Friday 4 May 2012

Friday Feature: Interview with Tanya Byrne

Yesterday, I reviewed Tanya Byrne's Heart-Shaped Bruise, a compelling debut with a wonderful narrator. She was kind enough to give me an interview and tell me a bit more about it.

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

A roomful of people in their underwear. No…wait…that’s what I picture when I have to give a speech.

I haven’t given it much thought, to be honest. I didn’t have anyone in mind when I wrote Heart-Shaped Bruise, I just wrote a book I would enjoy reading myself. But I’d like to think the people who will read it are a mixed bunch, not just teenagers. But whoever they are, they have remarkable taste, I know that much.

2. Where did you get the idea for Heart Shaped Bruise?

I was looking under one of the sofa cushions for the remote control and there it was. Seriously though, I didn’t have a light bulb moment, it was more organic than that. I had an idea about a girl who has to go into Witness Protection when her father is murdered and it kind of unravelled from there.

3. The cover to Heart Shaped Bruise is really striking! Did you have any input into it, and are you pleased with it?

I love the cover. As you say, it’s very striking and I think it reflects the tone of the book beautifully. I had some input, but I can’t take the credit for it, that goes to Claire from Headline. I hear that she bought several roses in various stages of decay to get the rose just right and even wrote out Emily’s letter to Juliet on the notebook on the floor. How awesome is that?

4. What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

I would pass on the best piece of advice I was given when I was starting out and that is: keep going. There’s so much advice out there, most of it sound, but some of it so bone-breakingly pessimistic you will wonder why you’re bothering, but just keep going. Don’t worry about what books aren’t selling, whether eBooks are destroying the publishing industry, whether teenagers don’t want to pay for books any more. Just ignore the bloke with the sandwich board and the bell telling you that the end is nigh because from the beginning of time human beings have been telling each other stories, stories that have been passed from one generation to the next. How those stories are told may evolve, but the need to tell them will never change, so tell yours.

5. I found Emily's father to be a really compelling character, even though we mainly find out about him through her memories. Who's your favourite fictional parent? How about the worst?

Thank you. The infallibility of parents is a thread that runs through Heart-Shaped Bruise. Was Emily’s father right to hide who he is – and what he does – from her? Was Sid’s mother protecting him by hiding her wine bottles under the kitchen sink? If Juliet’s father had been an accountant, would her life have been different?

So you may not be surprised to learn that my favourite fictional parent is Atticus Finch. I love that his strength comes not from slaying dragons or winning wars, but from his integrity, his generosity.

Part of what makes To Kill a Mockingbird wonderful is that Scout will forever be in awe of him. She will never be a surly teenager who curses him for grounding her or not approving of a boy she is in love with. Atticus will always be perfect, unlike our own parents, who, despite their best intentions, don’t always make the right decisions. Lucky Scout, she will never feel the disappointment – the agony – of realising her father isn’t perfect, like Emily does in Heart-Shaped Bruise.

Great pick! To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all-time favourites.

6. If you were hosting a literary dinner party, which six authors or characters would you invite?


Okay. In alphabetical order:

§         Caitlin Moran (especially if she gets drunk and sweary),
§         Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games (she could kill her own dinner, which is good),
§         Kurt Vonnegut (I’m desperate to make a Breakfast of Champions pun, but I’ll resist, for once!),
§         Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go (‘cos it ain’t a party without a talking dog),
§         Maya Angelou (so I could tell her that I think she’s phenomenal, too)
§         Will Parry from His Dark Materials (he can carve the chicken, seeing as he’s so handy with a knife).

Katniss and Will would make a really interesting combination!

7. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, is there a soundtrack to Heart Shaped Bruise?

I listen to lot of music when I write. Mostly Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Martha Wainwright, Jeff Buckley, I am Kloot and Portishead while I was writing Heart-Shaped Bruise. I also listened to Yo-Yo Ma when I wrote the scenes where Emily played the cello.

If Heart-Shaped Bruise had a theme song, it would be Rolling in the Deep by Adele, but if there’s one song that sums up Emily, it’s You Know I’m no Good by Amy Winehouse. Amy died when I was nearing the end of the final draft and I was so upset, I couldn’t go back to it for a week. I still tear up when I hear that song.

Awesome soundtrack! I love Rolling in the Deep and used to be a massive fan of I Am Kloot - I should dig out my album, actually...

8. I know you've just been across to the USA (and am jealous of you being able to watch Saved By The Bell!) Can we expect a future book to be set in the States, or are you sticking to the UK when it comes to locations?

HA. Yes. Netflix UK, sort it out. *wags finger*

Never say never, of course, but I know England – I love England – so it would have to add something pretty special to the story for me to set in the US.

9. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

I’d ask Virginia Woolf what she thinks about all of the women, myself included, who can now sign their names to what they write.

10. What's next for Tanya Byrne?

When I’m done here I going to make a cup of tea. Then I’ll write another book, but tea first.

I hope the tea was good - I'm sure the book will be! Thanks for dropping by to answer those questions, Tanya. Best wishes for the future!

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