This time its Tabitha McGowan, Author of The Tied Man! This is my first interview ever I need to say a Big Big Thank you to Tabitha who was so open and gave me so much more than I could have hoped for!
Oh goodness, Lilith came first! Before I had a story, or even a general direction, I had a stroppy, independent young artist who lived in Spain. I knew how she looked, how she sounded, even how much she weighed, and what her taste in music was. Her core character changed so very little over the course of the story development. I’m really, really fond of her.
Finn was a later addition. Even before the current obsession with alpha-males, I wanted to create someone entirely different. In most of the stories I looked at, if a man wasn’t some testosterone-powered nightmare, he was automatically a sub who got off on being dominated; the simple question, ‘What if he doesn’t like it?’ gave me Finn. I wanted someone who was absolutely beautiful, but had no idea of his beauty, because of his circumstance. And at the end of the day, someone who is so utterly fucked-up as Finn is going to be delight to write!
The story was a lot more organic (and by organic, I mean, ‘a pain in the arse’ ). There were times when I had no idea what was going to happen, and I must have spent a total of months working out all the twists and turns, and even the logistics of the plot. My long-suffering and incredibly supportive husband lost count of the times I asked, ‘So, do you think this would be possible?...’, and my writing buddy helped me to iron out myriad glitches where I thought it was bleedin’ obvious, except that it turned out it wasn’t!
As I kid, I re-wrote dozens of fairy tales and traditional stories to make the woman the hero – looking back, I’m so glad I had that as a guiding theme. There are countless nods to wicked queens, heroic (gender-reversed) knights and lost children all the way through The Tied Man.
As a side note, I also think the locations are very nearly characters in their own right; Albermarle Hall is a good example (actually a combination of a small island on Derwentwater in the Lake District, and two different houses here in my native north-east England). Without that menace and inaccessibility, Blaine – my villain – would not have her power base.
When you started the book did you know what would happen or did your characters tell you?
At the risk of sounding a bit wanky, a lot of the time, the characters told me. The more I trusted them, the easier the writing became. I was a good way through the story when I realised that it was going to be told through their voices (that was a hell of an edit – about a hundred pages of ‘he’ and ‘she’ to be changed to ‘I’, plus a decision as to whose turn it was to speak). I think the technique really works, though, so it was worth the effort! Once I’d got some of the key features of the main players, their responses to situations became a lot easier to write. When I hit a block, it was usually because I was using the wrong character to narrate that section, or I was making them do something that was against their personality.
What are your hopes for this book? Do you wish for people to experience characters in roles that go against what people are used to reading? Or did you simply have a story you needed to tell?
To be honest, I’m blown away by the positive reception – I’d really underestimated just how fucking terrifying it would be to launch my ‘baby’ out into the big wide world. My initial aim was to write a book for intelligent, geeky women (and men, for that matter) with an interest in the dark side of life, and it really seems to be paying off. It’s great to read that people have abandoned their loved ones and responsibilities so they can finish off my book, or haven’t quite known whether to puke or do the Happy Dance once they’ve reached the end (that one is a particular favourite, by the way. And I still got 5 stars in the review, so it was clearly a compliment. Intelligent, geeky women give the *best* feedback). Obviously I’d love even more people to buy it and enjoy it, but right now, just reading the reactions of those who’ve had a blast turning the pages is beyond brilliant.
What can we expect from the second book? Are we going to see any revenge? Or is it Lilith and Finn healing?
Oof. The second book. Well, the plot’s about 85% there in my head! Considering I had about 10% of The Tied Man in my head when I set out, that’s pretty good as far as I’m concerned. And yes, it’s revenge, and healing, and also an opportunity for both Finn and Lilith to put their lessons from the first book to good use. I don’t want to give too much away, but Dublin is a major location, and Finn’s sisters are just yelling out to be written! It’s also home to the O’Halloran family, who are the biggest load of bastards , as you can imagine.
I can’t wait to start to write it. But one thing’s for sure: the shadows are still there!
Do you have any other new books planned for the future?
I’ve had an idea for story set in a dystopian future bimbling (professional writer’s word. Honest…) around my head for the last 10 years. Maybe after the sequel, I’ll start getting it down on paper.
Pure nosiness, haha but how long does it take to write such a book from initial idea to completed book?
Jesus, too bloody long for The Tied Man. Even though I’d worked as a playwright and copywriter for years, I wasn’t prepared for just how much slog was involved in writing a book. Dead ends, writer’s block, family crises (not to mention holding down a full-time job, and raising a kick-ass daughter) - you name it, I hit it whilst working on this thing! So, seriously? How long? Oh bugger, I may as well be honest. Five years. Bloody ridiculous. If I thought the next one was going to take this long, I’d take up another hobby, like extreme marathon running, or wild boar hunting, on the basis that it would prove easier in the long run…
But my dad has a great expression: ‘If you’ve done something once, you’re an expert.’ This time round, I know my story, and even if I don’t know exactly how it all works out, I have a far better idea of what doesn’t work, and what the warning signs are if I’m approaching a block. Ultimately, I can’t not write. Does that make any sense?