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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Lie of You by Jane Lythell

I'm delighted to welcome Jane Lythell to the blog today to chat about her novel 'The Lie of You'. I recently met Jane over the summer at a workshop on writing radio drama in Brighton. She's a local writer and I was intrigued to learn she'd just published her debut novel ...

I'll let Jane introduce herself:
I live in Brighton and I'm a sea-lover, star-gazer, film and football fan. My background is journalistic writing and television production. I was a Producer at TV-am and then Commissioning Editor of Features at Westcountry Television. I left to become Deputy Director of the British Film Institute and later Chief Executive of BAFTA before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for seven years.I now write full time. My debut novel THE LIE OF YOU is published by Head of Zeus and my second novel AFTER THE STORM will be published in January 2015.
I am on Twitter: @janelythell

One woman's fear is another woman's weapon ...
The Daily Mail describes 'The Lie of You' as a 'clever psychological thriller ... the author's real skill is her ability to invent memorable original characters. A thrilling read.'

I took 'The Lie of You' on holiday (Lake District) and very quickly became absorbed in the dual narrative of Kathy and Helga, two very different women both working on the same architectural magazine. Kathy is Helga's editor and boss - and it soon becomes clear that their relationship is strained. For a couple of days this book stayed in my rucksack as I needed to keep reading at pub lunch stops between bouts of hill-walking. This is a page turner and I loved the different voices of the two women. Sympathising with Kathy's growing paranoia and also empathising (eventually) with the obssessive Helga. It's easy to label Helga as the 'baddie', but as the story develops we learn the reasons behind her, at time, very odd behaviour. 

The prose is tightly written carrying you along at a cracking pace, but also the characters and settings are beautifully drawn as Jane is a very visual writer. With the first person narratives of the two women you really are inside their heads, experiencing all of Kathy's insecurities and Helga's jealously. The readers clearly see how strained Kathy and Marcus' relationship is becoming, but poor Kathy ploughs on trying to balance all the conflicts of a full time working mum with a young child. At first small things start to go wrong at work, but the mistakes start to build and Kathy doubts her own abilities when in reality her life is being manipulated by a malevolent individual. I found this aspect of the novel quite chilling, as it felt all too believable. It also brought back some painful memories of the early days of balancing life as a new mum with a full-time management role, I did feel for Kathy.

This novel explores every woman's fear of being watched/stalked and the disruption and dangers that such obsession can eventually reap in someone's life. What I enjoyed was that we often overlook the obsession of women with other women and this is fully explored in Jane's enthralling novel. I enjoyed this immensely and highly recommend 'The Lie of You'.

Q: With a successful career working in TV production (amongst other things) how did you come to write The Lie Of You?
I wanted to write all my life but I had a small daughter and a big mortgage so for years I worked in full-on occupations which left very little thinking and writing time.  I would go on Arvon weekend courses to keep the writing flame alive. That is a great organisation. It wasn’t until I got into a financial position where I could give myself two years writing time that it really started to happen. That was in May 2011 and how joyful that felt – to have time to write.

Q: Why did you choose to write a psychological thriller with these particular themes?
The novel explores jealousy that deepens into full blown obsession. I’m interested in what makes people do extreme things.  I think all of us have a dark side which we strive to tame and control. Then something can happen which tips an apparently sane person into obsessive and destructive behaviour. I wanted it to be credible though, not so extreme that the reader would say I don’t believe that. By writing alternating chapters from the point of view of the two women I hoped to reveal their motivations and create sympathy too.

Q: I found some sections quite unnerving, perhaps because they dwell closely on deep-seated fears such as being watched when sleeping. How much research did you undertake and can you tell us about your particular process?
The voice of Heja came to me very clearly. I saw her as a woman who had a deep malevolence towards another woman who is unaware of it. I then had to work out why she felt like this. From what deep seated disturbance did her hatred of Kathy arise? As for research I was fascinated by psychoanalysis in my thirties and read a lot of Freud. Actually Freud is a master storyteller and I found his writings both illuminating and enthralling. Psychological thrillers allow you to explore the interior landscape of your characters.

