Amongst the loveliest things authors can hear is readers telling us that they didn’t want a novel to end, particularly when the books are as big and bouncy as mine. Getting that feedback for The Country Set was a wonderful shot in the arm whilst writing Country Lovers, my second novel for Head of Zeus, and every reason to be grateful that they had so wisely suggested I create a series. Each book’s storyline stands alone, but the world they’re set in is full of familiar faces and places.
I’ve created many fictional locations in my career, but it is the villages that readers always tell me they wished they could move to. Country Lovers returns to idyllic Compton Magna with its fruit orchards and secret vale, and I like to imagine each reader living in a limestone cottage beside the village green for six hundred pages, log fire crackling. The Comptons are amongst my all-time favourite settings, and I can picture them so vividly that whenever I drive through the area I think of as the Bardswolds, I half expect to see a signpost. To me, the British countryside is an unbeatable setting for stories, not just for the beauty of the landscape and its vibrant characters, but also for its close-knit communities. Country Lovers has a cast of friends that I hope readers feel a part of. Each time the book’s opened, my mission is to make it feel like entering a room full of auld acquaintances never to be forgotten.
Country Lovers begins on New Year’s Eve, and we meet its central characters making resolutions, making merry and making waves. While high-spirited locals celebrate in the village hall or pop corks at home, for others midnight can’t come fast enough. It was when I was writing the scenes building up to the big annual countdown that I found a completely new storyline jumping out at me, one of those ‘ah ha!’ moments every writer relishes. What would happen, I wondered, if an evening you intend to spend drowning your sorrows delivers the kiss of life?
It became the heart of the book and helped me create a heroine I’ll always treasure in Pax Forsyth.