5 May 2010

Author Interview: Tara Hyland

A few months ago, Tara Hyland released her debut novel Daughters of Fortune with publishers Simon & Schuster. I was lucky enough to read it and found it to be a great read, and Tara was also kind enough to grant us another author interview so here it is.

Q1. Can you tell us about your book 'Daughters of Fortune' please.

The novel is about the three very different daughters of William Melville, an English fashion mogul. There's cold, ambitious Elizabeth; gentle, na├»ve Caitlin; and wildchild Amber. The book follows their lives, loves and tragedies, as they grow from being teenagers to young women. It starts off with the arrival of Caitlin, the illegitimate child, in the Melville household. The product of an affair between William Melville and a shop assistant in the seventies, Caitlin has been raised in secret in Ireland for the first fifteen years of her life. But when her mother dies, Caitlin is sent to live with the father she's never met and his resentful family. She struggles to adjust to her new, privileged life, and naturally her presence stirs things up in the Melville household, laying the path for events that will have an impact on the family over the next decade or so.

Q2. 'Daughters of Fortune' is a real blockbuster of a book. Did you take any inspiration from any of your favourite authors when writing the book?

Definitely! Like most authors, I wanted to write the kind of book that I love to read. I was aiming for somewhere between Penny Vincenzi, Lesley Lokko, Jackie Collins and Louise Bagshawe, who are four of my favourite authors. I wanted my book to be sexy and fast-paced (like Collins & Bagshawe), but also have lots of heart (Lokko and Vincenzi). I'm also a big fan of Martina Cole, Lesley Pearse, Jeffrey Archer and Sidney Sheldon, so I think you can see influences from them, too.

Q3. Your novel is set in the world of fashion and business. Do you have a big personal interest in fashion yourself, and where did the inspiration for setting a book in this industry come from?

I'm certainly not a slave to fashion (as anyone who's met me can testify!), and I don't really think of 'Daughters of Fortune' as a book about fashion. In fact, I don't really understand the trend in novels for having detailed descriptions of clothes and brand-name-dropping - fine, it it adds something to the characters, but after a while it can get a little tedious! However, while for me 'Daughters of Fortune' is above all a character-driven book, I wanted to set it somewhere glamorous, and a fashion house seemed like the perfect choice, with the clothing lines and the catwalk shows and the models... One of the characters, Caitlin, is a fashion designer, and I especially loved coming up with the type of clothes that she designs. She is meant to have a dramatic, almost theatrical style, which I based on a mix of Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen and Zac Posen. I had great fun describing her fashion shows, coming up with a theme and extending that to everything from the designs to the music.

Q4. Your 3 leading female characters are all very different - which of them is your favourite and why?

While I love all of the three daughters, Elizabeth is definitely my favourite. She's a very strong, no-nonsense person, fiercely intelligent and ambitious, who isn't afraid to go after what she wants. At the beginning of the novel, she isn't the most sympathetic character, and she comes across as cold and uptight, but as the story moves on she reveals a more vulnerable side. I also adore her main love interest, Cole. They're the archetypal alpha male and female - which means that while they're very compatible, they also clash a lot, which makes for some great misunderstandings and fireworks.

Q5. How long did it take for you to get your book published? Is 'Daughters of Fortune' your first attempt at writing?

I started and stopped a few novels over the years - everything from thrillers to chick lit - but 'Daughters of Fortune' was the first book I completed and sent off. I was also lucky that the first agent I sent it to - Darley Anderson - called me back straight away saying that he liked the first three chapters. BUT, before you think it sounds too easy, that was back in March 2007, and it took me a year and a half of rewrites (and other hurdles) before the book was finally submitted to publishers in October 2008. I don't want to bore you with all the details, so if you want to find out more about how I got published, you can read the whole saga on my website (www.tarahyland.com)

Q6. Who are some of your own favourite authors to read?

Apart from the ones I mentioned in question four, I also love Ken Follett, Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner and Jodie Picoult. I mainly read women's books and thrillers, and those twelve authors are my old reliables - the ones I'll pick up when I'm at the airport, and know that they guarantee a good read. I also read those one-off, "must-reads", like The Other Boleyn Girl, The Lovely Bones, The Time Travellers Wife...

Q7. What do you do when you aren't writing? Are you a full time writer?

I was lucky enough to get a book deal that allowed me to become a full time writer. It's a real privilege to be able to make a living out of doing something I love - especially when I spent ten years working in finance jobs, which I hated! I just hope I get to continue being a writer for the next twenty or thirty years.

When I'm not writing, I don't really do too much, to be honest! I get up early (at 6.30am), because that's when my husband gets up for work. He's off by seven, and doesn't get back until seven in the evening, so that gives me plenty of time, but I certainly don't use all of it to write. In fact, sometimes I wonder where my time goes! I'm not really a hobby girl, so I guess I just watch too much daytime TV. I love any teen series, as well as Grey's Anatomy, Lost, Criminal Minds, Law & Order SVU... I often write with Buffy The Vampire Slayer on in the background - I know the episodes so well, it's a bit like having music playing. I love movies, too. I think I just like anything with a story - whether it's books, TV or films - anything that is escapist. I also like eating, and I'm partial to the odd cocktail or glass of red wine! It doesn't take much to make me happy!

Q8. What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a writer? Is there anything that you wish you'd known before you started out?!

I know most authors answer this question by saying to be persistent. So I'm going to go with something different: seek feedback and listen to it. Once you've finished your first draft, try to get some independent feedback on your manuscript - from a friend or relative who likes the kind of book that you're writing, and who you can trust to be honest with you. You might not like some of the advice or criticism, but try to be objective when you consider what your reader has said. It's easy to get too close to your manuscript, and not be able to see the intrinsic problems with it - a third party can often spot where you're going wrong. With both of the books I've written, I've definitely reached my saturation point, where I can't see the wood for the trees, and it's amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can come up with (to use many cliches!)

As for what I wish I'd known before I started out, it's probably how long everything takes in the world of publishing! I began writing my novel in October 2006, got my book deal in November 2008, but my book has only just been published on 18 March this year! Basically, books have around a one year leadtime from completion to publication. There's lots of editing and proofreading along the way, as well as fun stuff, like seeing your cover for the first time. But patience is definitely a virtue!

Q9. We have seen on Twitter you've already written your second book, can you tell us a little bit about that?

My second book is another big canvas, sweeping novel, much like my first. But this time it's the story of a mother and daughter. The mother is a somewhat flighty, selfish character, who abandons her daughter in exchange for fame and fortune, and the book is about the impact of her actions on them both. It starts in the 1940s, and takes in everything from the golden age of Hollywood to gangsters in sixties London and the heyday of Fleet Street. There's also a big mystery, which starts on page one and is there throughout the book, so I'm hoping that will make it a real page-turner! It should be out in spring next year.

Thanks so much Tara!

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