Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen
Release Date: Kindle (14th April 2016) Paperback (3rd November 2016)
Publisher: Twenty7
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Today I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Lesley Allen to the blog on the paperback launch day of her novel The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir. Having Lesley on the blog is especially exciting for me as I have met Lesley and know how lovely she is. And, also because she is a local writer. Always keen to support writers from Northern Ireland I am so pleased Lesley could visit the blog. Lesley very kindly agreed to an author interview. But first, lets find out a bit about her book. You can read my review too!


‘A wonderful debut: poignant, powerful and moving, with ripples of dark humour.’ Colin Bateman

‘A charming and uplifting story, perfect for fans of A Man Called Ove or Jonas Jonasson. 'If you're a bit of a weirdo you will love Biddy Weir' - Ian Sansom, bestselling author of The Norfolk Mystery

‘I'm a little bit in love with Biddy Weir. In her, Lesley Allen has created a character who is the embodiment of all our adolescent insecurities’. Bernie McGill, author of The Butterfly Cabinet

‘In Biddy Weir, Lesley Allen has created one of those characters that gets under your skin and won't leave . . . A must-read for anyone who has ever wondered about life and where we fit in.’ Doreen Finn, author of
My Buried Life

It is National Anti-Bullying Month from the 31st Oct - 30th Nov 2016 and this book examines the long-term effects that bullying can have

Biddy Weir is a shy young loner. Abandoned by her mother as a baby, and with a father who's not quite equipped for the challenges of modern parenting, Biddy lives in her own little world, happy to pass her time painting by the sea and watching the birds go by.

With no friends, no schoolbag, and, worst of all, no mother, Biddy is branded a ‘Bloody Weirdo’ by the most popular girl in her primary school.

What follows is a heart-breaking tale of bullying and redemption, of falling down and of starting again, and of one woman's battle to learn to love herself for who she is.

Set in a fictional seaside town in Northern Ireland, the novel is a stark illustration of the extent to which bullying can affect us all, beyond just the victim and perpetrator.

Spare, dark and often unrelenting, The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is a story with universal appeal, which ultimately affirms the value of being different.

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is one of those books that unsettles you right from the very beginning.  Reading the blurb I wasn't really sure what to expect. Would it hold my attention? Would it tug at my heartstrings and make me cry? Would it change me? The answer to all those questions is YES!

The story of Biddy Weir, or has her classmates liked to call her 'Bloody Weirdo' left me feeling numb, shocked and desperately needing to hug Biddy. We've all come across a Biddy Weir in our time at school or work. That quiet person who stands alone on the sidelines and watches the world go by. That person who never makes a fuss or wants to bother anyone.  The person who looks out of place, doesn't keep up with the latest fashion or doesn't seem to be able to hold a conversation. That person who is a mere shadow, living a life so isolated and terrifying that we cannot imagine leading such a life ourselves.

Poor Biddy Weir is leading a quiet and unassuming existence and appears out of place in the modern world. Her wild red hair and charity shop clothes means she doesn't fit in. She has little or no social skills to speak off, preferring to remain in her own world. Living with her aging father, her mother left them when Biddy was a mere baby so Biddy has never had the experience of a mother's love. Her father loves Biddy of course but in his own quiet way, rarely demonstrative in his feelings. Biddy just knows he loves her. Biddy has never even had a friend. Ever!

Biddy didn't realise just how different she was or that she was in fact a weirdo until Alison Flemming joins her class in primary school. Alison is the girl everyone wants to be friends with. Everyone that is except Biddy Weir. Alison is stunned by Biddy's lack of interest in her and hones in on the fact that Biddy is just a little bit different and this difference or indifference on Biddy's part threatens Alison, who will do everything in her power to ensure that her status of no1 girl in the school is maintained. And, so begins a campaign of bullying which spans not only the rest of primary school but spills into Grammar school too. Alison and her cronies make Biddy's life a living hell.

