‘Lies, betrayal, scandal.
It’s all in a day’s work’
Author Jane Lythell is back with her next installment in the very enjoyable StoryWorld series, following on from Woman of the Hour (StoryWorld #1)
Behind Her Back sees television producer Liz Lyon return back to work following a two week holiday, only to find the balance of power slightly changed with the arrival of a very formidable woman onto the team.
Due for publication with Head of Zeus on 10th August, I was very happy to receive an advance copy from Clare Gordon.
Today, as my stop on the blog-tour, I am delighted to bring you all my review and a very interesting guest post from Jane entitled ‘Writing about the TV industry as opposed to working in it.’
I hope you enjoy…
Liz Lyon is a television producer on StoryWorld, the UK’s favourite morning show.
She is also a single parent, a confidante, a team leader, and the person tasked with controlling the conflicts and tantrums that happen off-air.
Following a blissful two-week holiday in Italy with her teenage daughter, Liz has returned to work to find a new colleague has joined the team. Lori Kerwell has been brought in to boost the show’s profitability.
But Liz is not sure that’s the only thing on Lori’s agenda.
As Lori builds her power base amongst the staff, Liz finds herself wondering what is really going on behind her back…
Writing about the TV industry as opposed to working in it.
by Jane Lythell
I had seen a full page newspaper advertisement for vacancies at the soon to be launched TV-am breakfast station. The ad said: Join us and make history.
I applied and three interviews later (really, it was a drawn out process) I was told I had a job as a junior features journalist at the station. I was thrilled to be part of the birth of breakfast television in the UK.
Well, the reality turned out to be very different from my expectations. TV-am’s Good Morning Britain launched two weeks after BBC Breakfast Time began. TV-am was highbrow, more Guardian and The Times, whereas BBC Breakfast Time was cosy and populist with Frank Bough in jumpers. The BBC did well and TV-am crashed in the ratings.
Our programme editors scanned the ratings every morning and the sense of panic at the station was rising daily. Editors screamed at young journalists who would sob in the toilets. Other ambitious and thicker-skinned journalists responded by grabbing their chance to get in front of camera. Back-stabbing was rife. Established presenters were junked and new faces fought their way to the top. Live TV seemed to bring out the worst in people and loyalty counted for nothing.
This is the world of my main character Liz Lyon and the subject of both Behind Her Back and Woman of the Hour.
So how is writing about the TV industry different to working in it?
The workplace is full of dramatic possibilities and throws up ethical dilemmas, competitive behaviour, secrets and betrayals. Perhaps the biggest difference in writing about this world is in the pace at which things happen in my novel. There is certainly a feverish and high tempo atmosphere in a TV station that broadcasts live shows. I experienced this first-hand and saw how it breeds conflict and drama. However in telling Liz Lyon’s story I have racked up the pace even more at which conflict and strife occurs so that Liz is under almost constant pressure.
Liz Lyon is both confidante and team leader and the person tasked with controlling the conflicts and tantrums that flare up off-air. She often finds herself in a situation where characters lie to her, or plot against her, and she has to overcome these challenges. For example Liz is the only person who knows the identity of the father of Fizzy Wentworth’s baby. This is an explosive secret as Fizzy is the star of StoryWorld TV and the father is married. The revelation of this secret would cause a scandal for the station. This secret oppresses Liz throughout the book and culminates in a crisis. This is the stuff of novels and is what keeps the reader turning the pages, wanting to know how this situation will unravel.
I loved writing the character of Fizzy Wentworth. She is so self-absorbed and is frequently unreasonable and contrary in her behaviour. Fizzy is used to being in the limelight and this has accentuated her egotistical traits. For example she thinks the royal photographer should take shots of her baby son! I could see Fizzy’s house, her clothing, her taste in food and drink clearly and it was a pleasure to write her. People have asked me whether Fizzy was based on any of the TV presenters I worked with. She wasn’t, but she was influenced by a number of on-screen presenters I had observed in my years in TV.
As for my heroine Liz, I wanted her home life with her daughter Florence to be a strong contrast to her work life. They live in a garden flat in Chalk Farm which is Liz’s haven. Whereas work-Liz is (usually) calm, capable and in control, home-Liz is far more emotional. I was keen to show both sides to make Liz an authentic character.
