Life has recently imitated art in the Walker household. Normally, you can find me spouting happily away on here every couple of months, especially when I’ve just delivered a manuscript or I have a new book out, so I must apologise for being usually quiet this summer. My latest novel The Country Escape is now out, and I’ve been dying to share the news, but just as it hit the shops, the plot came back to haunt me…
The heroine of The Country Escape, Kat Mason, is an intrepid soul who lives in a remote farmhouse on an old country estate, where she has no internet or mobile signal, and the phone line is pretty unreliable too.
This summer, we moved to the Smallest Farmhouse in Warwickshire which we’re renting while we take on a project to do up as our forever home. The SFW has no near neighbours, and – despite promises from well-known phone providers both mobile and landline that we would be connected upon arrival – we’ve spent our first month here totally incommunicado. Until this week, the only way for me to send a text or check email on my clever bat-phone has been to wade through the nettles and thistles to the furthest corner of the orchard. Actually making a phone call involved climbing a tree there, where I was cut off on average once every two minutes (such fun whilst on hold to a call centre for the twentieth time that day). Surfing the internet was a non-starter, although I did manage to DM a Facebook friend by clambering perilously high up a knobbly cider apple tree when the wind was blowing in the right direction. The children – who have kept an eye on my antics from the trampoline which enabled them to bounce high enough to see me over the SFIW’s overgrown garden – thought mummy’s wobbly attempts at scaling branches in order to shout and weep at polite foreign customer services personnel hilarious compared to their deft leaps from bough to bough. I’m only grateful the sun shone most of the time. The day a huge thunderstorm suddenly broke while I was stuck on hold up my usual tree was not one I care to repeat.
In many ways it’s been utter bliss to be cut off from the world. The Country Escape is the first book release in years that I couldn’t obsessively check on Amazon for reader reviews as soon as it came out, nor suffer the self-conscious agony of spreading the word in a painfully embarrassed British way on Twitter and Facebook. For a writer, such peace of mind is sheer inspiration. In between bouts of irritable tree-climbing, I’ve loved the lack of interruption, dreaming up new plots while unpacking endless boxes, wondering what possessed me to put my printer and reference books in storage whilst the laminator and industrial shredder made it into my tiny writing corner. Like Kat Mason in her quiet Herefordshire retreat far from constantly streamed newsfeeds, I’ve valued the simplicity of our first weeks here, although they day we finally got a phone line, I greeted the Ocado homepage with tears of joy.
Now, a month after our arrival, the SFW is finally connected to outside world (in one room at least, the walls being too thick for Wifi to travel to the smart phones or tablets beyond that). The first thing I received when I logged online was the copy-edited manuscript of my next book, followed by over seven hundred emails and – by far the most welcome sight – some really generous messages from readers who have taken the time to make contact to say how much they loved The Country Escape. A huge thank you to all who contact me here; I’ll climb trees the world over to reply and let you know what a difference you make. In a year of non-stop curve balls – many the sort which would attract a margin note from my editor of ‘this wouldn’t happen in reality’ – knowing that my work gives so much pleasure has lifted my spirits no end. The Country Escape is a very joyful book filled with characters I’m immensely fond of, from daredevil Kat and the eccentric locals she befriends to one of my favourite ever bad-boy heroes, not to mention the legion of animals that were such fun to write. I hope you really enjoy it.
As soon as I post this, I’m going to sit down to look at that newly edited manuscript. The novel in question, entitled The Woman Who Fell In Love For a Week, will come out next year. Speaking as a woman who has almost fallen out of a tree every day for a month, I can’t wait to escape back into it. If life is going to imitate art again, this plot is definitely where I now want to be. I’ll explain why in my next blog. For now, thank you for visiting this page and all my very best wishes from the Smallest Farmhouse in Warwickshire, now firmly back on the superhighway.