A few weeks ago I read this incredible book titled “The Tied Man,” which was written by a new British author named Tabitha McGowan. I can’t tell you guys just how much I absolutely loved this story. I loved it so much I decided that I needed to get an interview with Tabitha. Hope you enjoy! -Sassy Sub Heaux
S: How did you come up with the story for The Tied Man?
T: Oh God, basically, in a way that just about every article on ‘Writing Your First Novel’ tells you not to follow… I had Lilith Bresson as a character, and nothing much else (including a plot), but she was such a strong personality that I couldn’t not write for her. So that’s what I did – just started hammering words out onto the page, and kind of let them take me on a mystery tour for a little while. After a couple of months, Lilith met up with my lifelong fascination with the darker side of life and I realised I might actually have a story, rather than some piece of erotic fluff. Then Finn kind of wandered in, all confused and fucked-up and beautiful, and I had a real tale on my hands.
This is around the same time I realised it needed to be told across two voices. That was some edit… Page after page of changing ‘he’ and ‘she’ to ‘I’, and working out who was going to narrate each scene!
S: Did you have anyone in particular in mind when you wrote the part of Finn Strachan?
T: Not at first. In the early stages, I like to scrapbook images that connect to my story, and Finn was one of the last to be found (Lilith was hiding in a magazine in my hairdresser’s, and the salon owner let me take the page home). I nearly-but-not-quite found my Finn in an old FHM in our Chinese Takeaway’s waiting area (I had to surreptitiously rip that page out and hide it up my sleeve), although the guy in the picture was way too polished to be the messed-up little heap that is Finn Strachan. Then I watched ‘Alexander’, with Jared Leto as Hephaestion , and got that damaged beauty and sexual ambiguity that I was looking for. Then I spent so long writing for Finn that he took on his own personality, so I didn’t have to base him on anyone at all – he’s just Finn!
S: Due to the more dark theme in this book, were you ever worried how people were going to respond to this novel?
T: Terrified. I truly envisaged an onslaught of one-star ‘Disgusted’ reviews, to be honest. But I was hugely proud of the story, and a small and dedicated band of beta readers had loved it, so I put on my Big Girl Knickers and put it up on Kindle. Once it started to get 5-star reviews I let myself breathe again! I really don’t think I could have edited, or pulled back on the darker stuff, and still felt happy with the story – I feel like the gamble paid off!
S: Have you gotten any really negative feedback from any readers?
T: Some, but a lot less than I thought. I was so lucky that the vast majority of my feedback was positive before anything negative came back. And ultimately, that’s what’s so wonderful about fiction – someone can absolutely adore a book, and the next reader will detest it with all their heart; one mother’s beautiful baby is another woman’s shaved chimp, after all. I didn’t write a middle-of-the-road book; I can’t expect middle of the road reviews!
S: What is your favorite scene from the book? Mine by the way was when Lilith and Finn went to the Pub alone together and played some pool. I loved how their relationship was slowly building and for them to finally have some fun together was really nice.
T: I have so many. Some of the lighter ones that I wrote to add a little light to the shade – the scene in the aeroplane with Gabriel, Lilith at the awards ceremony – were great fun to write! Probably my favourite episodes, even though they took me forever to get right, were the scenes between Lilith and Finn as their relationship developed. I really wanted this lovely, tender, shy relationship at the very heart of the book; something pure and sweet in the middle of all the horror.
S: What scene was the hardest for you to write?
T: Strangely enough, it wasn’t the really awful material, those parts that readers have to read between their fingers; each was such a strong story in itself that they almost wrote themselves. It was probably the ending – pulling in all the threads, making sure there was sufficient closure, but not taking the drama completely over the top. And having to say goodbye (for now) to Finn and Lilith: now that was hard!
S: Did you have to do any kind of research for writing this book and if yes, what kind of research did you do?
T: I am such a geek. Always have been, always will be. The Tied Man was like one, long therapy session in so many ways. There’s a lot of stuff in there that’s always interested me; the art, and Lilith’s love of classical music, for example. I’ve also worked for years with recovering addicts, so Finn’s issues were pretty close to my heart. And I basically double-checked everything: the lethal dose if someone wants to OD on codeine; the right model of Jaguar; the best way to crack a psychopathic aristocrat’s computer… I loved the research, and it’s been lovely to see how many readers have picked up on all the trivia I threw in there. It was really important for me to get it right.
S: As a playwright, how different was it to write a novel?
T: In some ways I felt I played to my strengths, and made most of the narrative dialogue-based – that was the easy bit! Then I realised I actually had to write all this connecting bumpf, and that’s when it got tricky. The sheer length of the novel was also a bit of an eye-opener; I’d thought a two-hour play was a bugger to write until I was 100,000 words into The Tied Man…
In the end, I found it helpful to focus on the similarities; the need for strong characters (both good and bad), and a strong narrative structure. A good story is a good story, after all!
S: Do you see yourself writing more novels in the future?
T: At the moment, I’m working on the follow-up to The Tied Man, but I actually started a dark (oh well there’s a big, fat shock…) dystopian-future novel about twelve years ago, and at some point I need to dig that one back out and finish it off. The two protagonists are entirely different to Lilith and Finn, but just as compelling, and as interesting to write. One thing I know now is that I can’t not write – my fingers itch too much, and I start to get a little crazy.
S: What can we expect in the sequel to The Tied Man?
T: I spent days wondering whether or not to head straight into the follow-up; it was only when I felt I had enough Story that I made a start on the notes and spider diagrams that mark the start of my writing process. So, what’s going to be in there? Well, without entering the Valley of the Spoilers, it’s about recovery, healing, and closure for both Finn and Lilith. Much of the action is set in Dublin (one of my favourite cities in the world, and where I honeymooned), and gives Finn the opportunity to really come to the fore and show his true strength.
Finn’s sisters have a big role to play, as does the O’Halloran clan; I’m determined to give Finn and Lilith their HEA, but bloody hell, they’re going to have to work for it!
S: Will we get to see more of Gabriel James and Nat Carlin?
T: In a word, yes. I had no idea they’d be such great supporting actors when I started out, but I’m hugely fond of the pair of them. They’ve both had their hearts broken by Lilith, so I probably owe them their own little HEAs, too! Ooh, now I think about it, they’d make a brilliant pairing for a spin-off, don’t you think?…
S: Anything you would like to add?
T: Just a mahoosive ‘thank you’. As an avid, book-a-day reader myself, I know what it’s like to invest in a story and hope that the investment will pay off. I’m utterly blown away by the response to The Tied Man, and hugely grateful to the people who took a punt on a total unknown. It makes all those days when I want to see if a laptop bounces when dropped on a pavement totally worthwhile.
Thank you Tabitha for taking the time to talk to us about your new book. It really was an amazing story and it is going to be a top 10 all time favorites for me personally. I encourage everyone to go out and pick up a copy of it.