Sally Hepworth, and the ‘Family Next Door’

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From the world of events management and human resources to having The Secrets of Midwives become the highest selling debut novel in Australia in 2015, Melbourne author Sally Hepworth is having the last word on juggling writing, motherhood and The Family Next Door.

Becoming an author was always a lifelong goal for Melbournite Sally Hepworth; in fact, she grew up thinking she was already a published author, having already written a series of short stories at just age seven.

“My Mum shoved the stories in a manilla folder, wrote ‘copyright’ on the front and had told me it was published… so I was under the impression I was a published author,” Ms Hepworth joked.

“Once I became an adult I obviously knew that wasn’t true and it continued to be a goal of mine to become published.”

Living in Canada at the time, Hepworth found a new angle, by incorporating her writing into whatever job she had at the time. When it came to having her first baby, she decided that her year long maternity leave would be enough time to write her first novel, which is something she now reflects back on as “misguided thoughts from a first time mother.”

“I thought I’d have all this time on my hands,” she said.

“It wasn’t as smooth sailing as that because I had a new baby to look after, but he was a good baby and a good sleeper so I did have a bit of time to finish my book… not in that year, but within 18 months.”

Unfortunately for Hepworth, her first book Love Like The French was not picked up by a US publisher. Whilst she waited for a publishing deal, she continued to write – and wrote two other books in the meantime until Love Like The French was picked up by a German publisher some time later.

What may have been interpreted as a setback helped Hepworth to produce some of her best work yet; even gaining the praise of New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin.

Fast forward to 2018, Hepworth now has three beautiful children under the age of nine. Her writing schedule is very different to her Canadian days; her two eldest are off to school this year and her youngest, Clementine stays home with a Nanny whilst she heads to the local library to write from 8-5, four days a week.

“I’m the same as any working Mum,” Hepworth said.

There must be something about pregnancy that inspires Hepworth, considering her latest novel The Family Next Door was written when pregnant with daughter Clementine.

“Being pregnant, I was home a lot more than generally normal,” Hepworth said.

“Being a generally curious person, I started to wonder what would happen if [my neighbours] weren’t who I thought they were.”

The novel sees Hepworth delving into the world of crime – something that is unfamiliar territory for her. However, life in Pleasant Court will be all too relatable for readers who find themselves mulling over the hidden lives of their neighbours.

“I always write about womens’ health, that’s always been an interest of mine and this crime that is involved is tied in with that,” she said.

“While I haven’t had a crime before, I did feel like it fit well with this book.. so no, I didn’t feel that strange writing about crime it was just a natural progression from what I was writing about.”

You can sink your teeth into Hepworth’s gripping neighbourhood saga from the 27th of February. Readers will soon learn that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see….