Monday, 27 March 2017

Why the change of direction? by Jane Lythell

I'm delighted to welcome Jane Lythell to my blog today, to talk about why she has changed direction with her novels. Woman of the Hour was published by Head of Zeus in paperback on 3 November 2016. 

Why the change of direction with my novels?
By Jane Lythell

My first two novels The Lie of You and After the Storm are psychological thrillers. I have always been interested in what drives a person to do extreme things and in these two books I explored obsessive behaviour.

The Lie of You is about Heja who wants to destroy Kathy who is her work colleague. Kathy is a new mum and is struggling to cope on her return to work. She feels all her work errors are of her own making. Gradually her home life as well as her work life starts to fall apart. In fact she is being systematically undermined by Heja. Heja is a chilling and obsessive woman and yet by the end of the book the reader understands what drove her to act as she did and maybe even to feel some sympathy for her. We all have a dark side which we hide from the world. Sometimes something happens which tips a person into full blown obsession. 

My second novel After the Storm is set in Belize City and an island in the Caribbean Sea. There are four main characters: British couple Anna and Rob and an American couple Owen and Kim who have an old sailing boat they have been living on for three years. On their first night in Belize Anna and Rob meet Owen and Kim. Owen suggests they charter his boat and he will take them to the island of Roatan, where the diving is sensational. Anna is fearful but Rob persuades her it will be a great adventure. Unknown to them Kim is desperate to go home to Florida but Owen is determined to continue their life on the boat. Straightaway we have conflict of wishes between the four characters and a small boat is a very claustrophobic place when tensions start to build.

The two couples set off. It takes ten days to reach Roatan and that is a long time when one of the four, Owen, is hiding a terrible secret that is eating away at him. The strapline of the book is Some Secrets Destroy You. The storm of the title is both a weather storm and a psychological storm. By the end of the novel all four characters have been changed by spending this intense time together. The underlying theme is that you need to bring dark secrets out into the light of day in order for them to lose their destructive power.

I greatly enjoyed exploring the dark side of my characters in both these novels. With a thriller you set up a problem that has to be solved and you are guaranteed a strong forward momentum. Given this why did I decide to change direction with my third novel and move away from psychological thrillers to writing contemporary women’s fiction?

The reason was that I had a strong desire to write about the issues raised by a woman’s working life. So many novels depict women’s family and emotional lives. I’ve seen much less fiction about a woman struggling with the pressures of work. Yet that had been my life. A single working mother, trying to keep all the balls up in the air, feeling conflicted about competing pressures. I wanted to explore that.

I wanted to write a strong female character who also has her weaknesses and vulnerabilities. My heroine Liz Lyon is 41 years old and divorced. She is a respected TV producer and a guilty single mother. I wanted to show the whole woman: work-Liz, calm, controlled, soothing egos and managing a difficult boss and home-Liz who is far more emotional and reveals her real thoughts and feelings. At work Liz has to bite her tongue and censor what she says. At home she can let rip. And she fears that she is a better mother to her team than she is to her beloved daughter Flo.

The drama of the workplace offers such a rich vein to explore in fiction. So many issues and moral dilemmas are thrown up by this aspect of our lives. There are power struggles, intrigue and betrayals as well as moments of satisfaction and fulfilment.

I think it is important not to keep doing the same thing in your writing just because it worked the first time. I worked as a producer in television for 15 years and saw this happen too often where repetition of a successful format stifled creativity. You have to trust in your readers as why would they want the same thing over and over?

Finally, for me the most important thing is to create characters my readers believe in. It doesn't matter if they dislike a character or adore them. But it does matter if my readers don't believe in them.

I am currently writing a second book about Liz Lyon and StoryWorld TV station which will be published by Head of Zeus in August. 

About Jane Lythell
Jane Lythell lives in Brighton and is a sea-lover, star gazer, film and football fan. She worked as a television producer for fifteen years. She then moved to the British Film Institute as Deputy Director, a year as Chief Executive of BAFTA followed by seven years at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Her debut novel, The Lie of You was published in January 2014; her second After the Storm in January 2015 and her third novel Woman of the Hour in July 2016, all by Head of Zeus.

Find Jane on her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter - @janelythell

About Woman of the Hour

Woman of the Hour
By Jane Lythell
Published by Head of Zeus (Paperback - 3 November 2016)
ISBN: 978-1784971212

Publisher's description
Meet Liz Lyon: respected TV producer, stressed-out executive, guilty single mother.
StoryWorld is the nation's favourite morning show, and producer Liz Lyon wants to keep it that way. Her job is to turn real-life stories into thrilling TV – and keep a lid on the scandals and backbiting that happen off-stage.
But then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a game of one-upmanship where she doesn't know the rules. As the power struggle intensifies, can Liz keep her cool and keep her job? Does she even want to?

Buy Woman of the Hour from Amazon UK here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the invitation to be on your blog Victoria. Several readers had asked me why I changed direction with my novels so it was excellent to have an opportunity to explore this.