The story also follows Biddy's life after school and her friendship with a counsellor who befriends her, teaching her to see the wonderful person she really is. But Biddy wants to share her story with the world and makes the decision to talk about the effects of bullying on daytime TV....................and..............well you'll have to read the book to find out what happens!

This is a story of a broken person. A sad and lonely person whose life has been so affected by the actions of others that she cannot function on a day to day basis. What the book teaches us is that bullying can take place on so many levels and in so many ways, not all of them physical. However, the psychological scars run much deeper than any physical scars could.

I urge everyone to read this book. It will leave you with a deep sense of sadness that the world can be such a cruel place, a little bit hopeful that people can change and desperate to seek out anyone like Biddy and be their friend. But mostly it will leave you wanting to be that little bit nicer to people. It will make you want to hug your children and teach them about friendship and love. I was sobbing as I turned the last page in this book. Life was difficult for poor Biddy Weir but I am all the better for knowing her. Thank you Lesley Allen! This book is one of my favourite reads of 2016 and I highly recommend it.


Name Lesley Allen

Do you write under your real name or is this a pen name you use? 

Well, Allen is my maiden name. In the rest of my life I’m Lesley Richardson, but as my marriage had broken up shortly before I got my deal with Twenty7 Books, I decided to publish as Allen. 

Where are you from?

I live in Bangor, County Down, and I’m very, very lucky to have a beautiful sea view at the moment. 

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.
I had a publishing deal for this book back in 2008 which fell through, and though I was utterly heartbroken at the time, I’m now glad it did.
I’m the press officer for Open House Festival, an annual month-long music and culture festival in Bangor.
I’ve boiled an egg for Joan Armatrading. Two eggs, actually!

What was the first thing you ever had published?

Well, The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is my debut novel, but I did have a short story published in an anthology many years ago.

Do you have a writing routine?

I wish I did! As I pretty much work full time, setting aside big chunks of time to write is really tricky. So I do it when I can, with no routine at all.

Do you have any writing rituals? 

I tend to make sure the toilets are clean and the house is tidy before I start writing – nothing to do with OCD, I’m just a truly dreadful procrastinator! Apart from that, I’ll have a treat on hand as a reward when I hit x amount of words: chocolate or wine, depending on the time of day.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

This book has been in my life for such a long time, and originally started its journey as a short story. It was the character of Biddy who drove the idea, and she is based on a number of individuals I’ve encountered over many years. I sometimes spot a couple of them when I’m out and about, and will say to my daughter, ‘there’s one of my Biddys’. I feel a genuine fondness towards and connection with them, even though most wouldn’t have the foggiest notion who I am. 

Who was the first person you shared your book with?
Hmm, that would have been my ex-husband, the one who left just before I got the deal with Twenty7 Books! (There’s only been one, just in case you think I make a habit out of losing husbands!)

Do you have a current work in progress?

Yes. I’m working on my second novel, The Possibilities of Elizabeth. I was awarded an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Artists Career Enhancement Scheme award to help me write it, which was a tremendous boost and has proven invaluable. It’s about a young woman who is in a coma, the result of an accident which may or may not have been an attempt to kill herself. She can’t remember, but she does know that what happens next is up to her…

Do you have any advice for budding authors?

My personal top tip is to read as much as you can in the genre you want to write for. If you understand your genre, your own writing can only be enhanced. Some writers do feel they can’t read other fiction while they’re writing themselves as it either subconsciously influences or totally distracts them. But for me, reading sparks my own creativity and gets my writing juices flowing.


Lesley Allen lives in Bangor, County Down. She is a freelance copywriter and the press officer and assistant programme developer for Open House Festival.  Lesley is previous recipient of the James Kilfedder Memorial Bursary, and two Support for the Individual Artist Art’s Council Awards. She was named as one of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s 2016 Artist Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) recipients for literature. She will be using the award to complete her second book.

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