The ideas for my four novels have come from different places but what unites them all is a focus on strong women, who also have their lows and their vulnerable moments. They battle adversity whether it’s a jealous colleague at work or self-doubt or a holiday from hell.
Television is a seductive industry. You feel you are at the centre of things because you hear of news and events before most people. I worked as a TV producer for fifteen years and was also a lone parent to my daughter. It was a pang to give this up. But it is a burn-out industry. You are expected to work until the show is ready. The hours are never predictable and this made it difficult for me as a lone parent. I left my career in TV when my daughter Amelia was nine-years-old because I knew I was not spending enough time with her.
But in Behind Her Back I really enjoyed writing about the TV industry as opposed to working in it.
Swirl and Thread Reviews….Behind Her Back by Jane Lythell
There is a time in your reading life when a book just falls into your lap at the right time. For me Behind Her Back was one such book. I had read and enjoyed Woman of The Hour (See my Review HERE) and I really wanted to know what happened next to the wonderful Liz Lyon.
If Liz Lyon were a ‘real’ person I would love her as my friend. She is trustworthy, she has empathy, she is a mother, she cooks (Yeah!!) but the feature I find most endearing is her lack of confidence in her own ability. Liz Lyon is a woman of strength in the boardroom but at home she is constantly questioning her decisions, making her very human. Very often the modern day working woman is portrayed with a very hard and tough personality, but Liz is actually quite fragile. As Jane mentions in her guest post, this portrayal of Liz makes her a very authentic character and also a more appealing one.
Liz lives with her teenage daughter Flo as a working single parent. Her ex now lives in Dubai, so Liz is very much the decision-maker of the household. In Woman of The Hour, the relationship between Liz and Flo is developed beautifully with all the tantrums associated with a teenager. In Behind Her Back, this special relationship between mother and daughter continues with a few extra bumps thrown in….think hair dye, boys and drama!!!
After Liz and Flo return from a fabulous couple of weeks in Italy, as Liz describes it ‘with a good tan and a hole in my finances‘, it’s not long before the holiday buzz wears off.
There have been changes made during Liz’s absence, with the arrival on the team of the formidable Lori Kerwell.
Lori’s agenda is quite clear…..profit!!!
Liz always had the trust of all her team, but after a couple of incidents in Woman of The Hour, Liz has to watch her back a little.
The main face of Story World, Fizzy Wentworth, has given birth. Fizzy, while on a very short maternity break, sees potential changes coming down the line, on her return, which will ultimately damage her career. Liz’s job is to make sure her team are happy and all working in harmony together, but there is some truth to what Fizzy is saying leaving Liz negotiating some very rough waters.
The atmosphere of this book is explosive.
There are huge egos to be dealt with, each with a very singular agenda. As Lori strikes (best word for her pincer like approach) with new ideas, she appeals to many of these individuals but to others, Liz included, a sense of impending doom descends.
Ratings are the life-blood of any TV show and Liz is faced with the outcome of some very disastrous decision-making. With her own personal life in a bit of a mess, Liz is no longer sure who to trust. Is everyone just out for themselves? Can she trust anyone anymore? What exactly IS going on behind her back?
Jane Lythell has written a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. Behind Her Back deals with so many issues relevant to many today – a working mother, a single mother, workplace relationships, personal relationships, teenage angst and peer pressure, the need to fit in and be part of something as a teenager AND as an adult, the frenetic pace of life and the need for calmness and time-out – I could go on!!
Behind Her Back is a novel packed with drama and tension, yet for me it was a return to the pure escapism of a world I know absolutely nothing about. It’s a refreshing read and one I recommend to anyone looking for something a little lighter, yet sprinkled with real-life drama and a backstage view of what really happens behind the cameras of morning TV….
Purchase Link ~ Behind Her Back
About the Author:
Jane Lythell worked as a television producer and commissioning editor for fifteen years. She has been Deputy Director of the BFI and Chief Executive of BAFTA.
She is the author of four novels, including Woman of The Hour, the first title in the Story World series, which was published by Head of Zeus in 2016.
She now writes full time.
Twitter ~ @janelythell