When publisher Head of Zeus suggested I write three books in a series set in the Cotswolds full of naughty country types, I jumped for joy. A big cast of characters, a gorgeous village backdrop, eccentric locals, horses and dogs galore – I’m home! It took me a while to settle back in, like a racehorse returning to staying chases after sprint hurdles. Creating a village that can sustain several books – I hope a great many – was a feat of logistics that tested my usual urge to start writing and see where I go. I plotted and plotted, drawing maps, writing backstories, character sketches, plot curves. By the time I struck off with Chapter One, I felt I’d taken the Knowledge on my imaginary map, had an MI5 dossier on every character and knew each plotline better than a Father Ted repeat.
Which of course meant I didn’t know where I was going at all. The Country Set took me in all sorts of unexpected directions in the year I worked on it, and it’s grown very big and very bouncy, as I fear all my favourite books do, but that means it’s all the more jam-packed with twists and turns. I adored creating the characters, all of whom now feel like friends and neighbours. When I went into the offices of the fabulous Head of Zeus to first talk about the series, one of the editors there said: ‘you were the writer who made us all want to fall in love in London in our twenties, and now you’ll make us all want to nest in the Cotswolds in our forties.’ That really would be heaven.