Lottie Moggach: ‘There’s nothing like a deadline to sharpen the senses’

Deborah and Lottie Moggach. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Deborah and Lottie Moggach. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

As her debut novel is filmed for a big budget Netflix series, and she publishes her second about British ex-pats, Lottie Moggach tells Bridget Galton about the joys of never straying too far from home

Living up the road from where she grew up, it’s safe to say Lottie Moggach is a ‘somewhere’ rather than ‘anywhere’ type.

Raised in Camden Town and Hampstead, she now lives near Queen’s Crescent, opposite her novelist mum Deborah and around the corner from her brother.

Conversely it’s the ex-pats, who see Southern Spain as “some sort of promised land”, who are the subject of her second novel Under The Sun. (Picador £12.99)

“I’ve moved half a mile from where I grew up which probably signals a massive failure of imagination but living near close contacts seems to me what makes people happy, secure and understood,” she says.

“I wanted to write about ex-pats in Spain because I’m fascinated by the lifestyle but don’t understand the idea that uprooting yourself from your friends, and a cheap lifestyle and sun is what makes you satisfied. Am I missing something?”

Too proud to go home when the dream turns to nightmare, Moggach’s heroine Anna is now stuck and homesick, living above a dingy bar while a local businessman rents her lovingly restored Finca.

Most Read

“She fell madly in love, sold up in London and poured her money into a derelict Finca but when he leaves her just as the property market crashes, she doesn’t want to go back to London aged 40 and single. It’s like all those people who stuck up two fingers and left broken Britain. They can’t go back and admit they made a mistake.”

The novel also weaves in African migrants who uproot themselves more through necessity than choice.

“Ex-pats like Anna have this idyll in the mountains where they can escape and start again – you see them at Malaga airport in their rumpled linen suits off up to the hills. Then there are the people who want to sit in the sun by the sea, and the migrants who come across from Africa to work. These groups exist in the same place, I wanted them to collide.”

When a body washes up on the beach, the novel takes a thriller-esque turn although Moggach insists it’s not a conventional detective yarn. “Anna’s been cut off from the world, but is forced to look more clearly at what’s happening under the surface of this seemingly sleepy town.”

Moggach’s debut novel Kiss Me First also had a suspense element. The subject of a bidding war, the thriller about taking over online ideintities has just been filmed by Channel 4/ Netflix and is out next year.

She recalls: “I’d been fiddling around for years doing freelance journalism then I got pregnant. There’s nothing like a deadline to sharpen the senses. I thought ‘I’ve got to find out if I have a future in fiction before I have this baby. I got the book deal a week before I gave birth. Ten years of nothing new then two big events!”

Going on set of Kiss Me First was “hugely thrilling”. “They changed it to this VR world with amazing visuals but I was so massively grateful it was being done I had no thought of objecting. I was very happy. Brian Elsley who did Skins knew if what worked in the book didn’t translate on screen. They built a detailed replica of Leila’s house in Leverton Street in a huge studio in Ealing. There were letters on the table addressed to her. It was surreal.”

Living near her mum whose novels include Tulip Fever and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is “extremely wonderful.”

“She’s very generous and such an old hand, having someone like that on tap to ask questions is so helpful, but when it comes to writing we are very different,” says Moggach who took five years to write Under The Sun. “She has an amazing work ethic and writes each morning. She’s much more productive than me – I don’t feel I’ve mastered writing at all. I still feel I am flailing about clinging to the knowledge that I have managed one book and another will come. It’s like a big lump of clay. I plonk it down and carve bits off until something emerges.”