My book review this month is the fabulous Written In The Stars which, released on 17th October, is a charity Christmas anthology and the brainchild of the very lovely Tara Lyons. Here, Tara talks to me about writing, her work in publishing as an editorial and production manager and the inspiration behind this brilliant collection of stories (including a short contribution by yours truly), explaining why she felt compelled to do it and why it’s so very dear to her heart.
Welcome, Tara. Can you start by telling everyone a bit about yourself?
Hi Eva, thanks for having me! I’m the author of the Detective Inspector Hamilton series and standalone suspense novel The Paramedic’s Daughter, as well as a few short stories. I’m the editorial and production manager at Bloodhound Books and have worked with the awesome team (including being published by them) for six years. I live in Hertfordshire with my son, Leo, my significant other, Daniel and our crazy cat Loki.
Did you always want to be a writer, and if so, what writers inspired you?
I wanted to be a writer from a very young age, and I was always jotting down little stories in a notebook, which I’d then wrap up and give to my mum for birthday or Christmas presents (sorry, Mum). I wrote my first article for my university magazine and went on to work for John Lewis on their in-house magazine for eight years. When my grandad passed away in 2015, my grief compelled me to start writing fictional stories as I found it very therapeutic. Life has always inspired me to write: watching the news, hearing people’s reactions to situations and that age-old question, what if? Since losing my daughter, Sofia, in 2020 I haven’t written anything new. It’s not so much about being uninspired, but more that my head isn’t in the game.
What is an editorial and production manager?
So, I’m not an editor or TV producer (as one person I met thought). My role at Bloodhound Books means I’m on the journey with every book we publish once the book deal has been approved. I liaise between the author, editor and proofreader to ensure the manuscript is where it needs to be, offering support to all those key players throughout the editorial process. Once we’ve signed it off, I then produce the final files; this includes creating and formatting the eBook and paperback files. I’ve made it sound quite simple here, but there’s a huge amount of work that goes into creating a book from its submission, and it’s a team effort.
Can you tell everyone what the inspiration behind Written In The Stars is and why you have chosen Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and The Butterfly AVM charity as beneficiaries?
On what would have been Sofia’s third birthday, I wanted to turn my pain and sadness into something that could help other children and families. I approached Betsy at Bloodhound Books with my idea of a charity anthology to raise awareness of a life-threatening illness and charities that help children by raising money for families and research, and she gave me the green light. I just want to thank her, and the entire team, who have gone above and beyond to get my little idea off the ground: editing and proofreading the stories and shouting about it from the rooftops. We had an overwhelming number of short stories sent in, so a special thank you to all the authors who submitted; it wasn’t easy to choose. Both these charities are close to my heart. Sofia spent five days at GOSH before we had to say goodbye to her. Although it was during lockdown, the staff were amazing and showed Sofia so much love and care. They also helped us make hand and foot cast imprints with Sofia. I knew nothing about AVMs (arteriovenous malformation) before April 2020. I have since learnt loads, as you can imagine, and through this research I found The Butterfly AVM. They are the first UK charity to focus on raising money to fund research into AVMs and supporting families. Sofia passed away from a brain AVM, which we found out she would have been born with. However, she had no signs or symptoms and therefore it was a huge shock to us all. If Written in the Stars can help raise awareness and support other families in Sofia’s memory, it will mean the world to me.
And finally, for anyone thinking of becoming a writer, what advice can you offer?
There are so many great one-liners out there about writing and editing and dealing with rejection (I read that Harry Potter received 12 rejections), but one nugget I was given very early, and therefore always pass on, is: Don’t get it right, get it written. Writers are gods of procrastination and can be guilty of fiddling with the same opening line or paragraph for days because they want to get it just right. But that takes away from precious creative time. Just write your story, as raw as it comes to you. If you hit a stumbling block mid-chapter, write yourself a little note to come back to that bit and carry on. Once you have the full bare bones of your story, you can go back and edit, edit, edit. Good luck!
Thanks for being such a fab guest, Tara. We wish you every success with this wonderful anthology.
Click here to preorder your copy of this wonderful collection of stories which at the moment is only 99p!