Today I’m pleased to welcome Jane Lythell to the blog. Jane is the author of After the Storm, The Lie of You and Woman of the Hour. Her latest novel Behind Her Back was published by Head of Zeus on 10 August 2017.
Jane kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Behind Her Back
I found it very cathartic to write because I worked as a TV producer and saw first-hand the big egos, the rivalries and the betrayals which make up my heroine Liz Lyon’s working life.
Liz is a talented woman who does her best to contain the conflicts and tantrums at work between the highly paid, you could say spoiled, presenters. She is also a lone parent to her teenage daughter Flo. When she gets home at night, hoping for a bit of peace, she has teenage tantrums to contend with too. And then there’s the problem of her starting to date again…
I think she’s a heroine a lot of readers will be able to relate to.
2. What inspired the book?
Actually my life inspired the setting; but I also wanted to create a strong female character who is dealing with contemporary concerns. Liz has moments of tremendous self-doubt and vulnerability. She fears she is failing her daughter because she has such a demanding job. But she needs that job to pay the mortgage. It’s a dilemma many of us have to face.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
With my first novel The Lie of You it grew organically from the idea that one woman is trying to destroy another woman who has no idea about this. I didn’t plan this so much as feel my way to the plot and character development. Since then I have done more planning. I create character sheets for my main characters. I know how the book will open before I start writing a word and I usually have a good idea of where it might end. It’s the middle section of the novel, which is actually the most challenging bit to write, which tends to be more spontaneous with me.
It takes me a minimum of a year to write from first draft to the completed version. I’m amazed at those writers who can produce two novels a year.
4. Behind Her Back is your fourth novel. Is there still anything about the process of creating a novel that surprises you?
You go on learning all the time I think; about pacing a novel, about when to reveal a key piece of information and about character development. However each of my novels has given me moments that have surprised me. This is either because a character starts to move in a direction I had not anticipated or, and this is exciting when it happens, a particular scene demands to be written. It’s only when it is down on the page that I can see why that scene is relevant to the book.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I volunteer at a community garden in Brighton which is a little Eden and we grow fruit, vegetables and flowers. We are a small team of volunteers and I really enjoy working with others on a community project like this. I come from Norfolk and a trip to my home county to drink in the big skies and the fields that stretch to the horizon is always a fantastic tonic. For the last 15 years I’ve been a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and watching Spurs is a great stress-buster!
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Oh this is such a difficult question to answer Janet. I love Dickens and Great Expectations is my favourite of his many great novels. But, and this is probably cheating, I also have The Complete Novels of Jane Austen published by Penguin in one volume. Can I take that as my one book please?
7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I’ve never been asked who of the many characters I have created is my favourite. Well the answer is Owen Adams, the damaged and yet fundamentally good man in After The Storm. He is in his late thirties, is American and carries a terrible secret that causes him sorrow and insomnia. He loves his old wooden sailing boat. I don’t know why but I love him the best of all my characters.
About the book
Liz Lyon is a television producer and busy single mum to a teenage daughter. She works at StoryWorld, the UK’s favourite morning show. As both confidante and team leader, she is the person tasked with controlling the conflicts and tantrums that flare up off-air. Having just started dating again, she’s also having to deal with a few conflicts and tantrums at home…
Following a blissfully peaceful two-week holiday in Italy, Liz has returned to find a new colleague has joined the station. Lori Kerwell has been brought in to increase the show’s profitability. But Liz is not sure that’s the only thing on Lori’s agenda.
As Lori builds her power base with the bosses, Liz finds herself wondering what’s really going on behind her back…
About the author
Jane Lythell worked as a television producer and commissioning editor before becoming Deputy Director of the BFI and Chief Executive of BAFTA. She now writes full time.