Best-selling author and Portsmouth High alumna Lucy Foley returns to school

The school were delighted to welcome back alumna, Lucy Foley, from the Class of 2004, whose recent book, The Hunting Party, reached No 1 in The Sunday Times best-seller list and her latest crime novel, The Guest List, has just hit our shelves.

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4th March 2020 — Portsmouth High School Sixth Form were thrilled to have one of their favourite authors, Lucy Foley, visit them to talk about her writing challenges and her latest book, The Guest List, which has just hit UK shelves.

Lucy Foley, from the Class of 2004, was visiting the school to judge the prestigious final of the Girls’ Day School Trust public speaking competition. She arrived earlier in the day to spend time with the Sixth Formers.

Lucy left Portsmouth High School and read English at Durham and UCL universities. After graduating and still viewing herself as more of a reader than a writer, she went into publishing, latterly at Hodder & Stoughton as Assistant Editor. Here she realised her dream of becoming a writer:

‘There was something less intimidating about seeing first drafts than the glossy hardback that you pick off the shelf,’ she said. ‘It made me realise that a novel starts as just a Word document. It felt doable.’

Lucy’s career path armed her with all the understanding she needed to become an author and in 2015 her debut novel, The Book of Lost and Found, was published. This work of historical fiction and its two successors, The Invitation and Last Letter from Istanbul have been described as “sweeping, multi-generational epics.” Her first crime novel, The Hunting Party, reached number one in the Sunday Times’ paperback fiction list.

One of the most impressive feats of Lucy’s writing is her ability to gift readers such tangibly vivid and descriptive settings and as a huge advocate of reading herself, is a positive role model to her readers. Lucy’s engagement with wide-ranging and mysterious destinations radiates from the pages of each of her four skilfully crafted novels and her fifth, The Guest List, has just been published to wide acclaim: “Lean, pacy and terrifically twisty,” says Waterstones and “thrilling” says a Times review.

‘I loved creative writing and reading when I was at school,’ she said. ‘I’ve still got some great school friends, some of whom have been amongst the first readers of my books.

‘I try to have a clear idea of the start and ending before I begin writing a novel,’ she told the Sixth Formers. Publishers look for great characterisation; they want to feel as if characters “are someone they would recognise as they walk through the door”.’

Lucy added that crime fiction requires more careful plotting but to ensure that you “leave room for things that might surprise you”. She even confessed that the killer in The Guest List was originally another character.

Sixth Former, Hannah said:

‘It was so lovely to meet Lucy and hear first-hand about the intricacies that go into writing a book. It was particularly inspiring given that Lucy herself is an alumna of the school, and has gone on to have such a successful writing career.’

Fellow Sixth Former, Kendra added: ‘It was a very valuable experience to meet Lucy, as not only did she give an insight into being an influential author, she also showed us just how much a PHS girl can achieve when she puts her mind to it!’

English teacher, Mrs Katie Wood, (Class of 1999) added:

‘As someone who has fond memories of Lucy from our schooldays, following her writing career has been an inspiring and thrilling process for me. Having her back with us, sharing her experience and insight so generously, was a wonderful and unique experience for the next generation of budding writers and avid readers at PHS - and we are incredibly grateful for her time and wisdom.’

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