With her new novel generating major buzz, a rumoured seven-figure advance and a film deal, author Deborah McKinlay is proof that life really does begin at 40

By Victoria Woodall


Deborah McKinlay is taking on the world post 40

Deborah McKinlay is taking on the world post 40

Doing things back to front has been the way forward for Deborah McKinlay. ‘I’ve been told
I’ve done everything in the wrong order,’ says the New Zealand-born writer, who went back to university (the OU, then Cambridge for a master’s in psychology), became a mother (‘I was pregnant writing my thesis’) and landed a rumoured seven-figure advance for her second novel, all in her 40s.

‘The deal was big enough to be shocking,’ says Deborah, now 53, who has been based in the UK as a jobbing nonfiction writer for more than 20 years and whose son is now seven. ‘You never know when life is going to turn around.’

The novel that had agents wielding chequebooks at dawn is published this week to great excitement in the world of women’s fiction, as it goes against the current trend for pacey, plot-driven marital thrillers in the Gone Girl mould. That Part Was True depicts the slow-burn ‘Will they, won’t they?’ relationship between agoraphobic British divorcée Eve and hard-boiled American novelist Jackson, which begins when Eve writes to Jackson praising a food-related scene in one of his books. Their connection progresses at the pace of snail mail – quite literally. Even in the age of social media, they correspond by letter, gradually revealing more about themselves. 

‘It’s a romantic book rather than a romance,’ says Deborah, for whom there was even more excitement last month when BBC Films (the makers of Philomena) optioned the rights to the book to turn it into a major movie.

That Part Was True will be published by Orion on Thursday, price £9.99

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