Interview by Debs Carr
Talli Roland has three loves in her life: rom coms, coffee and wine. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). 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 and she is currently working on her second, Watching Willow Watts. Talli blogs here and can be found on Twitter here.
1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Hating Game and loved that your heroine Mattie was so feisty and determined not to give up. How well did you know Mattie before you started writing the book, or did her character slowly develop as you wrote?
Thank you! Mattie seems to be the literary equivalent of Marmite. She is a strong character, but she needed to deal with the events of the game-show and still be able to carry on. I didn’t want my readers to see her as a victim of the producers’ antics – I wanted her to be able to stand up and face whatever was thrown her way. Plus, to add extra conflict, she had to be someone who wouldn’t balk at seeing her exes again. The softer side of her character grew as I wrote the story. I really empathized with her as I developed the underlying reasons for her guarded behavior. I believe everyone has a bit of a shell they use to protect themselves – Mattie’s just happens to be tougher than most! Underneath it, though, she is really quite vulnerable.
2. How important is it for you to get your character's names right?
I love playing around with characters’ names, and I try to come up with something that will reflect their personalities. For Mattie Johns, my main character, I wanted a masculine name – since Mattie behaves in quite an aggressive way initially. My favourite name in The Hating Game is Silver Hatchett, the ruthless managing director of the media production company. She’d go to any lengths to get what she wants, hence the name!
3. Do you ever reach a bit of a wall with your writing, and if so, how to you get past it? Do keep pressing on, move onto another part of the novel, or something else?
Oh, all the time! There are days when I feel like every word is an effort, but I force myself to carry on! Giving yourself permission to write crap is really important when you’re trying to get it all down during the first draft. Even if I know something needs fixing, I wait until I get to the end before I go back and change it. Otherwise, I fear I’d never reach the finish line! If I’m truly stuck, I’ll take a break and go for a walk outside. Getting away from the desk can be the best thing sometimes.
4. Do you have a typical writing day and do you aim to write a certain amount of words each day, or for a certain length of time?
I work best in the morning, so after cursing my snoring husband and gulping copious amounts of caffeine, I’m usually at my desk by seven or eight. Then, I write until I reach three thousand words, sometimes more. I spend the last part of the day answering emails, doing promotion and blogging. I love being my own boss, but sometimes I need to tell myself it’s okay to take a break every once in awhile.
5. How many drafts did you do of The Hating Game before you were happy enough to submit it?
The Hating Game didn’t have a conventional submission process, since I’d already been working with the publisher (Prospera Publishing) on some non-fiction travel guides I’d written. I wrote up the synopsis and the first three chapters and sent it off to my editor. Luckily, they loved it – and then the hard work began. I wrote about five drafts before the final tweaking – line edits, etcetera – began.
6. The Hating Game is based on a tv game show? Did you have to research this much, or did you already have knowledge of how this worked?
I worked as an intern on a TV show at journalism school and I’ve also spent time in newsrooms, so I had a basic understanding of how things worked in the industry. I did quite a bit of research, though, on how game-shows are pitched and then produced. It was great fun for me to come up with the rules and the structure for my very own game-show. I’m a sucker for reality TV, and I tried to incorporate many of the over-the-top elements I’d seen into The Hating Game, in a tongue-in-cheek way.
7. Can you tell us a bit about your road to publication?
I’ve always enjoyed writing – it was the reason I trained as a journalist – and I’d thought about trying to get a novel published, but it wasn’t until my thirties that I seriously started writing fiction. Over the next couple years, I wrote four novels and learned a lot! When the opportunity came to publish non-fiction travel guides, I jumped. Even though non-fiction wasn’t really what I wanted to do, I knew it could teach me a lot about the publishing process and maybe even help me get a foot in the door for my fiction. And it did! Prospera Publishing – the same company that publishes my non-fiction – published The Hating Game and will also publish Watching Willow Watts, due out in November.
The Hating Game
When 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?