Humans of Hitchin... Edition 3: Zoë Folbigg

My connection with Hitchin goes way back to the day I was born; in an upstairs bedroom on Grove Road to be more specific. I’ve lived abroad, but I always came back. I love Hitchin for its sense of community. You can’t walk down the street without knowing every third person, or if you don’t know them you recognise them as a Hitchin character. I’ve got loads of inspiration for my books from Hitchin gossip… I probably shouldn’t say that!

My creative sector is publishing – I worked in magazines for years but am now the author of six books, including ‘The Note’ – Amazon’s bestselling book of 2018, which was set in a town suspiciously like Hitchin, called Hazelworth.
Hitchin gifted me my husband too as we met on the daily commute to King’s Cross. Because of the way we met, people would often say ‘that sounds like a novel’, so it was always in the back of my mind to write one… so I did! It’s a tough industry as there are so many hurdles to jump in the journey to getting published. You must be prepared to have doors closed in your face, for rejection and to have bad reviews! On the flip side, it’s lovely to achieve my dream, and to get messages from readers saying they loved my book or that a character resonated with them.

I remember going to my son’s school bingo night and I had the task of serving up fish & chips alongside a school dad. He turned to me and said, ‘I got an email about your book from Amazon today and it said it’s No 1.’ This was the first I’d heard, so I quickly checked, and he was right! It was surreal. I wanted to do cartwheels but had to continue with my parental duties. I felt lucky at the time, but in hindsight, I really do realise how lucky I was!

After the release of ‘The Note’ I was invited to a dinner to celebrate female authors. I was sitting between Sophie Kinsella, Erin Kelly & Adele Parks - women I’d admired for years. That was a pinch-me moment. I also got to go on ‘Woman’s Hour’ and ‘This Morning’ and ‘5 Live’ to talk about my books. It’s been amazing.

I’m now celebrating the release of my new book ‘Fairytale Of New York’. It’s a sweeping rollercoaster about love, friendship and learning to believe in your own worth, and it’s just become a bestseller, I’m so proud.
I have also just finished the first draft of my seventh book, out next summer. I’ve totally fallen for the characters. This happens with every book - I start with vague ideas of characters and by the end of the book I’m sad to let them go. It feels like they’re my friends – which sounds mad!

When I was a teenager at school, I would write stories for friends. They usually featured one of my best friends getting together with a member of Wet Wet Wet or Bros. I guess it could be called ‘fan fiction!’ I would go home, scribble on a few sides of A4, leave it on a cliffhanger ‘she was backstage, just about to meet her hero…’ My friends would read them at school and demand I write the new instalment for the next day. I think that maybe led me to where I am, I always got joy from creating stories!

Meeting my agent and publisher were definite turning points. After I met my agent, she submitted my book to loads of publishers and it just kept being rejected. One publisher didn’t like it because it sounded too commercial – which I never understood… surely you want a book to sell?! Months later my now-publisher came back from maternity leave and happened to find my book in her in-tray and loved it! I felt it was a real serendipitous moment.

When we were having lunch to celebrate the success of ‘The Note’, I told my publisher about all the rejections and she said she had turned down ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’. I gasped but she said ‘Oh everyone in London turned it down – the author self-published in the end!’ It just goes to show, you've got to keep plugging away… Maybe there is a book series in me or something with a darker twist! My dream is to have my book made into a film or TV. I have got very close a couple of times, but I know these are big hurdles to jump!

I’m happiest on a Friday night, watching ‘The Traitors’ with my boys, husband and kitten Margot, eating a Cantina Carnitas takeaway and macarons from Cake Atelier for dessert. Or if we’re in The Victoria playing rummy eating Bun Lovin’ Criminals.

Small business shout out Jolly Brown, half my wardrobe is from Hannah. I love Hitchin Lavender in the summer; The Kite Scotch eggs and pub quiz in Winter, and if I’m allowed to say ‘Treat Yo’ Self’ …it’s my go-to for gifts – 100%!


Buy Zoë's new book 'Fairytale of New York' here 

Photo credits: Alexa Loy 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published