Five on Friday with Judy Leigh @JudyLeighWriter

Today I’m delighted to feature bestselling author Judy Leigh. Judy writes novels that celebrate fun and friendship, the ups and downs of life, relationships, the power of laughter and the belief that everyone should have a second chance at happiness, whatever their age.

Over to Judy:

I’ve lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently I live in Somerset. After teaching theatre, writing lyrics for a punk band and setting up Shakespeare Festivals, I completed an MA in Professional Writing.

Over the last few years, I have written nine novels, including A Grand Old Time, The Old Girls’ Network and The Golden Girls’ Getaway.

The Highland Hens came out on August 4th. And watch out for The Golden Oldies’ Book Club, published on December 6th….

I’m also working on more stories in another genre under the name of Elena Collins. These are dual timelines and more than a little bit spooky. The first one, The Witch’s Tree, was published in May 2022 and the second one is out in February. Watch this space.

Then there’s an announcement coming soon about a series of new books. I’m so excited about this – I can’t wait to share the news…

I’m a prolific writer, but when I’m not at the computer I’m often on the beach or on the moors, walking, doing yoga or travelling in the camper van. I’m a Reiki healer, a vegan and an animal lover. I have three black cats and I love live music, theatre and football.

Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

I love this question. It’s hard to pick five though. Firstly, You are my Sunshine. It’s a famous old song and my mother used to sing it to me on her knee. It makes me cry to hear it now.

Secondly, Tu jésty fátă, a Romanian song by Kanizsa Csillagai. I sing it a lot and I know all the words. It makes me feel very uplifted and I play it when I’m writing, along with lots of Hungarian and Eastern European Roma music.

Thirdly, Nina Simone’s Don’t let me be Misunderstood is so hauntingly beautiful. It’ a great piece of music to inspire a sad romantic scene in a book. I played it while writing Grace’s story in The Witch’s Tree.

Fourthly, Bullfrog Blues by Rory Gallagher. I love Rory’s music and I love the blues, so much that I wrote my first novel almost entirely to Rory’s music. The central character of A Grand Old Time, Evie Gallagher, was based on my mum. She’s feisty and funny, and Rory’s music really helped me to evoke the character.

Lastly, Bad Card by Bob Marley is about being resilient and determined. It’s about not feeling like an impostor, but being equally deserving. I love that song because it’s inspiring. So many people go through so many different types of hardship but it’s a song, like so many of Bob’s, that promises that we’ll all win through.

What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.

Books, of any kind. Kindle, paperbacks, audio, notebooks. All books. You know why.

Vegetables. I bake them, stir fry them, put them in pies and pasta and rice and a crunchy coating.

Cats. You have to love them even though they sleep on the laptop and erase a chapter.

My running machine in the gym. It’s wet and cold outside.

Music. It’s a sound track to life. See above. It lifts the heart and cushions it.

Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?

Firstly, you are worth it.

Secondly, only care about what the good people say. The other stuff isn’t worth listening to.

Travel as often as possible. It’s great. And learn languages. And read everything you can. (Is that more than one?)

Your mum was brilliant, but she was wrong about one thing  – it’s not just your responsibility to control how a man behaves towards you and it’s got nothing to do with your short skirt!

Just carry on being a bubble of joy – and revel in the health and happiness of everyone. Live for today but try not to hurt anyone else.

Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you

I saw a ghost when I was two years old when my parents moved into a creepy house.

I was born in Oxfordshire, although I’ve lived in many places.

I have been on stage in plays from Steel Magnolias to Babes in the Wood.

I never found out what my dad’s real Christian name was. It doesn’t matter though.

And – honestly- I was born with an extra finger on each hand….

Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.

I’d like to live to be a fun and feisty ninety-nine-year-old.

I’d like to be better at playing bass guitar.

I’d like to dance at my children’s weddings.

I’d like my books to be popular, entertaining, moving, or to inspire people a bit.

I’d like to travel to India again, and to South America, and to live in a house in France for a while.

Many thanks for joining me today Judy, it was lovely to learn more about you. I also enjoyed hearing some new music. Happy to add you to the book lovers club (not unsurprisingly, there’s plenty of us). I like the advice to travel as often as possible. That’s something I only learned as an adult, though thankfully when I still had chance to make up for lost time. Sadly, my language learning came much later and I’m still struggling with that. ‘Living for today’ is also something else I can definitely get behind. I certainly hope you get the chance to live in France. I’ve had many happy holidays in France and used to dream of doing the same. Continuing to travel also sounds great. One thing I’m sure of is that your books are already popular, entertaining and inspiring.

