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Lorraine Kelly talks embracing new challenges in her 60s as she celebrates major career move - Exclusive

The ITV star spoke about the inspiration behind her new book, The Island Swimmer

Lorraine Kelly in blue jacket
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
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Lorraine Kelly is feeling "incredibly lucky". The queen of breakfast TV for the past 40 years, starting as TV-AM's Scotland correspondent in 1984, is turning her talents to the world of publishing with her debut novel The Island Swimmer – and she is grateful for the chance to explore a new avenue at this stage of her career.

"Setting out in a completely different direction at 64 is, I suppose, quite unusual, but I think it’s really healthy," she says, sitting down for an exclusive interview with HELLO! about the inspiration behind her novel and embracing new challenges in her 60s. "We should be curious and want to challenge ourselves and not everybody gets the opportunity."

WATCH: Lorraine celebrates release of first novel with brave dip in the cold sea

Top of her mind, however, was her Good Morning Britain co-host Kate Garraway, whose husband Derek Draper died on 3 January following a three-year health battle with long Covid.

"She's remarkable," Lorraine says. "She's been so brave and looked after everybody else, but now she needs to heal and take care of herself. People don't know half of the things that girl's gone through. She's amazing."

"Amazing" is also the word Lorraine uses to describe her 82-year-old mum Anne, who has been diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a condition that stops the kidneys functioning properly. 

Lorraine Kelly smiling in a coral blazer© Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Lorraine Kelly opened up about the release of her first novel

"She's such a fighter. She has a zest for life – she still goes to her book club, she's still learning German. She's an inspiration."

It was Anne who encouraged Lorraine's passion for literature, having taught her daughter to read and write in a home filled with books and newspapers.

 "That was probably the best gift that my mum and dad could ever give to me," she says. "We might not have been rich as far as money goes, but in terms of education, culture and appreciation of books, we were."

Lorraine in red jumper with mum anne © Getty
Lorraine pictured with her mum Anne in 2021

It's perhaps unsurprising that having grown up in Scotland, Lorraine set her novel there, choosing Orkney off the north coast, which has held a special place in her heart since she first visited in 1985. 

"There's such a rich heritage and fantastic culture. The people are very special to me. Once the people in Orkney accept you, you're in."

In the book, Lorraine's protagonist Evie has to return to her family home on the islands after vowing to leave forever. When she meets a group of cold-water swimmers, she finds the strength to confront her past mistakes.

GMTV Presenters John Stapleton, Lorraine Kelly, Fiona Phillips, Penny Smith, Eamonn Holmes and Anne Davies
© ITV/Shutterstock
Lorraine has been on our screens for over 40 years. Here she is with GMTV Presenters John Stapleton, Fiona Phillips, Penny Smith, Eamonn Holmes and Anne Davies

"I've always wanted to write about someone who's running away," Lorraine says. "A lot of people never get the chance or don't want to go back and repair the damage, especially these days. People can take offence at something and close someone off. It's important to be forgiving and kind. It sounds very simple, but all the best ideas are simple, I think."

While she "learnt a lot" from her first time writing a novel, Lorraine's skills from her broadcasting career also came in handy. "Doing my job helped me with the editing process because I have to absorb a lot of information and edit it. I do that every day." 

Now, she says, she has to earn her place in the bookshops. "I'm very well aware I've got the opportunity to do it because I happen to be on TV, but it has to be good. So in a way, I've got more to prove. It's almost as if you’re pushing against that door and the door opens, but then you've really got to prove yourself and that's fine. I'm comfortable with that."

Lorraine rocked a sparkly suit© Shutterstock
Lorraine is embracing new challenges in her 60s

And how does it feel to be embarking on a different career in her 60s? "I don't know if I have, to be honest. I just feel incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to write," she replies. "I know people say: ‘Oh my goodness, you're 64!' but it doesn’t mean anything to me. No matter what stage of life you're at, if an opportunity presents itself, just go for it. What's the worst that can happen?

"You'll still live to fight another day and you'll have learnt a lot."

The Island Swimmer is out on Thursday 15 February, published by Orion, priced £20.

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