What’s it about?
Liz Lyon is a television producer and busy single mum to a teenage daughter. She works at StoryWorld, the UK’s favourite morning show. As both confidante and team leader, she is the person tasked with controlling the conflicts and tantrums that flare up off-air. Having just started dating again, she’s also having to deal with a few conflicts and tantrums at home…
Following a blissfully peaceful two-week holiday in Italy, Liz has returned to find a new colleague has joined the station. Lori Kerwell has been brought in to increase the show’s profitability. But Liz is not sure that’s the only thing on Lori’s agenda.
As Lori builds her power base with the bosses, Liz finds herself wondering what’s really going on behind her back…
About the author
Jane Lythell worked as a TV producer for 15 years and her two novels Woman of the Hour and Behind her Back take the lid off the TV industry.
She has also written two other novels. After The Storm follows an English couple who get on a small boat with two American strangers to sail to an island after knowing them less then 24 hours. It has been described as Marine Noir, and her debut The Lie of You a portrait of obsession to the point of madness in which a woman tries to destroy her colleague.
Jane Lythell lives in Brighton in the UK and is a sea-lover, star-gazer, film and football fan. After years in television she moved to the British Film Institute as Deputy Director, did one year as Chief Executive of BAFTA (which was miserable) followed by seven years at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (which was interesting). She now writes full time.
Connect with Jane Lythell
Q & A
1. Can you tell me what Behind Her Back is about and why people should absolutely read your new novel?
It’s about backstabbing at the workplace and conflict with a teenage daughter at home. Liz Lyon is a respected but stressed TV producer who has to manage the huge egos of on-screen TV stars and a difficult boss at work. When she returns to her flat, which should be her haven, her daughter Flo gives her a hard time. When Liz starts dating again, Flo deeply resents the new man in her life. Meanwhile at work a new senior employee is making moves against Liz.
Read this if you like a relateable heroine facing work and home conflicts.
2. Your novels have such a realistic feel to them. Is there perhaps an overlap between fact and fiction? Are parts of this novel a bit biographical, like the doubts Liz has and her struggles with teenage daughter Flo?
Absolutely! I worked as a TV producer for fifteen years and was also a lone parent to my daughter. I struggled with this. It was hard to keep the balls up in the air and I felt torn by the competing pressures. Sometimes I felt that I wasn’t doing either role properly. I left working in TV when my daughter Amelia was nine-years-old. I wanted to explore this world and these pressures.
3. There are a lot of secrets and lies in your novel, which is great because nobody wants to read a novel where there’s nothing happening but I’d love to hear what is/was the best part working at a TV station?
There is a feverish and high tempo atmosphere in a TV station that broadcasts live shows and this can breed conflict and drama. The upside is that you feel you are at the centre of things that are happening in the country. You get to hear about books, films, trends and news events before anyone else and this can feel heady. There is also a great sense of camaraderie when the show goes well.
4. If given the choice, would you prefer working for a man or a woman and can you explain why ?
Difficult question because the best boss I ever worked for was a woman who was supportive, fair and generous. But the worst boss I ever worked for was also a woman who was controlling, divisive and did not share the information I needed to do my job! That was very miserable. So I think on balance that I would rather work for a man.
5. Your novels have a psychological side to them and show power games, vicious traits of people etc. Have you ever thought about writing a full-on psychological thriller going even further than you’ve taken it now?
My first two novels were psychological thrillers: The Lie of You and After The Storm. I am fascinated by the psychological states of my characters and like to get inside those characters’ heads so that the reader knows what is really going on as opposed to the image they present to the world. I’m interested in what tips a character into full-blown obsession. This is definitely an area I want to explore further in my books.
6. Is there going to be a third novel? What are your future projects?
There may well be a third Liz Lyon book as I can imagine more storylines about Liz, Julius, Fizzy and Ledley unfolding into the future. I’m very fond of the characters even though they often misbehave! However at the moment a new idea for a book is growing in my mind which I’m keen to develop. This idea is in psychological thriller territory so I may have to think about that next.
7. If you could have a wish come true, how would you like your future to look like? Any more dreams you have?
On a personal level I would love to travel more in South America. I have visited Buenos Aries, when I was working at the Foreign Office. It is such a beautiful city. I’d like to visit Brazil and Chile.
On the writing front I would be thrilled if any of my books made it onto the TV or film screen. My two psychological thrillers have been bought by a production company so fingers crossed.
Behind Her Back is the sequel to Woman of the Hour and includes the same people as in the first novel, with the addition of one newcomer who promises to be the trouble maker of service. I’m talking about Lori, a new employee who waltzes into StoryWorld and does nothing short but take over the place. Her field of expertise is marketing and advertisement and it should stop there but Ms. Powerpoint has all sorts of brilliant ‘ideas’ and of course she gets her way every single time. She wheedles her way in the daily editorial meetings and she wants to have her say about everything. I guess everything can be proven with figures and charts but she certainly forgets about the human aspect, how everything was going smoothly before her arrival, and Liz will have to reconcile and appease different parties again. I don’t think you can blame Liz really for not warming up to her.
I really like the fact that this novel creates quite an intimate atmosphere by the way it was written, I had the impression I was almost reading Liz’ diary with her everyday troubles at work alternated with scenes of her home life. It wasn’t that at home it was all peachy either, she faces challenges on both fronts. I really felt for Liz, apart from her friend Fenton, she doesn’t have anyone to really unwind with. I was happy to see there was some romance in the air but the guy works at a rival station so can you really unburden yourself when he could be using it against you? Is he even really interested in her or more in the scoop about what is going on behind the scenes at StoryWorld ? I was left wondering about that and hoped Liz would be cautious. This led me to wonder as well if their relation would and could survive the fact that she couldn’t open up completely.
It didn’t take but a few pages to be plunged back into the pitpool of egos, and my god do those presenters have egos!, they have egos the size of a country and they have to be handled very carefully. In a very natural evolution there came to be two camps in this novel, camp Fizzy and camp Ledley. Although Ledley had his shortcomings and wasn’t playing fair at some point, I was on his side from the beginning. I felt he didn’t deserve to be treated this way and I came short to acknowledging that Liz really favoured presenter Fizzy, even if it meant grudgingly agreeing Lori had a valid point here. Fizzy is called the ‘Queen of Live TV’ but I didn’t like that she was being placed on such a pedestal. Not to say anything but she was a weather girl in the past so I didn’t understand the special treatment. It bothered me, even though I believe this must be something that is just a given in the tv world. I also didn’t feel much motherly love between Fizzy and her son Zachery which was a shame and only added to my unsympathetic feelings towards her.
Liz is a normal woman facing life’s hardships on her own, she’s a woman who cries and shouts too, she’s not a superwoman like so many heroines in books lately, so this was definitely refreshing to read. If you like to see how her life unfolds with ups and downs and get a little peek at the inner workings of the entertainment section of a TV station, you’ll enjoy this novel, it feels all too realistic. As Behind Her Back offers a little recap here and there about what happened in the first novel, I’d advise to read that one first if you’re interested, although this one can certainly be read as a standalone as well.
I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, Head of Zeus, in exchange for my honest opinion.
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