The Cool Facts About ‘Hot Water’
This is a worst-case scenario for the French villa set.
Yikes, just a month away from the launch of ‘Hot Water’ and I haven’t done anything about it beyond shamelessly cold-calling a dozen authors I admire and asking them if they would read it.
The response was low, by the way. It was Christmas and authors don’t usually do this sort of thing, so I probably offended a couple of them. On the other hand, one eagerly agreed to read it, and gave me a lovely quote just a couple of days later (she made the front of the finished cover). I can’t tell you her name. It was the delightful Ann Cleeves.
My team includes Cat and Fenton (no ordinary names allowed at Titan) and they’re a tad more louche than in the larger companies, but a standalone thriller is a tricky sell even for them. If they can pull it off I’ll do more unusual projects with them, health permitting.
The other day I showed a friend the ARC of the book and he recognised certain elements in it. For a story involving a couple of wincing moments it’s pretty biographical in places. So what’s true?
I stayed in a villa exactly like the one in the book, right down to the layout of the rooms. There were ten of us, and during our time together there was a bizarre, unfounded accusation of infidelity that affected the dynamic of the group. I thought; the puzzling truth about what actually happened might just have happened for real. Suddenly I had a story. It was like the Villa Deodati with more bad behaviour. Stresses came out between the couples on holiday. I took certain characteristics of those who attended and exaggerated them, then stirred it all up, tightened the lid and let it simmer.
‘Hot Water’ is closest in tone to ‘Nyctophobia’, without a supernatural element, and will probably remind those who were there of what could have turned out to be a holiday in hell. But of course it’s also fiction, a story built around a few seeds of truth. This is a worst-case scenario for the French villa set.
Another element taken straight from life was the indifference of the village locals to tourists, and their occasional outright hostility. I’ve asked friends who go on about the delights of living in France, ‘Have you made a real set of friends there? People who aren’t simply earning off you?’
So part of the novel’s background is based on my experience of living in the South of France, its joys and horrors.
One part I had to make up was the cheating husband scenario. I had a friend who was caught sexting a girl by his wife, and they’re now divorced. Apart from that I avoided ‘The Girl…’-type suspense tales with unreliable or ridiculous narrators in favour of a more mysterious female lead.
Ann Cleeves summed it up; ‘A group of entitled, comfortable Brits bring about their own destruction in the heat of the French sun. I loved that simmering, relentless tension between apparently civilized people.’ She’s called it ‘A fable for our time.’ I’m just thrilled to get it out there.