How I created my protagonist – A guest post from author Judy Leigh

I’m honored to be partnering with Avon books to bring you this guest post on how the protagonist from Judy Leigh’s latest book A Grand Old Time. So without further ado…


My protagonist, Evie Gallagher, came to me in a similar way to Joan of Arc hearing the voice of the saints. I could hear Evie before I knew what she looked like. I knew she was feisty, that she made jokes and cursed a bit, spoke her mind, was mischievous. I wrote the first few chapters really quickly; Evie in Dublin, her escape from the care home she’d gone to by mistake, her visit to the bookmakers with a strange man and a bet on the horse which had her husband’s name.

It seemed natural to take her from Dublin, a city I love, to Liverpool, a city I where I’d lived for some years, a place where I was really at home. As the story progressed, I took her across the channel to Brittany, pursued by her son Brendan and his wife Maura, who were living with conflicts of their own.

It was natural to allow Evie to enjoy the ambience and warmth of Brittany. But once she’d bought her camper van and started her voyage south, she also began a real journey of self- discovery, self-fulfilment and independence, finding the person she didn’t know she was.

I took her to some of my favourite places in France. I wanted her to sample festivals, good food and wine. I wanted her to meet new people and have exciting experiences, not all of them wise.

Then I decided she would fall in love. As a widow in her golden years, Evie expected to be on her own for the rest of her life. Enter a grumpy man, a man with secrets, the septuagenarian hunk.  The final link in Evie’s journey was to examine her feelings about love; she had been married, the relationship had been fine, but who said a self-respecting woman in her seventies having the time of her life shouldn’t also have someone to share it with?

Evie’s journey parallels her son’s. When things happen to her that change her direction, they also happen to Brendan. Both have new things to learn, they have opportunities to examine the course of their current lives and the chance to make changes. They have the prospect of happiness within their grasp.

Evie’s story does not end as readers may expect, but it ends on a positive note. It is the story of a woman whose life was stagnating, who didn’t realise she needed to do something else, but grasped the opportunity when it came to her. Similarly, Brendan’s life was stuck in a place where it couldn’t go forward.

But the message is one of hope. Evie may be an older protagonist but her journey and her message is timeless. There is hope, there is always opportunity and love is there to be grasped by all. Evie says of her own mother that she was ‘done at forty.’ Like Evie, however, I hope our lives continue to be a journey of discovery for a long time to come.


This guest post is part of the book blog tour for Judy’s latest book A Grand Old Time. Check out the blurb here:

An uplifting, feelgood comedy that proves it’s never too late to have the time of your life.

‘Brilliantly funny, emotional and uplifting’ Miranda Dickinson

A funny and heart-warming debut for fans of Celia Imrie and Dawn French.

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.

‘Lovely . . . a book that assures that life is far from over at seventy’ Cathy Hopkins, bestselling author of The Kicking the Bucket List


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