Before I started writing Truth Hurts, I made a long list of all of the things that I love in fiction. On that list were old country houses, class tensions, older men, whirlwind romances, food, snobs, house parties and secrets. Then I set about trying to tie as many of those things together as possible, which is how I came up with the idea of Poppy, a lost twenty something nanny, falling in love with Drew, an equally lost forty something with lots of money.
They meet in Ibiza, marry within weeks. On their wedding day Drew suggests that in order to avoid getting dragged down by the past, they should never speak of anything that happened before the day they met. This suits Poppy perfectly, and she agrees. After the wedding they move back to Wiltshire, to a house Drew bought as a wedding gift. But, as you might imagine, their agreement doesn’t run smoothly.
Truth Hurts is made up of lots of shards of my own life, rearranged into something much shinier and more dangerous (thankfully) than mine.
As someone who has worked as a nanny for a rich family, I know how it feels to be somewhere between a servant and a friend, perceived as a sexual threat or an interloper, a backstory I repurposed and lent to Poppy.
Thursday House, where Truth Hurts mostly takes place, is based on a house I loved as a teenager. As a student I travelled between Bristol and London most weekends, and became attached to a beautiful stone house set on a hill somewhere in Wiltshire. I never set foot inside it, but it was a glorious indulgence to spend an afternoon imagining its lay-out and every tiny detail.
As a woman married to an older man, it was irresistible to also place Poppy in the same social situations I’ve been in, so I wrote a weekend house party. I know from experience how hard it can be when you’re standing in a room full of newly inherited couple friends who are far older, more sophisticated and more worldly than you are, racking your brain for something to say which doesn’t sound completely juvenile. Though my husband’s friends are infinitely kinder than Drew’s are, pouring my own past insecurities into a fictional character was rather more of a therapy than I could have predicted.
I make no secret of the fact that the early chapters of the story are inspired by my favourite writer, Daphne du Maurier. I read Rebecca as a teenager – and have done so once a year since – and was always outraged by the second Mrs de Winter’s total inability to pull herself together and fight back. In writing Truth Hurts I was able to indulge in a fantasy about what would happen to a young woman in a huge house who did try to stamp her own hallmark all over the place. It transpired, somewhat to my surprise, that in doing so Poppy creates just as many problems as she solved.
I had intended that Truth Hurts would be a romantic whirlwind filled with secrets and tensions, propped up by interesting, complicated people. But my highest hope was that I could write a twist of an ending which even seasoned thriller readers didn’t see coming.