I was never in doubt that my debut novel would be light-hearted women’s fiction, often known as chick lit. It’s a genre I delight in reading myself, and I’m tickled pink by the possibility that after a tough day, a woman might curl up with my writing as a calorie-free form of entertainment and escape. Plus, I knew I didn’t have the writing skills to attempt something more highbrow: my goal was unpretentious, energetic story-telling.
As a Brit now living (happily) with my husband near San Francisco, I’ve wondered from time to time whether I would stay in California or return to England if my marriage came unstuck. Generally, when I’m gainfully employed, I tend to think I would remain in the USA, but, during the time my own business was struggling, it did occur to me that without hubby, I’d be homeless, jobless and pointless! So, this is the situation the main character, Grace, finds herself in at the start of Saving Saffron Sweeting: not only is her husband cheating, but he’s doing it with her best interior design client.
Added to that, I’ve always been fascinated by the difference in what people (both men and women) say they’ll do if their partner is unfaithful, and what actually happens. The overwhelming majority of my friends tell me that if their other half ever cheats, then it’s game over. But, looking at both public figures and private couples, when infidelity does occur, it’s rarely that clear-cut. So, this was a theme I thought was worth exploring. Grace, of course, declares her marriage to be toast and makes a beeline for England. But she soon finds that running away is not as simple as it seems.
Finally, Saving Saffron Sweeting was a way for me to pay tribute to the little things about England that I miss. I deliberately peppered the book with British slang, filled it with afternoon tea and cakes, and included traditions like Bonfire Night. Although the village of Saffron Sweeting is fictional, I researched several locations around Cambridge to make sure it felt authentic. And many of my favourite places in London and East Anglia get a mention, too. For any author who has re-located and is feeling a teeny bit homesick, I highly recommend setting your novel in your hometown. Not only do you stay connected, but it’s also a wonderful excuse for some ‘research’ trips!