For British writer Rachel Joyce, it was a "leap of faith" to begin writing a novel at age 48 after more than 17 years of penning radio plays.

Now, however, her book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry has become an international sensation, landing on the Man Booker Prize long list and marking her as a writer to watch.

Now a mother of four, she has written for radio since she was pregnant with her first child and left behind a successful acting career that had taken her to Stratford-on-Avon.

In an interview with The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright, Joyce said her family missed the income from her radio writing while she penned her novel, but she had an important pilgrimage to make herself: through the territory of loss and redemption.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry actually began as a radio play, Joyce acknowledged.

"What was different about it as a radio play was that I dedicated it to my Dad. I did this because he had just told me that he was dying of cancer and I wanted to sort of run away and write something very secret that was a life-affirming story because I was losing someone that I very much wanted to keep," she said.

Harold Fry is an unremarkable man who responds to a letter from a dying friend by beginning a pilgrimage on foot from the south of Britain to the north. His journey draws the eyes of the media, but is essentially an attempt to work through the losses of his own life.

"For me, I think that it was that when you’re on your feet, when you get away from your house and your stuff, then you can think. I think you can think in a very stripped-back way," Joyce said.

The pilgrimage is a form of meditation for her character, she said, adding that he has elements of her own father, now deceased.

"There is something about that English generation who found it difficult to express their feelings — that’s an area that really interests me," she said.

Joyce spoke to The Sunday Edition from a studio near her home, a farm in Gloucester, U.K.