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5 minutes with: Hitchin author Zoë Folbigg

PUBLISHED: 16:22 08 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:22 08 May 2018

Zoë Folbigg with 'train man' Mark

Zoë Folbigg with 'train man' Mark

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We caught up with Hertfordshire-based Zoë Folbigg, author of The Note, on (very) belatedly acting on love at first sight

Your novel The Note is based on a true story – what happened?

In 2003, I was waiting for my usual train from Hitchin to King’s Cross when I noticed a new commuter. He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen, and he looked like a good soul. Suddenly I felt that everything was right with the world - and I wanted to see him again the next day, even though I was too shy to speak to him.

You really were shy – it took you a year to speak to him. What changed?

A friend had recently lost her mum to cancer and got a bit fed up with me talking about ‘train man’ and not doing anything about it. One evening over dinner she said ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ I decided to be brave and on my birthday wrote him a note saying everyone should do one daring, fun thing on their birthday, and this was mine. I said I thought he looked lovely, and if he would like to go for a drink, here was my email address.

What was his reply?

I was gutted to get an email from him later that day saying ‘thanks but unfortunately I have a girlfriend’. He said thank you and happy birthday, and that it was a brave thing to do.

That wasn’t the end of the story though?

He and his girlfriend split up a month after I gave him the note (for a totally unrelated reason!). Eight months after I’d given him the note he emailed me asking if I’d still like to go for that drink. He’d been slowly plucking up the courage to reply, unknown to me.

You did another brave thing by writing about your experience

Lots of people said our story sounded like a novel, so I thought I’d try writing one and fictionalise it. It’s a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it. I wanted the message of ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ to inspire other people.

The story of The Note has travelled far and wide. I was invited on This Morning and newspapers from The New York Post to Bild in Germany have featured it. I receive emails from strangers and messages on Instagram from people who say they loved it. I couldn’t have dreamed of this four years ago when I gave up my job, taking a risk to try to get The Note published.

What would you say to others too scared to speak to their own ‘train man’ or woman?

Life is too short. As long as you’re being courteous and respectful, you have nothing to lose by being brave and stepping out of your comfort zone. Thirteen years later Mark and I are married with two sons.

The Note is published by Aria, priced £7.99

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