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Lucy Vine on writing about exes

Lucy Vine on writing about exes

My new book is called Seven Exes but it might as well be called The Subject That Has Haunted Me For Twenty Years.

But I guess that’s not quite as catchy.

I’ve spent quite a lot of my life obsessed with awful exes; they’ve been a source of constant stress throughout my adult life. Before I met my now-husband, I had a terrible habit of going round and round in ex-circles, revisiting bad choices and idiots from my past that I kept romanticising, rewriting my own history and tricking myself into believing maybe it might work after all. LOL, spoiler: it never did.

It’s a subject I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, because I think all of us are a little bit obsessed with an ex – or, ahem, many exes – but, to be honest, it’s taken me this long to come to peace with the idea.

In Seven Exes, my hero, Esther is actively dating – without much success. She comes home after yet another terrible night with a tedious bloke, and rants about her love life with best friends, Bibi and Louise. They decide to head to their local pub, The Swan (lovingly known as The Swab), where Esther comes across an old magazine featuring an article that will change everything. It claims that there are only seven types of relationships and The One is among them. There’s The First Love, The Work Mistake, The Friend with Benefits, The Overlap, The Missed Chance, The Bastard and The Serious One. Esther immediately realises she’s had all seven of these relationship and decides – slightly drunkenly – to embark on The Seven Exes Mission. With help from Louise and Bibi, she tracks down every one of her exes in the hope that her soulmate has been somehow left in the reject pile. There are highs and lows, reconnections, and, yes, obviously, quite a lot of embarrassing realisations.

It was maybe the most cathartic book I’ve written to date. I got to vicariously revisit my own past in a small way, through this shield of fictional characters. These people I made up – Esther, Louise, Bibi – got to be braver and stronger than I ever was in my own romantic past. They got the closure I had always lacked. Esther got to make the angry speeches I could never make to the men who treated me badly. She got to make the apologies to those people I treated badly. She got to see her younger self through more experienced and mature eyes – and learn something. Plus – no spoilers here – she also does get a do-over with some past snogs.

I think revisiting and exploring your past is important. You can learn a lot from who you’ve been before – and who you’ve been with before. But be careful of those rose-tinted specs and nostalgia sucking you back into something toxic or foolish. As that famous Karl Marx saying goes: History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce. So go in remembering that exes are more often than not a tragedy and a farce.

And if all else fails, I highly recommend writing your issues out in a novel – it’s surprisingly healing.

Seven Exes is published by Simon & Schuster on 25 May 2023

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