Tara Hyland Interview
Posted on 15 March 2010. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Tara Hyland about her forthcoming debut novel, the blockbuster saga Daughters of Fortune
Tell us all about your writing background- what you’ve written, what you’re currently writing
My debut novel is called Daughters of Fortune, and it’s out in the UK & Commonwealth on 18 March this year. It’s a blockbuster / family saga, about three heiresses to an English fashion house. I’ve just finished a first draft of my second book – tentatively titled An Untold Scandal, but I imagine that will change – and I’ve sent that off to my agent and editors for them to read. But my very first taste of being published was back in 1989 (I was 13!), when I was a winner in the WHSmith Young Writer of the Year Award, for a short story on reincarnation and vengeful ghosts. I received a cheque for £40 and the story was published in an anthology with thirty other winners. I think after that I really wanted to be a writer, but it took ten years of working in finance before I got here.
Who are your favourite writers/influences and why?
I love commercial fiction - anything that’s easy to read and has a compelling, page-turning storyline. Among my favourite writers are: Ken Follett, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, Penny Vincenzi, Jackie Collins, Martina Cole, Lesley Pearse, Louise Bagshawe, Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner
How did you get your publisher?
Well, I got my agent through the slushpile. Basically, I did what every aspiring writer with no contacts does – got a copy of the Writers Handbook, picked a name and sent off my first three chapters with a letter and synopsis. I was lucky enough to get a call straight away from the first (and only) agent I wrote off to – I think mainly because I targeted who to approach. The agent in question, Darley Anderson, represents two of my favourite writers, Lesley Pearse and Martina Cole, and I thought the type of book I’d written would be of interest to him. Luckily, I was right!
There was still a long way to go until publication, though. I initially wrote off to Darley in March 2007. I’d written part of the book by then, but hadn’t finished it, and I was about to give up. But my husband encouraged me to at least send the first three chapters off. Getting that call from Darley, saying he loved what I’d written, encouraged me to write on. I finally submitted the full manuscript at the end of December 2007. Darley promised to read it over Christmas, but by mid-January 2008 I still hadn’t heard back from him. I finally caved in and emailed him – he said something along the lines of ‘while your book has many good qualities, it needs a lot of work,’ which I took as a polite ‘no.’ I was still picking myself up off the floor when he called me two days later, saying that his Head of Foreign Rights (Maddie Buston) had read the book and thought it was a real page-turner. He gave me a list of all the things she liked, and then what she didn’t think quite worked (e.g. one twist too many at the end, some characters needed fleshing out). But the main issue was that the book was 220,000 words – and he wouldn’t think of submitting it until it was 150,000 words (or preferably less!).
So I went away and reworked the manuscript. It took me until end of July 2008. Darley read it over a weekend, and called me to say he loved it! Unfortunately, the summer is a bad time to submit to publishers, as a lot of people are on holiday, so he wanted to wait until September to send it off. Then September came and nothing happened – he said there were a lot of manuscripts out there, so he wanted to wait until the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. Trust me – I was getting really worried! Although I had heard (and can now testify to!) that Darley is a very principled person, I wondered if he’d just gone off my book and didn’t know how to tell me! When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and everyone was talking about the worst recession for seventy years, I was certain he would never be able to sell the manuscript. It was a horrible time.
But Darley was as good as his word. During September and early October, he began generating a buzz around my manuscript – telling editors about it, and getting a book buyer at a major retailer to read it. Luckily she loved it, so that was more ammunition. Finally, the week after the Frankfurt Book Fair, my manuscript went off to publishers. That’s when things started to get exciting! Four editors bid for the book, and it went to auction, with the publishers submitting presentations of their plans for publication. After all I’d been through, it was nice to feel “wooed”. Finally, we decided to go with Simon & Schuster in the UK and Atria in the US.
I know it probably sounds like quite a battle to get published, but I think nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. And that goes for getting published!
What's the worst thing about writing?
It can be a lonely, solitary life. I’m fulltime at home now, and I like my own company, but sometimes even I miss having contact from work colleagues.
And the best?
Being able to go to work in my pyjamas. And making a living out of something I love.
Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences/readers and if/how this affects/influences your writing
It’s still early days, but so far the response has been pretty positive. Most people say that Daughters of Fortune is a page-turner, and that it’s very easy to read. Because my first draft of Daughters was so long, I’ve tried to keep my second book shorter (it’s 140,000 words) and a bit simpler (there are two main characters, while in Book 1 there were three).
Definitely that first phone call from Darley – it made me write on when I wanted to give up.
What inspires you to write?
Wanting to write the kind of book that I’d love to read.
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