Author Lulu Taylor has written another chilling page turner that marries the Dorset countryside with secrets from the past. Joanna Davis discovers what inspired The Winter Secret.

A RECORD heatwave last summer could have scuppered the completion of Lulu Taylor's tenth book but holidaying in Scotland was the right choice, she said.

"I missed out on all the hot weather and it rained so I had plenty of time for writing!" she said.

The Winter Secret is Sherborne author Lulu's tenth novel.

"It's a bit of a milestone for me," she says.

"The first four I wrote were a little different, they were beach reads so in some ways this was my sixth in the genre I now write in."

And for readers not familiar with Lulu's thriller mystery genre, it is a pleasure to discover.

The Winter Secret follows a young woman living a life of seeming luxury in a rambling country house and explores the many secrets that can be hidden within a marriage.

The part-Dorset set plot interweaves between the modern day and the 1940s. In the modern day Buttercup Redmain finds herself living a life of pampered luxury in the fictional Charcombe Park in Dorset.

She discovers that her husband Charles isn't all he appears to be.

The county was once again a big inspiration for Lulu's writing.

"Dorset offers so much inspiration and has so many wonderful houses with extraordinary stories," she said.

The house and marriage combine to become an almost dark, foreboding presence in the book and I ask Lulu if she was aiming to 'go darker' with The Winter Secret.

"When you think about it there's a huge appetite for psychological drama on television from Doctor Foster to Appletree Yard featuring ordinary women living ordinary lives and suddenly there's this painful secret. We're all drawn to that," she said.

"I think that's something we all have an interest in. And somehow it's come out in this book.

"There are echoes of Rebecca in the second half of the book, I think with the ex-wife remaining hidden in the background. And it also explores how you can be watched in the modern world. The technology is there now so you can be constantly tracked and followed."

The 1940s part of the book features Xenia Arkadyoff, who once lived in Charcombe Park with her father, a Russian prince and her mother, a famous film star.

The character of the glamorous Natalie Rowe was inspired by a real life film star, Lulu said.

"I was inspired by the story of Vivien Leigh. Her marriage to Laurence Olivier ended because of her manic depression and like Xenia's mother the film star, she was known and loved as a certain character, in Vivien Leigh's case the character of Scarlett O'Hara.

"I've always been quite struck by what happens when you have that exquisite exterior everyone loves and no-one knows what else is going on."

Lulu also drew upon the recent TV series Feud, which was based upon the lives of actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and the podcast You Must Remember This, which is about the history of Hollywood.

"There's been a lot of talk on how women in Hollywood are treated today and what I learned was that back then were treated terribly. Women were the box office draws that everyone wanted to see but they were being underpaid, abused and developed many alcohol problems as a result," she said.

The character of Charles, Buttercup's controlling, rich husband is based upon someone who Lulu used to know.

"There was someone who I used to work for who was a very successful businessman and he was charm himself. He was proud of his family and he was a self-made man. I remember him telling me all these stories and thinking 'what would it be like to be married to you?' He was an incredibly charismatic man."

But it turned out Charles was the character Lulu had to do the most re-writes of.

"One of the key things my editor said to me was 'we need to see what Buttercup sees in him at the start of the marriage', so I had to go back and work at showing how she was in love with him," Lulu said.

Mother-of-two Lulu had a career in publishing before she became an author.

It has been a busy time lately for Lulu, who was involved with Yeovil Literary Festival where she got to interview Gogglebox's Giles and Mary and author Kate Morton on stage.

Lulu remembers: "I was quite nervous interviewing Giles and Mary as Giles was quite playful and was prepared to turn the tables on me and started asking me questions!Their book had me howling with laughter!

"Kate writes quite similar books to me so it was great to speak to her. I also interviewed Charlotte Bingham, who was talking about her memoir about discovering her father is a spy."

Lulu is currently working on another wintery book which will most likely have a dual timeline.

"But I may be doing one fully in the present and I've also been thinking about taking one of the plots from one of my previous books and moving it forward," she said.

*The Winter Secret, published by Pan Macmillan, priced £7.99, is available from all good book shops.