Q: This is an incredibly visual book. As I read I could clearly see the characters and their surroundings. What do you see when you’re writing? Has a background of working in TV production stimulated or influenced your writing and…
Do you have any plans to convert The Lie Of You into a screenplay? It would make a terrific film or TV drama.
Thank you. Quite a few readers have said that. I studied cinema as a postgraduate and worked in television for fifteen years so I’m sure I’ve been formed by this. And I’m a huge fan of Hitchcock. I do see the scenes in my novel unspooling as film sequences as I’m writing them. For example I had to see in my head the two flats that Heja and Kathy live in right down to the layout of the rooms and even the sounds they may hear from the street below.
I would love The Lie Of You to have a second life as a TV or film production. And it certainly has enough cliff-hangers to make a good drama over two or three nights! The way that works though is that you have to get a TV station or producer interested in doing the adaptation and they make it happen. Fingers crossed.

Q: With your first book doing well can you share what your next writing project is? I believe you’ve now finshed book 2? Anything you can share with us?
I completed my second novel this summer and Head of Zeus are publishing it in January 2015, with availability on Kindle from December. It’s called After The Storm and has a very different setting and characters. However there is still a psychological disturbance at its heart which drives the story forward.

Q: There are many writers out there keen to get their work published. Hw did The Lie Of You make it to print?
For me the turning point was finding a literary agent. I’m represented by Gaia Banks of Sheil Land and I couldn’t have a better champion. I sent Gaia the first forty pages of The Lie Of You and she loved it but said the novel was too short. It was under 60,000 words at the time. So we worked together on the manuscript for six months. You only get one chance with a publisher so you need to get your book into as perfect a form as possible. Never submit too early. Take the time to edit again and again and show your drafts to people you respect. Gaia’s comments were invaluable and my partner also gave me masterly feedback. The final version of The Lie Of You is 87,500 words and I learned a lot in the process of revising and editing.  

Here are some links to where you can buy 'The Lie of You':

If the above whetted your appetite then here is an overview of Jane's next novel: After The Storm
A man who had no voice. A woman who helped him find it.
Rob and Anna have only just met Owen and Kim. Now they've chartered their handsome old boat to take them to a far off island in the Caribbean.
With just the four of them on board, Rob dreams of lazy afternoons snorkelling. Anna looks forward to the silence and solitude of the sea.
But why does Owen suffer acute insomnia and seem so secretive about his past? Why does Kim keep a knife zipped into her money-belt? Anna, a speech therapist, can usually get people to tell her the truth... but does she want to this time?

Jane is also appearing at the SHOREHAM WORDFEST - details below if you live close enough to attend:

Saturday 11 October 11.00 – 12.30 Sussex Yacht Club Tickets: £6.00
Jane Lythell and Lucy Atkins
Laura Lockington, organiser of Brighton’s Bookish Suppers, will interview two authors working in this genre today.
Jane Lythell, TV producer and former BFI Deputy Director, wrote The Lie of You, a chilling psychological thriller about jealousy, manipulation, and obsession between two women.
Lucy Atkins, award-winning journalist and book critic, is the author of The Missing One.


  1. I have got The Lie of You waiting to be read beside my bed and I can't wait. I love psychological thrillers and in this one, the themes of insecurity and jealousy sound a potent mix. Thank you for this interview, Tracy and Jane - it's a shame I won't be around for the Shoreham Wordfest as I would have loved to have heard the interview. Very good luck with it both this and After the Storm.

    1. Thanks for popping by, Wendy. You have a treat in store with 'The lie of you'.

    2. Thanks so much Wendy. Hope you enjoy it. The Shoreham WordFest discussion was excellent as the facilitator Laura Lockington pulled out the similarities between my book and Lucy's The Missing One. Obsessive women in both and a woman in the dark and in danger! Hope we get to meet at another event.