Life in Rural Sussex: A Guest Blog by Rosie Howard
Today we’re pleased to welcome author Rosie Howard to the blog! Rosie’s latest book, The Homecoming, is the first in her new Havenbury series, and is available now in paperback – perfect summer holiday reading. Set in the lush Sussex countryside, where Rosie herself lives, the area is brought to life through the eyes of main character Maddy and her friends, and the challenges of rural life play a key part in the story. Over to you, Rosie!
If the Sussex countryside were a person, who would it be? Myself, I can’t help imagining a well-upholstered lady of a certain age, a martyr to her varicose veins, with a good line in commentary on how ‘things’ are not like they used to be. She would also be kind, funny and strongly disposed to producing floury homemade scones with generous dollops of cream and jam.
Living in an area of rural Sussex which inspires my Havenbury series, I also worry that things are not as they used to be. I see for myself the upset caused by insensitive planners; closures of local schools and post offices; the struggle of the village shop to hold its own against the relentless march of soulless, cookie-cutter chain stores; the farmers’ constant adaptation to changing food and farming policies which so often seem to fly in the face of their own logic – a reason hard-earned through generations of grafting on the land.
Real life in the Sussex countryside might all seem a bit depressing at times but Havenbury – although based on it – is far from dull for me. In Havenbury, people fall in and out of love, they make us laugh, make dreadful mistakes, create misunderstandings, tell lies, reveal secrets… Of course, all the while the sun rises, the rain falls, the seasons change and everything is right with the world in the end, although perhaps not in the way the reader expects.
Life is all about change, of course, and my real life conveniently provides change and challenge that morphs into endless plot material to keep my characters occupied. The Bespoke Consortium in ‘The Homecoming’ is a community of craftspeople creating a homewares range which takes the interiors fashionista by storm. They have cleverly colonised an old farmyard where the buildings no longer serve a purpose in the big, integrated farms of today. Finding a role for these buildings and providing resources for rural business is a real conversation locally and there are lots of similar setups nearby. So far, my favourite story element is one that comes out in the second Havenbury story; “A Vintage Year” focuses on a couple trying to save their marriage at the same time as trying to save the family vineyard in the face of desperate odds. There are hundreds of vineyards on the Sussex downs and the wine that comes from them is developing quite a reputation. Obviously, much research was required…
I do enjoy losing myself in a community where the houses are photogenic, the people are believable and attractive (even the baddies – actually especially them) where I aim for the stories to intrigue and ultimately satisfy the reader. I can’t imagine where else I would want to be and I love readers telling me how much they have enjoyed the Havenbury world.
Thank you, Rosie! The Homecoming is available now in paperback and can be ordered here, or from your favourite bookshop.