Sunday, 12 December 2010
A Chat with Author Talli Roland
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
Funnily enough, although I always loved creative writing, I never considered it as a career – it just wasn’t an option. I tried to compromise with journalism, but over time I realised factual writing wasn’t what I really wanted. It took several more career changes before I finally decided to give writing novels a serious try.
Do you remember the first book you ever read when you were a child?
I've tried really hard to remember, but I have no recollection of the first book. I do remember loving Roald Dahl books ('James and the Giant Peach' was one of my favourites). 'Anne of Green Gables' was also another one I enjoyed, particularly since I grew up close to Prince Edward Island.
Is there a particular place, aside from your work space at home, that you favour when you write?
I am very much a creature of habit when it comes to writing. I need routines to anchor me or I tend to float about, wasting time (something I’m very good at). I always write in the same place: my office. It has a big window overlooking the street, so I can feel all smug as I watch the zombies lurch towards the tube and their daily commute. I live on quite a busy street and there’s always something going on, from shrieking police cars to a collection of random people rooting through rubbish bins.
Do you want it quiet when you write or do you prefer some kind of music in the background to help you concentrate?
I would love to be able to write with music in the background, and I’m always so envious when I read about writers creating super-cool playlists. Unfortunately, music interferes with the voices in my head when I’m writing. The most I can handle is the street noise from the traffic and the neighbourhood crazies.
Can you share with us your favourite authors? And favourite books?
'Something Borrowed' by Emily Giffin has been a favourite for a few years now. I remember a friend lending it to me on a train to Barcelona, and I devoured it as quickly as I could because I knew she'd need it back at the end of the journey! I've since bought my own copy. I also enjoy Sophie Kinsella for the pure fun factor of her novels, as well as Marian Keyes. It's funny; people sometimes think writing in a light tone is easy. It's not, and I really admire those who can pull it off successfully.
Let’s talk about your debut novel, The Hating Game – how long ago was it when you began to write this novel?
I only started writing the novel last April, but I’d already pitched the concept and the first three chapters to my publisher. That’s one of the really great things about working with a smaller publisher: the turnaround time is much faster. I wrote the first draft in around six weeks, then did quite a few massive overhauls over the next few months! The finished product bears little resemblance to that first draft.
When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?
Did you have to research to write the story?
I’ve worked as a TV reporter and I also did a few internships in and around the sets of TV shows, so I had some basic knowledge of the television industry. I also love watching reality TV – it gave me a great deal of pleasure to justify my TV watching with ‘it’s research’! I did have to do some more research into the process of how reality shows are created, from the actual pitch to the people involved.
How did you create Mattie Johns as your lead character? Is she a real person?
She’s real to me! But no, she’s not a real person. The best piece of advice I ever heard for writing novels was that it’s not real life – it’s a novel. People in real life aren’t usually as over the top as my characters, and things in real life might seem random, or not have happy endings. But in novels, writing wishy-washy characters, having random things happen and endings with no pay-off is just dire. So, when I was creating Mattie, I thought of a woman with a hard shell who doesn’t trust men – then ratcheted it up a notch or two. Hopefully creating strong characters makes their journeys that much more satisfying to readers.
Do you have any of Mattie Johns’ characteristics?
Ha! I joke sometimes that Mattie Johns is my inner snark. She’s all the thoughts inside my head that I would never dream of uttering – but for her, it’s no problem, mainly because she needs to assert her control. I like to be in control, too, but I wouldn’t go about it like she does! I do love prawn cocktail crisps, though, just like Mattie.
Do you have a favourite character in The Hating Game?
My favourite character would have to be Nate, the bumbling TV producer, because he tries so hard to be tough but inside he’s just a big cuddly teddy bear! He’s got a good heart underneath his desperation to be cool.
Are you working on any other projects right now? If so, can you tell us about them?
I've just had the go-ahead from my editor for my next novel. It features Willow Watts, whose life is turned upside down when a YouTube video of her Marilyn Monroe impersonation gets over 50 million hits after a viewer spots Marilyn's face in a cloud of cigarette smoke. Instantly, Willow's small English village is overrun with fans flocking to see the 'new Marilyn'. Egged on by the villagers -- whose shops and businesses are cashing in -- Willow embraces her new identity, dying her chestnut hair platinum and ramming herself full of cakes to achieve Marilyn’s legendary curves. But when a former flame returns seeking the old Willow, Willow must decide: can she risk her stardom and her village’s newfound fortune on love, or is being Marilyn her ticket to happiness?
Wow, the new novel sounds another interesting read! I am sure all your readers - that includes moi - are looking forward to reading Willow!
Do you have any tips to share with aspiring writers out there who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Just keep writing! Share your work with other writers, too – there’s nothing like an objective eye to help you along. I have five novels that will never see the light of day and I know many successful authors who took years to be published, so it can happen if you keep at it. But more than that, enjoy the writing and the creation process.
Thank you very much, Talli, do you have anything else to add?
A big thanks to my blogging friends who have encouraged and supported me! I’ve never met such a wonderful community of people, and I’m so glad to have you all beside me!
Talli Roland has three loves in her life: rom coms, cupcakes and chocolate. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (cupcakes and chocolate). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories – complete with happy endings. The Hating Game is her first novel. The ebook is available now ahead of its paperback release next year. To learn more Talli, go to http://www.talliroland.com/, or follow Talli on Twitter or on her blog.
I hope you enjoyed the interview! We have some more virtual cupcakes over here, please feel free to have some! Thank you very much, Talli, for this wonderful opportunity! Really appreciate it.