound Books. I then secured a contract with SpellBound Books for a YA trilogy set in the future in a dystopian world. My next two psychological thrillers are with Hobeck Books. My experience has been that even if you are traditionally published, you still need to do a great deal of self-promotion.

Speaking of self-promotion, what do you think is the best way to market your books?

Ha! I use TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and various Facebook sites (for books in general or specifically for thrillers or YA). I have no idea if any of it works.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kind of things do they ask?

I do hear from some readers. I have a wonderful lady in Canada, and our joke is that she is my number one fan in Canada, but not in an Annie Wilkes kind of way.

Please tell us about your other books. Do you have a favourite, and if so, why?

My first published book is From My Cold Dead Hands, set in Atlanta, Georgia, and so out of my comfort zone. A famous agent said he loved it but couldn’t work out where it could go on his list. He asked me to write another book for him. So, I wrote The Pact, which was set in the places I know and based heavily on elements of my life. He turned it down, but it was my second book to come out with Bloodhound Books, so it was worth it. My third book was taken on by SpellBound Books. I told them it was book one of a trilogy (but I hadn’t written the two other books). It’s a Young Adult Dystopian novel set one hundred years into the future. They accepted the trilogy. Eazee Life was published in 2023, and the remaining books will be out in May and December of 2024.

My next two adult psychological thrillers are with Hobeck Books. Best Served Cold is set in Brighton, my old hometown, and the next one with Hobeck is called Never Forgive You and will be out in March 2024. It’s set at a French wedding when, of course, things do not go to plan. I think my favourite book is one that is, as yet, unpublished, called Glimpse. It’s heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time.

Both books sound intriguing, Hilly, and how exciting that Never Forgive You will be published later this month. I decided to take a look at the blurb, which is below. It’s certainly one to add to my reading list.

A glamorous French wedding
Arriving at the station with her boyfriend, Davey MacGregor, and his twin sisters, Ailsa and Juliette, Hetty, a thriller book addict, picks up on family tension. But that’s natural before a big wedding, isn’t it? Hetty feels out of her depth. The family are wealthy and well-educated, whereas she is a council house girl. Davey’s cousin Isabelle is to marry Jean-Jacques, a French right-wing politician, in the family chateau.
Ailsa is hesitant about coming back to France. Eight years ago, something happened that nearly destroyed the family. But that was dealt with, wasn’t it? Hetty has secrets of her own that she doesn’t want known. Ailsa is drawn back into the past. What, exactly, did happen? The expensive wedding is everything it should be, except when the groom is taken ill. The revellers carry on, but something is seriously wrong. The relationships between the family members fracture, and secrets from the past start coming to the surface, with murderous results… Who is telling the truth? Who is out for revenge?

I find one of the most enjoyable aspects of being an author is meeting and getting to know other authors, often on social media. Do you find this, too? What social media platforms do you use, and which do you find the most useful?

I have lots of amazing author friends on social media. I have mainly met them via Facebook sites, and we support each other in many ways. They are a combination of authors from my own publishing houses and self-published authors I have come across along the way.

What was your favourite book as a child?

The Weirdstone of Brisingham (and The Moon of Gomrath) by Alan Garner

How do you relax? Do you have any hobbies you would like to tell us about?

I am better known where I live as an artist. I belong to a prestigious art group called Artists’ Network Alpujarra or ANA. We have been exhibiting our work across this area since 2016. So, along with writing, I paint. I paint a lot! I work with watercolours, ink pens and coloured pencils. I also upcycle all manner of stuff, including old food tins. And along with the tins… I also do ceramics and make bowls, plates and hanging ornaments.

What is your favourite holiday destination and why?

I used to come to southern Spain every summer holiday until, in 2016, we moved here. I now live in my favourite holiday destination, and I still love it. I have a workshop for writing and painting surrounded by orange and olive trees. We can see mountains in every direction. The place was an organic farm, so we have a variety of fruit and nuts, which I make into jams or sorbets, or, like the olives, I preserve in salt. The photo is of a rocky bluff just down the road from me.

Use this question to tell us something about you that not many people know.

I was approached by a Spanish publisher to illustrate one of Lorca’s poems. It’s meant for little kids (7+) but is rather terrifying, in my opinion. (I used a pen name, Livvy Lee, which is a combination of our middle names – Olive and his is Lee).

Los encuentros de un caracol aventurero by Federico Garcia Lorca.

So now we are into 2024, what’s next for Hilly Barmby? As you working on a new novel, or do you have one planned?

I have books 2 & 3 of Eazee Life coming out this year, along with Never Forgive You. Hobeck Books is reading a third novel, and all I can do is cross my fingers and hope they like it.

I’m sure they will. Is there one last piece of your artwork you would like to share with us, Hilly?

Thank you. Yes, on the right is a painting I did using mixed media of pomegranates (which is the symbol for Granada).

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Hilly. I’ve enjoyed our conversation, and I wish you every success with all of your books.

Readers, you can keep in touch with Hilly and find all her books by using the following links:


Amazon Author Page: Hilly-Barmby Amazon Author Page




Los Encuentros de un Caracol Aventurero de Federico García Lorca

Los Encuentros De Un Caracol Aventurero


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