Photo by Brian Sayle @BrianSaylePhoto // Instagram brian_sayle

International bestselling author Gail Honeyman, who shot to fame with her debut novel ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, made a special visit to Edge Hill University to discuss her work.

Gail spoke about her delight at the book being chosen as the University’s Big Read, an initiative which saw the book given free to all new students to give them something to talk about with new people.

In conversation with Roy Bayfield, the University’s Director of Corporate Communications, Gail told the public audience the idea for the novel came after she heard about a young person who went home on Friday and didn’t speak to anyone until she returned to work on Monday. She said:

“Loneliness is something you read about in the news but a few years ago it was not discussed at all. We think of it as a problem for older people……it was unusual for a young person to articulate that experience. I thought, how could a young person live that type of personal life. Eleanor grew from that.”

Photo by Brian Sayle @BrianSaylePhoto // Instagram brian_sayle

Revealing how it took her two-and-a-half-years to write, Gail also described her relationship with her characters. Joking with the audience, Gail said:

“I’ve had her (Eleanor’s) voice in my head. I know everything about her, how long her toenails are, what brand of hair shampoo she uses but I have no visual picture of her….l made myself laugh quite a lot, I pictured a well-educated 29-year-old who almost hatches from an egg and I wondered what it’s like for her to go to the hairdresser or a burger place for the first time? I asked myself what would Eleanor do? And she would have a fish burger of course.”

Taking questions from the audience Gail also touched about how Glasgow (the setting for the novel) was central to its development, describing it as a “really kind city, and funny.”

Addressing loneliness and kindness, Gail talked about one of the main characters Raymond. She said:

“I think kindness is real and should be celebrated. There are lots of Raymonds in the world who impact on people every day with their kindness. Those tiny little things we can all do every day can be transformative if they happen at the right time to the right person.”

Describing Eleanor Oliphant as a survivor, she revealed other insights into her work. She said:

“There’s no element of autobiography, my own mum’s lovely…….my characterisation of mummy was even more appalling in the first draft. I ended up toning her down as she would have drawn the attention from Eleanor.”

Speaking after the event Gail said:

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be here and to be this year’s Big Read. I’m very grateful to be invited here today and feel very grateful to have had the chance to meet readers from across the country, students and staff on such a beautiful campus.”

For more information please visit www.edgehill.ac.uk/bigread