Staying in with Jane Lythell on The Exes Publication Day

How can is be almost six years since lovely Jane Lythell appeared here in interview on Linda’ s Book Bag? I’m delighted to welcome back Jane today as we celebrate her brand new thriller The Exes which sounds an absolute cracker and is waiting for me on my TBR.

It’s a real pleasure to chat with Jane all about The Exes. Let’s see what she has to say:

Staying in with Jane Lythell

Welcome back at last to Linda’s Book Bag Jane and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

I rather think I know but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

It’s my fifth novel The Exes, and as it is published today by Bloodhound Books I wanted to chat to you about it.

Oo. Happy publication day Jane. What can we expect from an evening in with The Exes?

A few goosebumps, I hope. And a quest to work out who is gaslighting my heroine Holly.

The Exes is Domestic Noir and centres on a large and dilapidated Victorian house in Brighton called Penumbra House. I love books which are centred on houses. I’m thinking of Manderley and the anguish of the new Mrs de Winter! How the house became a place of misery.

That sounds creepy already. Tell me more!

Holly Hilborne, is stunned to learn that her reclusive aunt Lillian has left her Penumbra House. Holly wasn’t even sure that her aunt fully approved of her.

But when she sees the state the house is in Holly is daunted. She recruits two of her ex-lovers – Ray a builder and Spencer an artist – to help her renovate the house. And when her soon to be ex-husband James hears about this, he pushes her to let him have the top floor for use as his osteopath clinic.  He agrees to pay rent and Holly, reluctantly, lets him move in.

Holly, now single, isn’t clear on her motivation for inviting her three exes into her house. Is she is trying to create an alternative family for herself? What could possibly go wrong? Just one big happy family…

Ha! I bet! 

Of course, reality intrudes. Far from Holly’s shared house becoming a commune of four individuals living in harmony, dark emotions are unleashed. Two of the men fight like rutting stags to become the dominant Alpha Male of the house.

As the house starts to come together, Holly starts to fall apart. She is plagued by dizziness, nausea, killer headaches, and a host of unexplained things happening in the house. Is she imagining things? One of my inspirations was the 1944 film Gaslight.

I think The Exes sounds brilliant. What have others thought so far?

Three admired authors who read advanced copies have sent me their thoughts on The Exes:

The Exes is one of the most well-plotted and original premises in a domestic noir I’ve read. How would any of us cope with three exes under one roof? As the sinister plot thickened, I was gripped and found it unputdownable. Jane’s evocative writing is immersive and incredibly readable. One of my thrillers of the year – I just loved it.’

Emily Freud, Author of What She Left Behind

The Exes is a turn of the screw novel of festering resentment and growing horror. From the first page – the hiding of a body below the sweeping branches of a fig tree – to the twisty final scene, it is a helter skelter of possible poisoning, manipulation, lies and the sins of ancestors that sweep in to claim poor Holly’s sanity and maybe her life. An excellent read, but maybe not if you’re alone in a big dark house.’

P.D. Viner Author of The Call

‘Set against the backdrop of a crumbling Brighton house, this vivid domestic noir blends present-day relationships with the darkness of the past. Chilling, tense and compelling.’  Essie Fox, author of The Last Days of Leda Grey

I have a feeling I might need to read The Exes when my husband is definitely at home Jane. You must be delighted with those responses.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

A favourite evening drink is red wine and I love Nero D’Avola, a Sicilian Red. It needs a bit of cheese on sourdough to go with it and some olives. Holly is dairy intolerant so she would have to have humus instead.

Holly can have my wine as I can’t drink it without feeling ill and I’ll have her cheese.

March is still often cold, so I’d like us to sit by a real log fire. But I’d be careful to choose logs that did not carry the beetles that attack Elm trees. The Exes is set in Brighton which is proud of its 17,000 elms and the ancient Elm of Preston Park (over 400 years old) which features in my novel.

I’ve lived in Brighton for eleven years now. My previous novels were set in London but after eleven years I felt I knew Brighton well enough to make it the location. I think giving your novel a strong sense of place does enhance its reality so the ruined West Pier, the quirky shops of the North Laine and seagulls all make an appearance.

You’re making me want to head back to Brighton. Haven’t been there for 23 years.

And I’d let you know that, in spite of warnings from friends, my idea for The Exes was also inspired by the fact that I’ve stayed friends with three of my exes. Like Holly I can’t quite let my exes go.

Oo. I think I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details about The Exes and you can tell me more about those exes of yours…

Thanks so much for staying in with me Jane and happy publication day again. I can’t wait to read The Exes.

The Exes

When Holly is bequeathed a large but derelict house, she wants to share her good fortune. So she gets in touch with former boyfriend Ray, a builder who can project-manage the renovation in exchange for the basement flat. The spacious middle floor would make a glorious studio space—perfect for her friend and first love, Spencer. And before Holly knows it, the upper floor is let to soon-to-be ex-husband James, who’s on a path of reinvention from city highflyer to osteopath. What could possibly go wrong?

But no good deed goes unpunished, and soon the house is riddled with tension, rivalry, and petty spitefulness. And as Holly is beset with migraines, nausea and spiralling self-doubt, even the house itself seems to be turning against her. But for someone, everything is going to plan . . .

Published today, 16th March 2023 by Bloodhound Books, The Exes is available for purchase here.

About Jane Lythall

Jane Lythell lives in Brighton, East Sussex, UK.

She worked as a TV producer for 15 years; moved to the British Film Institute as Deputy Director; was Chief Executive of BAFTA for one year followed by seven years at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She now writes full-time.

Her two psychological thrillers The Lie of You and After the Storm were published in 2014 and 2015 and were USA Today bestsellers.

Jane’s debut novel The Lie of You has been translated into seven languages and inspired the film A Working Mom’s Nightmare starring Tuppence Middleton and Rupert Graves. This is currently screening on Lifetime Movies in the USA.

Her next, Woman of the Hour, revealed life at the TV front-line through the eyes of producer Liz Lyon. It came out in July 2016 and the follow-up novel Behind Her Back was published in 2018.

For further information, follow Jane on Twitter @janelythell and Instagram.

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