Judy’s Books

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

The Golden Oldies Book Club (available to pre-order due 6th Dec)

Deep in the Somerset countryside, the Combe Pomeroy village library hosts a monthly book club.

Ruth the librarian fears she’s too old to find love, but a discussion about Lady Chatterley’s Lover makes her think again.

Aurora doesn’t feel seventy-two and longs to relive the excitement of her youth, while Verity is getting increasingly tired of her husband Mark’s grumpiness and wonders if their son’s imminent flight from the nest might be just the moment for her to fly too. And Danielle is fed up with her cheating husband. Surely life has more in store for her than to settle for second best?

The glue that holds Combe Pomeroy together is Jeannie. Doyenne of the local cider farm and heartbeat of her family and community, no one has noticed that Jeannie needs some looking after too. Has the moment for her to retire finally arrived, and if so, what does her future hold?

From a book club French exchange trip, to many celebrations at the farm, this is the year that everything changes, that lifelong friendships are tested, and for some of the women, they finally get the love they deserve.

The Highland Hens

In the imposing Glen Carrick House overlooking Scotland’s famous Loch Ness, lives eighty-eight-year-old Mimi McKinlay, cared for by her three adult sons. Hamish has inherited his mother’s musical talents, Fin is the responsible brother, and Angus has the complicated and brooding personality to match his dashing good looks.

But what all the brothers share is a concern that their beloved mother is living in her memories of her days on stage, while letting her present days pass her by.

Jess Oliver is at a turning point. Amicably divorced after years of being married, this trip to the Highlands is a first taste of independence. It isn’t long before the beauty and hospitality of Scotland captures her heart.

When Mimi and Jess’s paths cross, a friendship is formed that will change both women’s lives.  And as together they find ways to look forward instead of to the past, long forgotten dreams are within reach, and every new day is fresh with possibilities.

A Year of Mr Maybes

Never say never to falling in love…

Val didn’t expect to be starting again in her seventies, but when life gives her lemons, Val is determined to make lemonade.

Settled into her new home – a picture-perfect fisherman’s cottage in the small Cornish seaside town of Lowenstowe – Val is ready to start a new chapter. And with her son due to get married next Christmas, there’s also the little job of finding herself a plus-one to help her face her ex-husband and his new girlfriend.

With the support of her neighbour Connie, and after decades of married life, Val takes the plunge back into the world of dating with trepidation and excitement. But can she remember how the single life works, let alone what her type is? There seem to be plenty of Mr Maybes, but no sign of Mr Right.

As the year passes, and as friendships and community life flourish, Val begins to blossom. And as Christmas approach, she might just decide she doesn’t need that plus-one after all – although never say never… 

The Golden Girls’ Getaway

It has been a long and lonely year for neighbours Vivienne, Mary and Gwen. All ladies of a ‘certain age’, their lockdown experience has left them feeling isolated and alone. They are in desperate need of a change.

Things start to look up however, when Gwen comes up with a plan to get them out of London by borrowing a motor home. In no time at all the ladies are on the road – away from the city, away from their own four walls, and away from their worries.

The British countryside has never looked more beautiful. As they travel from Stonehenge to Dartmoor, from the Devon and Cornish coasts to the Yorkshire moors, gradually the years fall back, and the three friends start to imagine new futures with no limitations.

And as their journey continues and their friendships deepen, and while the seaside views turn into glorious mountains and moors, Mary, Vivienne and Gwen learn to smile again, to laugh again, and maybe even to love again. Now they can believe that the best is still to come…

Lil’s Bus trip

When 82-year-old Lil decides to book herself, her 65-year-old daughter, Cassie, and her friend Maggie on a bus trip across Europe, she hopes for a little adventure to counteract the monotony of life.

Along with three members of the Salterley Tennis Club and the Jolly Weaver football team, whose ideas of a good time are rather different to Lil’s and strikingly at odds with each other’s, the merry band of travellers set out on their great adventure.

From moving moments on the beaches of Normandy, outrageous adventures in Amsterdam, to the beauty of Bruges and gastronomic delights of France, the holiday is just the tonic Lil, Maggie and Cassie needed.  

