My featured book this week is the debut historical mystery novel, The Vanishing Tide by Hilary Tailor. Grab yourself a cuppa, get cosy and let’s get chatting to Hilary. 😊
What if all you inherit from your mother are her secrets?
Isla knows her family kept things from her. When she inherits the cliffside cottage where she spent her childhood, she must face dark shadows of her past – the mother who rejected her in favour of her art, the aunt whose death haunted them both, and the silence that permeated every room. Digging through the belongings of someone she realises she never really knew, Isla finally has the chance to find answers to the secrets her mother spent a lifetime hiding.
But lies can’t be swept away by the tide. And when Isla crosses paths with a mother and young daughter visiting her remote hometown, she becomes entangled in their family’s secrets, too, forcing her to wonder whether the truth she is seeking will really set her free.
Isla’s past is as dark as the ocean around her. But when she comes up for air, the mysteries of this lonely shore will reveal themselves in unexpected ways. . .
Welcome to my blog, Hilary. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
That’s actually a hard question to answer! I wrote a lot as a teenager – poetry, short stories – and I loved that process but I hated the English curriculum at the time so I was put off pursuing English. Also, being a writer of fiction wasn’t something that was ever presented to me as a job I could do. I decided to become a doctor but when I was studying for my GCSE’s I fell in love with art, which eventually drew me into colour and trend forecasting. Forecasting involves a lot of writing, so I guess I have continued to use those story telling skills, but writing pure fiction, for myself, has been a very different and rewarding experience. It took me a long time to come back to that space I carved out for myself as a teenager but it’s been worth the wait.
Has any author inspired you?
I am very inspired by the way Ann Patchett writes about family relationships. She tones down the drama of a situation while still making page turners. She has a subtlety I wish I could master.
What do you like writing most?
I only write novels at the moment. I feel like short stories and poetry have a whole different skill set. In terms of novel writing, if I have a great setting, I love writing in the atmosphere that surrounds that setting, more so than the characters sometimes. Writing about people is more tricky because you have to ground them in reality, otherwise they would be completely unbelievable. But you have more artistic license with a place because different people can have a completely different relationship with a landscape.
Do you have a special place for writing?
Not really. I have an office space at home because I freelance as a designer. But sometimes I move onto the kitchen table, or the sofa, to provoke change. I’ll even climb into bed if I’m feeling tired but still want to write.
Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Oh, definitely a plotter! I really need to know where the story is going, so I can signpost things early in the novel that lead the reader to a conclusion. I remember hearing Liane Moriarty on the radio recently saying when she was writing Big Little Lies, she had no idea where the characters would end up and so she wrote the novel as it unfolded in her brain and then when she realised a character had a particular experience that informed their behaviour, she had to go back through the whole novel and write that in. I couldn’t work like that! Pantsters often say they like to discover the plot as they write, and that way it always feels fresh to them, but I find I still get that buzz from writing in sub plots and details I hadn’t thought. I often think writing is like baking a cake. I want to weigh out those ingredients and make sure I have a good, solid cake coming out of the oven before I start to decorate it.
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
Yes to both, but not necessarily by my own family. Other people’s families can be fascinating! I need to have an emotional connection to a place I’m writing about, which often means a place I have already visited or been familiar with. In The Vanishing Tide, the setting is very much inspired by my childhood home on The Wirral Peninsula. The coast and the islands off it are stunningly beautiful but incredibly treacherous if you don’t know what you’re doing. My brother fell into a tidal lagoon there on Christmas day when we were little. I also had a scary childhood experience on a beach in Wales (I’m half Welsh) when the sand beneath my feet just gave out and I was pulled into the water by a fast current. It was a cold day and I still remember sand pouring out of the sleeves of my jumper when I was hauled out by my mother.
What are you writing at the moment?
I’m writing my second novel, Swimming Home. It will be published in April 2023 and I am just about to begin the editing process with the same two editors who worked on The Vanishing Tide. It has similar themes to The Vanishing Tide: family, the mistakes we make, the secrets we keep. It’s exciting to be working on something different and to go through the editing process again, which I really enjoyed last time.
What inspired you to write this book?
For The Vanishing Tide, I attended a paediatric first aid course and I had a horrible thought I couldn’t shake off. It stuck with me and I began to write it down and it developed into a story. I can’t tell you exactly what that thought was because it will ruin the story! But I guess the idea was about trying to do the right thing but actually making things worse.
For Swimming Home, somebody told me a story about a friendship that went wrong and, again, the idea stuck with me. I am really fascinated by the idea of a bond – a family bond or a bond of friendship – that is tested. What are the consequences of the mistakes we make, and how do we atone? The Vanishing Tide and Swimming Home both deal with these questions.
What time of the day do you write best?
Probably the morning, but when I am in the thick of a story, I can pretty much pick it up at any time of the day because I’m inspired. If I’m not inspired, my brain needs less help in the morning and I have more energy.
What are your hobbies?
I run a few times a week, and I have just started swimming in the ponds on Hampstead Heath, London. The Ladies’ Pond will form a major element of Swimming Home so I felt I needed to start swimming there regularly and I absolutely love it. I also have a dog I walk every day. So I guess I like being outside! My family and friends are also very important to me. Writing can be quite isolating, which I actually like, but when I’m not working I love to catch up with friends or be with my family.
What advice would you give to other writers?
You really need to be persistent if you are hoping to get an agent and sign a publishing deal. It took me a long time to get published, but I worked on several novels when I was applying to agents and now I am using some of that work for novels I now know will see the light of day. I also think it’s important to build in thinking time, as well as writing time. Thinking about the structure of your work, or the motivation of a character, or a tricky plot point can sometimes be more useful than just writing blindly.
Great advice, Hilary. Thanks for dropping by to talk to us today. Wishing you many sales with your new book.
Hilary Tailor is a design consultant, and has worked with clients including adidas and Puma as a colour and trend forecaster. She was raised on the Wirral Peninsula and graduated from the Royal College of Art. The Vanishing Tide is her first novel and is out now. Swimming Home is due to be published in April 2023.