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Tara Hyland Interview

Posted on 15 March 2010. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Tara Hyland about her forthcoming debut novel, the blockbuster saga Daughters of Fortune

Tell us all about your writing background- what youve written, what youre currently writing

My debut novel is called Daughters of Fortune, and its out in the UK & Commonwealth on 18 March this year. Its a blockbuster / family saga, about three heiresses to an English fashion house. Ive just finished a first draft of my second book tentatively titled An Untold Scandal, but I imagine that will change and Ive 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 thats 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 Id 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. Id written part of the book by then, but hadnt 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 Id 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 hadnt 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 didnt 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 wouldnt 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 hed just gone off my book and didnt 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. Thats 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 Id 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. Im 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

Its 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 its very easy to read. Because my first draft of Daughters was so long, Ive tried to keep my second book shorter (its 140,000 words) and a bit simpler (there are two main characters, while in Book 1 there were three).

Breakthrough moment?

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 Id love to read.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

CarolineSG at 11:40 on 16 March 2010  Report this post
Lovely interview, Tara... and wow, you certainly went through the wringer over that long period of uncertainty! It's very inspiring to read your interview and I wish you all the best with your career.

I'm very impressed at you sharing your synopsis and letter too.

Gillian75 at 16:50 on 16 March 2010  Report this post
Great interview, Tara! I was just as excited reading your account of your road to publication, as I'm sure you were when you got the call!!

V inspiring story - and a lesson for us all not to give up.

JulesA at 16:47 on 21 March 2010  Report this post
Great interview, really enjoyed your retelling of the road to publication.

I will certainly look out for the book.


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