Interview: Gill Hornby

Interview: Gill Hornby

Gill Hornby, inspired writer about the Austen family, tells us about her most recent book, Godmersham Park, and her writing career.

Gill Hornby joins Barnes Bookfest this September for her new book, Godmersham Park, in conversation with broadcaster Harriett Gilbert, who appears on BBC Radio 4 and World Service. The book focuses on the beloved Austen family with one of Jane Austen’s best friends, Anne Sharp, the protagonist. The novel hones in on Anne and the interest that she sparks within Jane’s brother, Henry. 

In an interview with Gill, we had the pleasure of speaking with her about her writing and what launched her career. 

Gill’s writing career was inspired by her favourite author, Jane Austen, so naturally it felt right to write about her. Gill shares that she released a book prior to this that was a biography of Jane’s life, The Story of Jane Austen, designed for 8-12 year olds. Her passion, centered on Austen, has inspired her to delve into Jane’s life and write about the Regency period. 

When asked when she started writing, Gill recalls, “I started late when I was in my 50’s. I went to school for journalism and I worked in tv” where she reviewed newspapers. 

She shares that, “The Austen’s are the most interesting people in the world to me” and that her research had begun many years ago. Hornby disclosed that there is a daily diary from Fanny Austen in The British Library where she got most of her research from. 

She was inspired during lockdown to start writing when she was struggling with a lack of stimulation. 

Every writer experiences “writer’s block,” a built in enemy for the creative mind. When asked how she deals with this, she replied that she “gets on with it” and recommends to keep going, especially when there is a time-crunch. Hornby shared that sometimes she’ll take the dogs for a walk and this helps her clear her head if she gets stuck. 

Gill’s writing process is very straightforward, stating that she’ll sit in the den and write 800 words a day, sometimes plugging in her earbuds to concentrate. 

She admits she struggled with how to end the novel, and that the second draft required a huge amount of work. 

Any advice to young writers? “Get on with it”. She feels that the only way to know if you’re a writer is to start writing and to formulate it. Only then will you know if it’s right for you. 

Gill Hornby is scheduled to speak about her newest novel on Sunday 25 September at 4pm at St. Mary’s Barnes. She will be speaking about her fascination with the Austen family and how her research has inspired her work.

The Barnes Bookfest takes place from 23-25 September with many beloved authors and new writers. Topics include writing bestselling fiction and world politics, and shifts to global power in history, social justice, and memoir. Tickets are available online at or at The Barnes Bookshop.