Interview: Victoria Hislop

Victoria Hislop.
Victoria Hislop.
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The Hislop family is undoubtedly a super-bright one. Bestselling novelist Victoria and Private Eye editor Ian met at Oxford University, their daughter Emily graduated from the same esteemed establishment and their son William is currently studying history there.

“Ian is much cleverer than I am,” insists Victoria, whose debut 2005 novel The Island has to date sold more than three million copies worldwide, been translated into 31 languages and was made into a hit 26-part Greek TV series, in which both Victoria and Ian had walk-on parts.

The 55-year-old author, who has written four novels and one book of short stories, always gets her husband’s feedback before sending her manuscript to the publisher.

“It takes him about two days to go through it, and at the end of the two days he gives me a tutorial. “

Thankfully, he didn’t have anything drastic to say about her latest novel, The Sunrise, set in the sunshine resort of Famagusta in Cyprus in 1972, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots live in harmony.

It centres on an ambitious couple who open the most glitzy hotel there - The Sunrise - only for prosperity and happiness to be scuppered by the conflict between Turkey and Greece, with devastating effects on both Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

The daughter of a journalist, Victoria grew up in Kent and after graduating from Oxford, went into book publishing, public relations and then journalism.

She met Ian in the English library at Oxford University and married seven years later; when Emily was born, Victoria decided to work from home.

Later, on holiday in Crete, she was inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony, to write The Island.

“They printed 5,000 copies in hardback and I had a disproportionately enormous party. But I always knew it was a good story, although initially, it had been very hard to get published. It wasn’t snapped up, there was no auction, people weren’t fighting over it. The subject matter of leprosy wasn’t commercial.”

However, the book earned Victoria the title of Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards, and the powerful reaction to it prompted her to learn Greek, which she says she speaks with a French accent, and become an ambassador for leprosy charity Lepra.

Today, she still finds inspiration in Greece and spends a lot of time at their house in Crete, where she can to soak up the atmosphere and write.

* The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop is published by Headline Review on September 25, priced £19.99.

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