Looking for an enjoyable read over the festive season I came across The Hunting Party and decided to pop it on my Kindle. I was prompted to read it because it is about a group of thirty something chums, most of them Oxford graduates, who were renting a house in the Highlands for a New Year break.
My nephew is a thirty something Oxford graduate who was at that moment in a rented house in the Highlands with a group of mates on a New Year break !!
It was also a thriller and anyone who knows me or follows me closely on Instagram or Twitter will know that I like nothing better than, at the end of a long hard day of interiors journalism, to switch off by watching or reading an extremely grizzly thriller. I got started and was delighted to find it was an utter page turner and the characters, although not wildly likeable were extremely believable and to me totally recognisable. (Clue – my husband is called Doug)
I then started to realise that the authors depiction of the Highlands and the sort of stark modernist architecture that has become extremely popular up there was like totally like something out of the Great Scottish Indoors – like something Doug might photograph and I might write about!
The story is full of delightful twists, Lucy gently and very gradually reveals the fatal flaws in the guilty parties characters that inevitably led to their respective evil deeds. The innocent parties, of which there are extremely few, are satisfyingly allowed to return to their normal lives, thank goodness. I loved the fact that the one couple who are not murderous psychopaths or with any dark secrets, run back as fast as they can in the end to the enveloping arms of their South East London NCT group: clearly the natural setting for all ‘normal’ people; I had to find out more! I dropped the author, Lucy Foley, a line and she very kindly agreed to an interview, realising in the process that the front cover design was suspiciously similar to the Great Scottish Indoors logo – had I met my soul mate??
Lucy, thank you so much for appearing on the Great Scottish Indoors. Can you tell us a little about your early life? Where were you brought up and where and what did you study?
I was brought up on the South coast in a tiny village called Slindon — so almost as far as you can get from the Highlands in the UK, though at least, living in the South Downs, I developed an early love affair with hilly country (not that ours really compare to Scotland’s!). And I have proud Celtic roots — my dad is Irish, originally from Connemara — and the wild landscape there reminds me strongly of the Highlands. They even have Loughs (as they’re spelled there) and Bens! I studied English Literature at Durham at undergrad level and then went on to study Modern English Literature at UCL for my Master’s degree.
Do you work full time as a writer? What other jobs have you had since you graduated?
I’m lucky enough to work full time as a writer now. Previously I worked in publishing — firstly in a small literary agency as the receptionist slash “slush-pile” reader, then as an editorial assistant at Headline Publishers, then as an editor at Hodder and Stoughton, publishing women’s and young adults’ fiction. I wrote my first novel in evenings and weekends while I was working full-time. I do occasionally work as a reader for a literary scout, which keeps my editorial eye in and also gives me a sense of what’s going to be “hot” in the industry long before it hits shelves.
What is your connection to Scotland?
My first trip to Scotland came embarrassingly late — my boyfriend at the time (now my husband!) picked me up from Durham just after I’d finished my second year exams and we drove to Edinburgh for a few days and then to the Highlands. I fell completely in love — and have made up for my tardiness in visiting by spending as much time as possible there now! We’ve been up in all seasons, from the snowy midst of winter to a “summer” holiday hiking up Cairngorm in nine degrees and impenetrable fog.
Can you reveal exclusively for readers of the Great Scottish Indoors, the holiday destination that inspired the Hunting Party? (Give them a plug even!!)
I’m not sure the place that inspired the book particularly loves publicity… but I’ll give a clue for those who know the area well! It’s a large estate near Fort William that has it’s own train station…
Are you a fan of Highland hospitality? Do you think we have got it right or do you feel we have a little further to go?
I’m a huge fan! In my experience, it’s perfection. I’ve stayed in all sorts of accommodation in Scotland, from the luxury of places like the Torridon Hotel via wonderful self-catering cottages and “eco-lodges”, to bothies and campsites.
Do you have a favourite Scottish dish?
I know it’s a cliche, but I love haggis! It has such a unique taste. I once ate it at a Burn’s Night celebration in the Middle East in forty degree heat… it had travelled all the way from Scotland. Luckily, no one ended up with food poisoning. My second favourite dish is Cranachan — it’s that heady combination of the cream, raspberries and whiskey. I could eat it every day.
What is your favourite destination in Scotland?
Last time we stayed in Scotland we went on a long drive round Skye and experienced four seasons in a day and it was completely spectacular. Climbing up to the foot of the Old Man of Storr in glorious sunshine and looking back across the dramatic mainland coast was a particular highlight.
Are you a whiskey drinker? Do you have a favourite?
I am! As for favourites, I suppose it depends on the weather, my mood and what I’m having it with, if anything! I’ll have to say Dalwhinnie, because I went on a fascinating tour of the distillery and was introduced there to the strange and wonderful pairing of whisky and chocolate. I also love a smoky, gently peated Islay whisky like those made by Caol Ila or Glendronach. I have to confess to loving Irish whiskeys too — I recently tried and enjoyed the fabulously named Writer’s Tears.
Where do you live and who with?
I live in London with my husband and our semi-feral cat, Wolf. I mean, he’s meant to be a domestic cat but I’m sure there’s some wild animal in his bloodline.
Are you into architecture and Interiors?
Yes! I’d love to be more so — I’m very much a novice. But when I travel abroad I’ll often make a point of visiting an architecturally interesting house — on a recent trip to Milan I took a tour of Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan, which is a fabulous example of Italian architecture and design in the interwar period with a really interesting atmosphere — you can practically hear the clink of glasses and the hubbub of voices left over from some fabulous 1930s party in its empty rooms. It also features in the brilliant Luca Guadagnino film, I Am Love. In LA on another trip last year I booked to snoop around the Eames house, which was fascinating.
If you could go holiday anywhere – where would you go next?
I’m planning a trip to the Austrian Alps to go skitouring — climbing up mountains on skins attached to my skis, then skiing down them. If I could go absolutely anywhere, though, it might be to ski in the Himalayas or Alaska, somewhere really remote. I’ve also been thinking about making a trip to the Orkney Islands for a while.
I know your previous novels were historical novels and The Hunting Party was your first crime novel. What next?
Another murder mystery is in the pipeline right now, as is another historical novel. I’ve really enjoyed working in a different genre, so I certainly wouldn’t rule out trying my hand at something completely different again in the future.
At the end of the interview I had to reflect that much as I would love Lucy to be my soul mate and there are many parallels: I also had a fabulous holiday in Skye with my husband, as well, when we were a young couple and our cover image, above, is from a trip to Torridon that will be etched on my heart for ever; I also love skiing, but I am afraid I will not be joining Lucy on her ski ‘touring’ trip, in either Austria or the Himalayas. A hot chocolate in St Anton? No problem, and a wee snoop round the Eames house in LA – errr yeah, but I am afraid in the end I am just a lame version of Lucy. I am not currently writing two novels and my skiing holidays nowadays are more like ‘coffee and sunbathing’ holidays but well wrapped up!