The Country Escape is a romantic romp in which feathers are ruffled when a dotcom billionaire buys a historic Herefordshire estate and sets about trying to evict an animal sanctuary that’s based on one of its farms. That sanctuary is run by Kat Mason, who refuses to take the threat lying down, especially when a practised charmer is sent in to seduce her away from it.
Please tell us a bit about the character of Kat Mason.
Kat’s a natural born daredevil who thinks she has lost her nerve. She’s an escapee herself, a townie and an outsider who has run away from a destructive relationship to a rural backwater and found the most glorious friendships and new skills. I loved writing her because she’s unconventional and turbo-charged with chutzpah and energy.
You have been praised for writing characters that you want to know in real life, so how have you achieved this level of realness to the people in your books?
I’m incurably friendly and genuinely like most people I meet, even life’s rogues, and I can’t help putting them all in books. Working out what makes people tick and seeing things from every perspective is what keeps me up writing all night. My fictional world becomes entirely real to me and I even dream about the characters, which is probably one of the reasons they have so much life on the page.
You have been compared to Jilly Cooper, so how far would you go to say that she would be proud of your work?
I think Jilly Cooper inspired a generation of writers – she’s the Fairy Godmother to so many of us – and she should be terribly proud, although from all I’ve read about her, I think she’s probably far too modest to take the credit. Almost every author I know has at least one well-worn Jilly Cooper novel riding high on their bookshelves like a lodestar.
Why is this the perfect summer read?
I hope reading The Country Escape feels like a joyful holiday to help you forget your day to day troubles, regardless of whether one is reading it on the train to work or a sun-lounger on the beach – it’s a total escape to an imaginative world full of friends that you don’t want to leave.
Jenny Colgan has said that you ARE summer reading, so how does it feel so have such praise from another famous writer?
It’s incredibly uplifting to receive praise from other writers, and it’s so generous of Jenny to say it. I was cock-a-hoop to see that quote. Most authors I know are prolific readers – books are our fuel, and we guzzle them up and love to share our passion. The question I’m probably asked most often after ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ is ‘What books do you recommend?’ It’s lovely to pass on praise and inspire reading.
What is next for you?
I’ve just finished writing a book called The Woman Who Fell in Love for a Week, which focuses on one passionate love affair rather than a huge, romping cast of cross-crossing plots, although it has all the elements that I bring to every book I write. As always, I wanted to write a novel that’s funny and sexy with characters that every reader falls in love with, and I certainly lost my heart to them and giggled a lot when I was working on it, so I really hope I’ve managed it. It’s published in the UK in 2015.