Rom-com queen and Cambridgeshire dweller Lucy Vine reveals all about her writing life and fifth novel, Seven Exes
The heroine of Seven Exes is Esther – terminally single and just back from a terrible date. She complains to her two housemates, and they decide to go and get drunk at their local pub, where they discover an old magazine, Cosmour. Inside is a feature about how there’s only seven types of relationship you have in your life, and in among those seven will be ‘the one.’ They laugh about it, but it dawns on Esther that she’s had every one of those relationships to a tee, and starts thinking she must have missed ‘the one’ somewhere along the way. So she decides to embark on the ‘seven exes mission’, which is to revisit all of her terrible mistakes! There’s lots of laughs, and some emotional moments, too.
The inspiration came partly from the years I spent working as a magazine journalist. The kind of articles the girls discover is very familiar to me – and they were always so much fun. I love to look back at old magazines now; they’re problematic in a lot of ways but also very nostalgic for me. And the other thing is that before I met my husband, I was pretty obsessed with exes. I’d kind of go around in circles with people I’d dated before. So a lot of it did come from my own chequered past – but I also think that we’re all kind of obsessed with relationships we’ve had, with old flames. All of my friends talk a lot about exes, if only to mock how terrible our choices were!
My creative process can be quite messy. I thought that because I was a journalist for so long, I’d be really good at writing books and being organised. But 100,000 words is quite different to 800 words here and there – and sometimes I procrastinate to high heaven. I tend to let things percolate for a while before writing them down. I’ll come up with an idea, I’ll do a plan, and I’ll talk to my editor and make sure she’s happy with what I’m doing. Then I’ll tend to spend around two months thinking about the book – and when it comes to crunch time and I’ve only got a couple of months left before deadline, it all comes together and I’m pretty fast at the actual writing part.
Sometimes inspiration comes in the middle of the night, and I’ll be writing things on my phone, but mostly I find I’m more efficient in the morning. When I’m in the writing phase, I’m a nine-to-five kind of person. I tend to stop for way too long a lunch break, but I’ll write a few thousand words a day during that period. When I’m writing, it comes quite easily to me, and I know where I’m going. Probably because I do so much planning before I actually start writing. Procrastination is my problem – I’ll sometimes spend whole days watching Netflix, re-watching old stuff like US Office over and over again!
When I read, it tends to be rom coms, as that’s my genre, but I also love a twisty, turny thriller. My dream would be to write two books a year; one rom com – because I love being silly and making people laugh – but I’d absolutely love to have an alter ego and write a thriller.
I’ve always been obsessed with reading. My whole childhood, I was hidden away with a book, but one of the saddest things for me about being an author is that I don’t enjoy reading as much now. I find I’ll read something and think, ‘that’s really clever, I’d maybe do this next’, or ‘this sentence structure could be edited like that’. Often
I love a book, but I can’t disappear into the world in the same way I used to.
I’d love for my books to make it to the big screen, and I’d love to do some screenwriting at some point, too. My first book, Hot Mess, got optioned for a TV series in the US. It had an actress and a pilot and it got quite far along in the process. But it happened to be around the time of the Fleabag phenomenon, and everybody was like ‘we’ve just commissioned something similar to this’, so it didn’t go anywhere. It would be incredible if it happened though.
I love Cambridgeshire, I think it’s so beautiful. I live in Hemingford Grey – and I love that there’s this brilliant city so nearby, and yet this beautiful green space all around. And obviously you’re only an hour out of London, too. It feels like home. I’m the youngest of five siblings and my entire family now lives in Hemingford Grey – including ten nieces and nephews. We’re all in this village, so I can’t leave my house without bumping into a family member! Even though I wasn’t born here and we moved around a fair bit in my childhood, it’s in Cambridgeshire that I grew up and got to know who I was as a person.