Alumni Services

Alice Hoyle

Alice Hoyle explains what inspired her to write books with the aim of explaining mental illness to children.


Alice Hoyle (nee Smith)


Biological Sciences and Zoology

Year of Graduation 2004
Alice Hoyle and her two daughters
Alice Hoyle with her two daughters

Your time at the University

The four years I spent at Edinburgh were among the best of my life. While in sixth form, I went to Edinburgh for an open day with my dad. I knew immediately that Edinburgh was my first choice as I fell in love with the city and the University. For some reason, my dad found a church holding an exhibition about HIV and AIDS and collected lots of leaflets which he shared with me. This also sparked a strong interest in sexual health.  While I was at University this interest led me to join the Tenteleni charity in South Africa as a volunteer teaching sex education. This also led to my ultimate career as a sexual health educator.

When I left Edinburgh in 2004 I really never thought that 12 years later I would become a published children’s author!

Alice Hoyle

Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University

After I left Edinburgh, I went to the University of Cambridge to do my Postgraduate Certificate in Education and train to be a science teacher, but still retained a passion for health education. Therefore, I focused on this as an additional specialism and went on to become a local authority adviser for Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education. I co-ordinate a national social enterprise called the RSE hub which aims to strengthen relationships and sex education across the country. I also completed my masters in sexual health education at the University of Staffordshire. 

While I was completing my masters and exploring children’s books relating to diversity, I noticed there weren’t any that explained mental health issues to children. Since schizophrenia is an illness affecting someone close to our family, I needed a book to explain this condition to my own children. In the absence of any book, I decided to write my own. Once the masters was completed, I was able to get the book published in February 2015.

My story ‘Pretend Friends’ explores the adventures of Little Bea and Big Jay, and the differences between their pretend friends. Little Bea’s pretend friends are an everyday part of childhood, but Big Jay’s pretend friends are a simple analogy for schizophrenia and experiencing seeing or hearing things that other people can’t see. I decided to donate all my royalties to the charity Rethink Mental Illness, since it has hugely supported my family. I am currently working on my second book which explains bipolar disorder to children.

When I left Edinburgh in 2004 I really never thought that 12 years later I would become a published children’s author!

Alumni wisdom

Don’t panic too much if it turns out that your degree course isn’t what you feel you want to do with your life. I certainly had a major wobble during my degree when I realised a full-time career in science or science teaching wasn’t for me, but I have managed to carve my own path into my dream job. I still get to geek out on bits of the science (human anatomy being a favourite), and I’m so glad I stuck with it: even though dissecting a thousand water fleas for my dissertation wasn’t my idea of fun, it certainly makes for entertaining anecdotes!