It’s snowdrop time again, which means family and friends won’t get much sense out of me until the bluebells are out. This is the time of year when I forsake everything tangible in favour of a fictional life; my plots are twisted all over the place as I talk to imaginary friends non-stop and pound out thousands of words a week. I’m at full flow, characters running in and out of my head, notes everywhere, the chaos that’s jumbling its way on to the screen making sense only to me.
‘First draft in three months’ time!’ I predict optimistically, crossing out more and more lines from my synopsis. Do we really need the village talent contest subplot? And just who am I supposed to pair the playboy farrier off with in the loved-up ending? I quickly lose grip on the daily routine, its dog-walk-school-run-supper-cooking rhythm fading beneath keyboard taps.
Writers are often portrayed as hell to live with, but in my case, it’s the not living with me that causes problems as I vanish into my plotting shed for long stretches at a time. I’m a demanding mother, hopeless delegator, pernickety perfectionist and I rarely ever sit down unless I’m writing. Family life doesn’t stop functioning when I’m gone, but there’s a definite shift. At first, it’s a gently debauched slide: oranges sit still in their mesh sacks in the fruit bowl, homework books aren’t signed, pot plants droop and towels live in damp colonies on the floor. By the time I deliver the first draft, we’ll be lucky if school sports bags contain more than one filthy sock and someone else’s polo shirt. By rewrites, nobody will have seen the pet hamster in weeks and the peace lily will have pegged it. By copy edit, the children will be feral.
This book is the second in my Comptons series, following straight on from The Country Set. After years starting each new novel by drawing a map, it’s heaven having a ready-made fictional village to revisit, better still to be reunited with so many familiar characters whose worlds I can occupy vicariously. Here’s where I admit that like many writers, I’m a great believer in self-fulfilling prophecies, and more than once over the years my life has spookily come to imitate my art after a book is published (although not yet by owning a Badminton winner or eloping in a hot air balloon, sigh). In the Country Set, I introduced Petra the naughty historical novelist, also a busy mum and confirmed shed worker, yet one capable of arranging oranges in a fruit bowl as artistically as Gaugin in between bodice-ripping chapters. Despite her complicated fantasy life, riotous children and rebellious horse, she writes a novel in three months flat. I’m hopeful this will work like a spell on my own working life. If it does, I’m giving her an unexpected film deal and a holiday in the Bahamas in the third book.
In other news, the export edition of The Country Set is now out, a gorgeously big, glossy paperback available to readers in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and beyond, as well as departure-side at British airports. Here it is:
The UK paperback of The Country Set, meanwhile, is published in June, its cover a closely guarded – and rather exciting – secret. Watch this space for a sneak peak in coming weeks.
I’ve also been asked a few times about the audio edition, and the good news is it’s imminent. It’s just taking the narrator rather a long time to read all 800 pages of it aloud, I’m told…
Finally, before I whisk off to give Petra dewier skin and an overriding desire to own a four-star event horse, I’d like to wish a very happy 2018 to all the fionawalker.com website visitors who read this. I hope you come back again soon (and if you want the heads up next time I blog on, just press the ‘follow ‘ button).