Today the Lucky 13s welcome Tanya Byrne, author of HEART SHAPED BRUISE, to the blog. Congrats on your release, Tanya!
Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time. Heart-Shaped Bruise is a compulsive and moving novel about infamy, identity and how far a person might go to seek revenge.
I was really excited to read this debut, and it did not disappoint. We're so excited to have you, Tanya! This was one of the most unforgettable books I've read in a while.
So, without giving anything too juicy away, how did you come up with the idea for Heart Shaped Bruise?
I had an idea about a girl called Juliet who has to go into witness protection when a gangster murders her father and it unravelled from there.
I began writing it and, in an effort to add more tension, I introduced a character called Emily, the gangster’s daughter, who finds Juliet in witness protection, pretends to be someone else and befriends her. But as I went on, I began to realise that Emily’s story was more interesting and after much hair pulling and several sleepless nights, I started again.
What was the hardest part of this story to write?
You’re not supposed to like Emily. You’re not supposed to agree with her or even understand why she did what she did, so the easiest bits to write were when Emily was being Emily the gangster’s daughter, when she was showing off and telling you with great glee what she did. It was almost thrilling, letting her say what I’d be too scared to, letting her jokes go from dark to deepest black.
The hardest parts to write were when she was just being Emily, a hurt and confused teenager who didn’t understand what was happening to her. She’s in the psychiatric unit of a young offender’s institution. It’s easy to forget that once the story gets going, but writing those moments, when something happens to send Emily flying off that edge and having to follow her down, was almost too painful at times.
Emily is a beautifully damaged and disturbed character, and really leaves a lasting impression. How did you work to create such an engaging and complex character?
Thank you. I knew writing Emily would be a challenge, that people would question her motives, if revenge was enough to do what she did to Juliet. It isn’t. Emily doesn’t react to what happens like everyone else would, because she’s not like everyone else – she has borderline personality disorder.
She doesn’t know that, though, as she hasn’t been diagnosed. No one knows what causes BPD, but it’s thought to develop through a difficult life event, in Emily’s case, when her mother leaves when she’s three years old. It’s usually diagnosed in adulthood, usually following a stressful experience, and while she’s probably always had the symptoms – poor self-image, feeling like she doesn't belong, fear of abandonment, taking risks without thinking about the consequences – they would have become much worse when her father was stabbed.
Emily mentions BPD in passing early on in the book, when her psychiatrist encourages her to read a book about it, but doesn’t mention it again. She’s in denial about a lot of things and as the story is told in a series of journal entries, we’re only told what Emily wants us to know.
So if she wasn’t going to question whether she had BPD, I had to show you – her fierce mood swings, her bursts of anger, the way she fixates on Juliet, then on Juliet’s boyfriend Sid. I think that’s what makes Emily so engaging; she doesn’t tell you what’s wrong with her, because she doesn’t know – and she doesn’t want to know, either. Not yet, anyway. You have to work it out for yourself.
Are you working on anything new right now?
I’m currently working on my second book, which is another psychological thriller, this time about a teenage girl called Scarlett Milton who is very different from Emily, but gets herself into an equally frightening situation.
So, in true Luckies fashion, do you have any superstitions? What's your favorite lucky charm?
It’s more of a superstition than a lucky charm, but always make a wish at 11:11. Not telling you what it is, but I get really annoyed if I look at the clock and it’s 11:12!
Thanks, Tanya! And make sure you run out and grab HEART SHAPED BRUISE. You won't want to miss it.