And as the time approaches for them to head home, Lil makes an unexpected discovery – even in her advancing years, men are like buses – there isn’t one for ages then two come along at once. Is Lil ready to share her golden years, and can the ladies embrace the fresh starts that the trip has given them. Or is it just too late to change…  

Chasing the Sun

Molly’s seventieth birthday comes as a shock. The woman in the mirror looks every day of those seventy years, but inside Molly feels she still has so much more living left to do. Widowed and living alone with her cat, Molly fears she is slipping into a cliché of old age.

When Molly’s sister Nell appears on her doorstep, distraught that her husband of more than forty years, Phil, has left her for a younger lover, the women decide to seize the day. By the morning, flights are booked, bags are packed, and they’re off to Spain.

The sun, the sea, the new friends and the freedom are just the tonic for broken hearts and flagging souls. But even Spain isn’t enough to revive Molly’s spirit so she decides to head off for a solo journey to continue to chase the sun and to chase happiness. Will she find what she’s looking for in a new country, or will she discover that true contentment can’t be found on a map? But it might just be found in a new flame…

Heading Over the Hill

Growing old disgracefully and having a grand old time…

Billy and Dawnie may be in their seventies, but that won’t stop them taking chances or starting again. Their grown-up children have families and lives of their own, so now it’s Billy and Dawnie’s turn, and a life near the sea in Devon beckons.

But the residents of Margot Street (or Maggot Street as Dawnie insists on calling it), don’t quite know what to make of their new neighbours. Billy’s loud, shiny and huge Harley Davidson looks out of place next to the safe and sensible Honda Jazz next door, and Dawnie’s never-ending range of outrageous wigs and colourful clothes, means she’s impossible to miss.

As new friendships are formed and new adventures are shared, Billy and Dawnie start winning their neighbours’ affection. And when life teaches them all a terrible lesson, the folks of Margot Street are determined to live every day as if it’s their last.

The Old Girls Network

It’s never too late to change…

After a health scare, 77 year-old spinster Barbara goes to convalesce in the sleepy picture-perfect English country village of Winsley Green with her sister Pauline. The sisters are chalk and cheese – Barbara, outspoken and aloof and Pauline, good natured and homely – so it’s not long before the tension starts to rise.

When Pauline accidentally knocks down a vagrant called Bisto Mulligan, the ladies find themselves with another houseguest. As he recovers, it becomes apparent that Bisto is not who he first seemed and, as the sisters get to know the kind and courageous man he really is, it’s clear Bisto could change both of their lives.

As the spring turns to summer, and the English countryside comes to life, can the three friends make the changes they need to, to embrace fresh starts, new loves, new journeys and new horizons. Or do old habits die too hard?

Five French Hens

The best days of your life might be still to come…

When 73 year old Jen announces that she is going to marry Eddie, a man she met just a few months previously on a beach on Boxing Day, her four best friends from aqua aerobics are flabbergasted.

The wedding is booked and, when the groom decides to have a stag trip to Las Vegas, the ladies arrange a hen party to beat all others -a week in the city of love, Paris.

From misadventures at the Louvre, outrageous Parisian cabarets, to drinking champagne with a dashing millionaire at the casino, Paris lives up to all their hopes and dreams. But a week can change everything, and the women that come home have very different dreams from the ones who got on the plane just days ago.

The Age of Adventure

You’re never too old to live dangerously…

All Georgie Turner wants is to keep her family together. But with her daughter growing up fast, her sister married to a man Georgie hates, and their aging aunt getting more and more outrageous, nothing’s simple.

So when her brother-in-law makes his biggest mistake yet, Georgie sees the chance to reunite the ladies in her life. And after a little persuasion, three generations of Turner women head off on a very unusual road trip. Georgie’s confident that some sun, sea and a bottle or two of prosecco will make this an adventure they’ll never forget.

What could possibly go wrong?

A Grand Old Time

It’s never too late to have the time of your life . . .

Evie Gallagher is regretting her hasty move into a care home. She may be seventy-five and recently widowed, but she’s absolutely not dead yet. And so, one morning, Evie walks out of Sheldon Lodge and sets off on a Great Adventure across Europe.

But not everyone thinks Great Adventures are appropriate for women of Evie’s age, least of all her son Brendan and his wife Maura, who follow a trail of puzzling text messages to bring her home.

When they finally catch up with her, there are shocks in store . . . because while Brendan may have given up on life and love, Evie certainly has not.


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