Crackling fires, woolly jumpers – and book news!

Autumn is always the most magical of seasons, even with the heating still stubbornly off, a hot water bottle under each arm and greyhounds leaning in for body warmth as I type this. And here’s some news to warm your cockles if you’re waiting for the third Comptons novel: it will be out next summer. It’s called Country Secrets, and I look forward to sharing lots more details along with its gorgeous cover closer to publication.

I’ve taken slightly longer than anticipated to finish it, for which I can only apologise if you’ve been waiting impatiently since Country Lovers. I can’t remember a novel I got more stuck in, by which I don’t mean writer’s block so much as cosying down and not wanting to let go. Such a turbulent eighteen months of post-pandemic political flux, financial crises and global conflict no doubt added to my subconscious longing to stay in the Compton villages. Hacking around the ridgeway above the Bardswolds with the Saddle Bags is my imaginary safe space, and the prospect of this fictional gambol through village life coming to an end slowed me horribly midway through this book, the build-up to the inevitable breathless galloping finish all-absorbing.

Whilst bashing out my first novel French Relations at warp speed in the pre-digital Dark Ages, I bought a monthly magazine for aspiring writers like me, full of useful articles by pros about our mutual craft. One that still sticks in my mind claimed authors are either ‘gushers’ or ‘bleeders’. The former write as fast as they think, frequently verbosely; the latter think it all through before squeezing each word out. Back then, I was an out-and-out gusher.

More than twenty novels later, whilst I still gush most of the time, I realise I’ve become an occasional bleeder. This is partly practical because my typing (self-taught, two-fingered, keyboard-breaking) is increasingly rogue these days, like Eric Morecombe playing the piano, and I’m forced to strike the keys adagio not allegro. But I do stop to think more deeply about the techniques of writing too, and I can catch myself spending minutes on end moving paragraphs around wondering if they’d work better here or there. It’s all very time-consuming and probably far too self-doubting, although I like to fool myself that it’s grown-up and literary.

My greatest weakness, however, has always been my love of word and wordplay. This has never changed, but with online dictionaries a keystroke away, the temptation to pernickety perfectionism can be overwhelming. A carefully chosen phrase or motif can make or break a piece of writing and lend it meaning. For example, when I first wrote ‘warm the cockles’ at the top of this page, it hummed radioactively with antiquated over-use, but because I’m fond of a bit of vintage verbiage – from collywobbles to gumption – a cliche’s sometimes hunky-dory if its meaning checks out. Which is how I’ve just discovered that the things we feel warming up when we get good news are our heart’s cockle-shaped ventricles and not – as I always imagined – a hot snack blended with whelks and winkles raked from the Thames at low tide, once sold in London’s East End. Which makes mine all the more aglow to have another big-hearted novel on its way to you, even if it’s a bit bleeding late.

Rest assured that my (cardiac) cockles have pumped their warmest and toastiest love into Country Secrets this past year and that my not wanting to leave the Comptons is a testament to how much I adore and believe in the setting and its characters. If I could have moved there permanently, I would. I look forward to inviting you all to come back there next summer.

Before that, I’m escaping again. One wonderful bonus to being an author, whether gushing or bleeding, is that we can always invent new favourite places to take you to, and my imagination is already exploring the next one. Right now, it’s buzzing at the prospect of balmy sunshine, soothing seawater, cawing gulls and hidden sandy coves. Cue those hot cockles.

More on that, and on Country Secrets, here soon.

3 thoughts on “Crackling fires, woolly jumpers – and book news!

  1. Kathleen Upsall says:

    Fantastic news! And exactly what I needed after a dank Tuesday stuck in a northern office watching it get increasingly dark before driving through rubbish traffic to give my ponies a kiss Goodnight at the stables.
    I’m very excited for the last Compton book- I’m re-reading one and two… again… so I’m ready!


  2. Kristy Hazlehurst says:

    Thank god for that!! Iv read and re read the Compton books 3 times now to remind myself how it ends and because I’m desperate for more news of all of them! Love your work , your style is just how I want to write, if I ever put my ideas down on paper that is x


  3. Claire de Gruchy says:

    I am so looking forward to it. Covid and the pandemic fried my brain so I resigned from my career of 30 years and bought a pony.


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