A sneak peak extract from next year’s book is now on my website – just head across to The Comptons page to read it. The novel focuses on peace-maker Pax whose life is turned around during a month’s close confinement in the Cotswolds with enigmatic Irish horseman Luca. This one has been a real thinker, which isn’t a self-indulgent euphemism for lying on a chaise longue eating grapes and waiting for inspiration to strike; it’s got characters I love like family, and I really want to do them justice. I felt exactly the same about Tash and Hugo, so I truly hope this is just the start of Pax and Luca’s story.
When a friend asked me how the writing was going the other day and I muttered through gritted teeth, ‘I wish I could find a way to end it all!’ I hadn’t realised this was open to interpretation. Thankfully, she knows me well and brandished the classic advice: “bring in a Dynasty-style Armageddon of plane crash/monsoon/massacre/deadly virus and kill them all off, darling!”
Ah, the temptation, even in the cosiest bosom of the cuddliest author, to elbow one’s characters over a cliff occasionally. When I’m up against it, I close my eyes and fantasise mine go under a combine harvester, spin the Land Rover or peg it en masse thanks to a dodgy batch of Pimm’s. I’m not alone…
Lots of us have already turned to the dark side; I know of at least five former chick-lit heavyweights who these days earn their livings on rampant killing sprees, some under pseudonyms. It’s only human to fantasise poisoning the odd cupcake in the little café of kindness by the sea. The young, professional heroes and heroines we coupled together in loved-up endings in London, Paris and New York in the 90’s and noughties are now the Waitrose-shopping, middle-aged middle-classes, and must be punished to survive in fiction. They’re put in peril in thrillers with titles that usually contain at least two of the words ‘Wife’ ‘Girl’ ‘Disappeared’ ‘Lie’ and ‘Gone’, their children snatched from pretty London garden squares, million-pound townhouses embezzled in secret scams, their husbands all closet gamblers and/or murderers while their yummy mummy school gate friends turn out to be predatory psychos. These books are gripping, breathless, beautifully written and make my heart palpitate constantly until I reach the end.
In the interest of buoyed-up balance, I’ll keep championing the romance reboot, encumbering our colourful middle England casts with as much emotional baggage as they can carry as they romp their way towards joyful denouements: traumatic pasts, ageing parents, difficult children, boring marriages, dysfunctional pets, a diesel car, thighs that rub together.
You see, I don’t think I’m much of a killer. Even my combine harvester fantasies usually involve a heroic horseback rescue, death-defying clinch, lots of rolling in the hay and a rollicking big-cast after-party in the village pub. It will take more than a heatwave and an approaching Cornish family holiday for me to commit character-cide. Pax and Luca are keepers. At least I hope they are. We’ll find out next year.