Harriet Tyce, Sunday Times bestselling author, takes on our questionnaire.
What is a typical day for you?
I wake up around 6 with the dog and cat pacing around me, waiting to be fed. I drink the first of many coffees and lie in bed reading the news for a while before getting up and sorting out the kitchen and laundry before taking the dog for a walk. I’ll (think about) work for the rest of the morning – at the moment I’m finishing proof reading my second novel, and starting to work on the bones of my third, so I spend a lot of time just thinking, waiting for the plan to settle in my mind. Once I’m settled on what I’m doing I’ll start writing, when I’ll aim for a word count of 1000 words a day, though I’m not quite at that stage right now. Around 1 or so I make lunch for the family and do more clearing up in the afternoon, before settling down to read for a while until it’s time to make supper. There’s a lot of food preparation at the moment with everyone in the house! Bed is usually around 10.30 or so, and I try to read before going to sleep, though it’s hard to put down my phone at the moment. I sleep better if I read a book rather than read the news, funnily enough.
What are you most excited about in the next 12 months?
On a personal level, life returning to some kind of normal. Seeing my family and friends. I hope this will be possible. On a professional level, my next book, The Lies You Told, is being published in July and I’m excited (and nervous) to see how it lands, and whether readers respond to it with the same excitement that Blood Orange generated. It’s definitely been a difficult second novel and I’m very relieved to be passing that hurdle. I’m very excited about starting a new book having crossed the milestone of being past my debut.
What was your favourite subject at school and why?
I have to say that English was my favourite subject, but I also loved Latin. I found the way the language fitted together pleasingly logical, and I enjoyed doing translation. The aspect of it that I most enjoyed, though, was the analysis of the literature which took me back to English as my first love. It’s trite to say I love reading, though true, and teasing out the inner meaning of text remains one of my great pleasures.
What surprises you about life as a writer that you didn’t expect?
I think it’s the way that while the specific sources of anxiety change, it still remains the same, a constant companion. At the very beginning I was worried about reading out extracts to writing workshops, then I was worried about making submissions to agents. I’ve been lucky enough to achieve so many of the goals I set for myself, but every time I send a new piece of work out I worry about its reception, and I think I always will. Before I had an agent, I think I thought that getting one would be the pinnacle of my dreams. I really hadn’t thought about what might happen next. But however much the goals shift, it’s still me sitting in bed, thumping out words on my laptop, hoping that readers might like them.
If you had to give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Sometimes you have to give up on the project you’ve been working on for a long time and start again. I had written a full manuscript before I wrote Blood Orange and I’d sent out it to a good number of agents, and while it had received some very positive rejections, it wasn’t picked up by the agents that I wanted. It took some doing, but I started again, and I know that the work I did subsequently is better that that attempt. Similarly, I wrote a manuscript after Blood Orange that didn’t work, though I spent nearly a year on it. It was a tough decision but I decided to scrap it and start again, and the end result is The Lies You Told, which is a much better book. Nothing is wasted, though. I can trace the themes of the first MS through Blood Orange, and I think that there are aspects of the second MS that will work their way in book 3. The work just wasn’t ready, though, and walking away was the best decision I could have made.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
The Hollow – Agatha Christie
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line – Deepa Anappara
Coffee or tea?
Which author, living or dead, would you like to write your biography.
F. Scott Fitzgerald to give it a sordid glamour my life does not possess!
Harriet Tyce grew up in Edinburgh and studied English at Oxford University before doing a law conversion course at City University. She practised as a criminal barrister in London for nearly a decade, and recently completed an MA in Creative Writing – Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia. She lives in north London. Her first novel, Blood Orange, published in 2019 to huge critical acclaim. Lies You Told publishes summer 2020.