Author Interview: Gytha Lodge

Author Interview: Gytha Lodge

Gytha Lodge is a Sunday Times bestselling writer and multi-award-winning playwright who lives in Cambridge. After studying creative writing at UEA, she was shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Arts’ Council England fiction awards. 

Her latest book, Lie Beside Me, is out now, with her fourth book due to be released in April. She’s been kind enough to speak with us to share more about herself, her writing process and future plans…



What was your path to becoming a published author? 

It was a lengthy one! I’ve been dead set on it pretty much all my life, except for an interlude when I thought I wanted to be an opera singer. I wrote a first (truly awful) novel at the age of 14, and sent it off to a senior publisher at Transworld, who was lovely enough to call me up to tell me what made it promising – and what made it definitely not ready to be in print!

I kept writing, and after university, got into writing plays. It turned out that this was a lot of fun too, and got me a lot of feedback on my writing. After a while spent in a marketing job doing theatre on the side, I left to become a full-time playwright, occasionally adding to my income on the off seasons by writing websites and articles for companies. I was lucky enough to win a national award and a fringe award, and eventually decided it was time to take my writing more seriously, so I applied for the UEA Creative Writing MA.
There, amongst many other things, I learned how to write a really great opening chapter and synopsis. And right in the middle of the course, as a result, I finally found myself submitting to agents and getting offers (six offers, in fact!) which led me to work with the truly wonderful Felicity Blunt, who I just knew was the right agent from the moment I met her. 
From then, it still took a while to end up with a contract, as my very first book submitted didn’t sell to publishers. It turns out, though, that this is incredibly common, and having been really glum about it, with Felicity’s help I picked myself back up, wrote She Lies in Wait, and ended up with a dream three-book deal with Penguin Michael Joseph, which turned into deals in twelve languages and a whole series. It also became a Sunday Times bestseller and launched the series. 

Your novels follow DCI Jonah Sheens, with the fourth book due to be released in April. Are you planning to continue the series, or would you do some standalone novels?

Yes, I’m dead set on keeping on with the series. Book five is already on a second draft and I’m really enthusiastic about getting it out into the world. With each one, my aim is to make it the best in the series so far (which admittedly is going to get tricky if I achieve it with the first few, but I’m game to try!) 
I’d like to write a standalone, too, but without interrupting the series. I have such affection for Jonah and his team that I want to keep coming back to them and pushing their own stories forwards. 

What is the process behind writing the series? How much research is involved?

I try to get the procedure exactly right as much as possible, knowing how much I appreciate it when fields I know about are represented accurately in fiction. So I will research a lot when it comes to laws, processes, etc, but I also now have a brilliant adviser from the Met Police who not only tells me how individual things work, but much more than that. Talking with him is always an inspiration for a new book or plot idea and I’m hugely lucky to get to throw so much at him – and to have him reply so quickly and graciously. 
Each novel also has, aside from the police element, a strand based around the victim or someone closely involved with the crime. This then means research into the life they live, whether that’s as a musician as Louise is in book three, or as a child in the care, as two sisters are in book four. And all of that research is wonderful fun, too. I’m currently, for book five, getting to delve into how a stud farm works and it’s really addictive. 

Your books have been brilliantly gripping police procedural thrillers – if you were to turn your hand to a different genre, what would it be?

Ooh, this is such a hard question! I love so many genres, and I have written others in the background – I have a 9-12 fantasy series called The Fragile Tower begun on Wattpad and also a YA fantasy romance called The Cupid Touch on the same platform, and it’s been just lovely to have lots and lots of readers on there. I think, despite the contrasts, some elements are still the same in my different writing: the way I like to place characters in really hard situations and make readers (hopefully) really care about the journey they will go on. 
I also love a full-on psychological thriller, which I think is apparent in my series. In each book so far, I’ve written half of it from a different perspective to the police, showing the impact of the crime on those involved, or the inner life of the victim, or some psych thriller element of that kind. And I love this side of it just as much. 
Though I think that what I’d most love to do at some point is to write crime that pushes at the boundaries of the genre a little. Some of my absolute favourite books do this, making crime a little sci-fi or fantasy, or perhaps slightly horror, or a thorough-going love story at heart. And as someone who loves so many genres, that kind of writing really calls to me. 

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 

My main tip is just to keep, keep writing. 
It was 21 years for me from first book to publication, and at every single stage I learned from it, honing and refining and growing as a writer. I had a lot of knock-backs and failures and I want everyone to know that that is ok. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer; in fact, I think it’s how most of us earn our stripes. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I’d be hard pushed to choose between three things. The first was getting selected for the Richard and Judy book club, and getting to talk about She Lies in Wait in real depth with them both. They had such incredible enthusiasm for the story. It was a total pleasure. 
The second was having the wonderful Val McDermid select me for her New Blood panel at the Harrogate festival of crime writing. This is the panel where, each year, she picks her favourites of all the debut novels out, and reads a seriously impressive number of books. Getting to chat with her and three others on a stage with an audience of 750 people was just incredible. 
And then, at the beginning of 2020, partly as a result of these two things, She Lies in Wait became a Sunday Times and Spiegel bestseller, something I still can’t quite believe. Getting to be a bestseller is an amazing privilege, still more so getting to do it with the very first book in the series. 

When you aren’t writing, what are your favourite things to do?

I love getting out of the house and doing active things. Tennis, running (which I am immensely slow at as I am not built for it but love), cycling (I need to get better at cleats) and walking. I used to row, a huge amount, and coach it, until lockdown but have now exchanged it for other sports. 
I am also a keen gamer, though now that I have an 11-y/o who loves to use the big gaming machine, I have to force him onto the PS4 in order to play. We usually end up doing Fortnite duos.
I also love cryptic crosswords, su dokus, and most puzzles. And TV drama though for some reason I keep forgetting to watch it.
I’m also capable of wasting enormous amounts of time making cups of tea and faffing on social media. 

What are your top five favourite reads?

I am so bad at choosing favourites!! Such panic always ensues! And I can never remember half my favourites when asked. So I’m picking five things I love that I can think of. As you can see, I read anything and everything!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
And I’m just starting Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister, which is out soon, and it’s utterly brilliant! Get ready for it to be a huge success.