Writing can be a selfishly all-consuming profession, and living with a writer takes great resilience; I’ve lost count of the times I’ve promised ‘I’ll be up in half an hour’ as Sam goes to bed, only to find I’m still writing at two in the morning, swept up in my imaginary world. Similarly, I’m continually saying ‘I’ll write another website blog this week’, but then the novel I’m working on sucks me back in. Having always maintained that I’m easily distracted, I’ve recently realised that I’m quite the reverse. I’m obsessively driven and perfectionist. When I’m immersed in writing a novel, I’m thinking about it all the time. And on the rare occasions I can let it go, I’m mentally plotting the next one…
If this sounds nobly workaholic, it’s also a rather cowardly defence mechanism. Real life may be hammering down tough blows, but make-believe is my force shield as I bury my head in the joy of words, armed with a thesaurus and a witty epigram. Why waste sleepless tears on fate’s unfair twists when one can invent a big, raucous party with characters falling in and out of love, beds and ornamental ponds?
In the past nine months, I’ve been totally absorbed in writing and editing. This morning, I posted off the typeset proof pages of my latest novel with the final corrections marked up. It’s truly finished, hooray! The Summer Wedding, as it’s now entitled, is published in the UK on the 6th June. I believe it is amongst the most joyful novels I’ve written, and the characters have been great fun to develop, so much so that they now feel like terrific friends. Set between the Chilterns, LA, Andalucia and Kenya, it’s an unashamed romantic romp, featuring steamy summer days, gorgeous Spanish horses, bed-hopping and hot air balloons. The plot focuses on a group of four friends who studied drama together at university twenty years ago and share secrets that start to unravel when a daughter decides to get married. By the time it’s on sale this summer, I’ll have completed another novel’s first draft, for which I’ve also spent recent weeks researching and plotting, but I’ll post more about that anon.
Whilst I’ve been so busy working – and woefully neglecting this website – I’ve been enormously grateful to everyone who has so kindly contacted me via email, and on Twitter or Facebook, to write to me about The Love Letter and my other books. Receiving messages is such a lovely form of encouragement which really makes my typing fingers fly, and I hope I’ve replied to everybody personally, although I worry that I’m not very organised, especially when I’m writing feverishly. I once sent a long, enthusiastic thank you to a man who had emailed to say how much he enjoyed French Relations, not noticing that he’d added a PS saying that everything I’d written since then was total codswallop.
When I wrote French Relations twenty years ago, my life had taken a few wrong turns and I’d no idea how to make it better apart from seeking that high of total absorption in a book, and when I ran out of novels to read, I wrote one instead. To my delight, writing went on to become both the perfect distraction from my worries and the solution to them, leading on to a career that I’ve considered a tremendous privilege. So much has changed in publishing in the two decades since then that it’s hard to believe French Relations came out before Amazon existed, when mobile phones were the size of books rather than displaying them, bookselling chains lined the high streets without a Costa concession in sight, and the only e-book in circulation was by Irvine Welsh. It’s been a thrilling journey, yet the art of story-telling remains timeless. Blogging is a modern twist I’m still mastering. A wise friend tells me the secret is little and often. I’m going to try to heed her words, but if there’s nothing new on here in a few weeks time, please forgive me. It means I’m totally wrapped up in writing the next book.