Haley Hill, who set up what turned out to be the UK’s biggest matchmaking agency, wrote a novel inspired by her experiences.
Her new book, It’s Got to be Perfect, is about a young girl, Ellie Rigby, who hurls her three-carat engagement ring into the gutter in despair and in her quest for looking for true love, she decides to take matters in her own hand and become a matchmaker.
The author speaks to Asha Chowdary about her new book and how it follows her own life to a large extent …
Can you tell us how you became a matchmaker? Was this the inspiration for this book?
At 27 years of age, I thought I had it all: a successful career as a pharmacist, a gorgeous man who adored me and a wedding I was excitedly planning. When my fiance called the wedding off at the final hour, my whole world was turned upside down. Straight away I began to question the assumptions I had made about love and relationships. A year later, after enduring months of terrible internet dates, I decided to set up the kind of dating service I would have liked. Looking back, I realise I was searching for answers.
You’ve mentioned that 85 per cent of relationships fail. Why is this so? Who is to blame?
It’s a depressing figure, isn’t it? I don’t think anyone is to blame. Most single people dream of finding a soul mate to grow old with. Yet our real-life experiences of love often aren’t as easy and effortless as we would have hoped. We’ve been conditioned (by the media, rom-coms and fairy tales) to expect another person to fulfill us, which is unfair and unrealistic when most of the time we don’t even know how to fulfill ourselves.
You also mention that 28 is the most eligible age for marriage. Why have you come to this conclusion?
From the twelve-thousand singles we personally interviewed, 28 was the age, we noticed, that women were most in demand, with respect to marriage, whereas men seemed to become more eligible with age. And 35 years is the age when men are most in demand. Obviously there are huge variations across the UK. Most of the data was collated from major cities.
What were your biggest hurdles and your biggest successes in this profession?
When I told people I was a matchmaker, most would squeal with delight, clap their hands and then say, ‘Oh that must be so much fun!’ It was fun but at the same time, it was stressful. Promising to help someone, and taking money to do so, leaves you with a huge burden of responsibility. When you’ve been through heartbreak and loneliness yourself, it’s horrible to watch someone else suffer in the same way. That being said, the upside is amazing. Receiving a jpeg image of a newborn, or a text from a newly engaged couple made it all worthwhile.
Despite the internet and the many social networking websites, why is it difficult for people to find partners to marry? Are expectations too high? Do most people need a matchmaker?
I don’t think any of us ‘need’ a matchmaker. However, the society we live in is much more fragmented than it used to be. A few generations ago we would have married the boy up the street. Now there is so much choice. I think, perhaps, too much choice. This not only affects the selection process but it also affects our motivation to stay with someone through hard times.
Can you tell us a bit about how you went about writing this book? How much is fact and how much is fiction? Did you enjoy writing it? How did you juggle your time to get the book done?
The first draft was non-fiction. However, by the time I’d re-written the book from scratch four times, it had become fictional. My style of writing, I found, over time was more fitting for the chick-lit genre than memoir. However, that being said, my experiences as a matchmaker gave me a deep insight into the minds of men and women. That along with my personal journey meant the emotions described are about as real as it gets. After the four re-writes, there were ten major edits. Then at the last minute, I re-wrote the first two chapters. I think the title, It’s Got to Be Perfect was a self-fulfilling prophecy. It was tough to juggle writing with looking after twin toddlers. Doing the rounds with agents and publishers was emotionally exhausting. There were many times I felt like abandoning it or just publishing the book as it was, but when it came to it, I knew I had no other option but to do the story justice. Now, when I read reviews which describe the book as ‘something much greater than chick-lit’, it makes all those late nights worthwhile!
When Ellie Rigby hurls her three-carat engagement ring into the gutter, she is certain of only one thing, that she has yet to know true love. Following months of disastrous internet dates and conflicting advice from her dysfunctional friends, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Although now, instead of just looking for a man for herself, she’s certain her life’s purpose is to find deep and meaningful love for all the singles in the world. Five years on, running the UK’s biggest matchmaking agency, and with thousands of engagements to her name, she has all the answers she needs. She knows why eighty-five percent of relationships fail. She knows why twenty-eight is the most eligible age for a woman. She knows that by thirty-five she’ll have only a thirty-percent chance of marriage. Most of all, she knows that no matter what, it has to be perfect. Or does it?
Haley Hill lives in London with her husband James, a wine merchant, their twin girls and a scruffy hound called Rufus. She set up and recently sold what turned out to be the UK’s biggest matchmaking agency. She is also the relationship expert for Star Magazine.