Sunday, 27 May 2012

Interrogating Talli Roland

Talli Roland writes fun, romantic fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories—complete with happy endings. Her novels have also been chosen as top books of the year by industry review websites and have been bestsellers in Britain and the United States.

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I must admit, it can be tough to strike a balance. I write in a genre (chick lit/ light women’s fiction/ romantic comedy/ whatever the media are calling it these days) where a happy ending is pretty much a must. However, I’m a big fan of the bittersweet ending, where not everything is wrapped up in a neat little box with a bow. It’s a struggle sometimes to bring myself around to writing a positive outcome.  

Whenever I come up with a plot, I always ask myself if this is something my target reader would want to invest time in – and I try to pick topics a little different from the typical cupcakes/ high heels/ shopping (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) that abound in my genre.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

I love the comedic element and the fact that you can use humour to address deeper issues facing women of all ages. The sharp snappy pace of the genre really appeals to me, too. As a former journalist, I’m incapable of waffling on too much.

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them? 

I have an ‘ideas’ folder on my computer, but it’s usually for plots. That seems to be how most of my ideas come to me: a glimmer of a storyline, or a unique situation a character might find themselves in. I love taking the seed of inspiration and seeing how it develops.

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ? 

A little bit of me always finds its way into my characters (which is a very scary thought!), whether it’s in their likes and dislikes or their observations. The character I’d most like to be with – I’m not sure I’d want to be her! – is Serenity from Build A Man and its sequel, Construct A Couple. She’s a recent transplant to London and even though I’ve been here for eight years now, I can relate to her ‘fish out of water’ feelings. 

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

While I do get very absorbed in my novels – usually during the editing process as I try to make sense of what I’ve written – when I close the door to the office at the end of the day, I’m pretty good at leaving it behind! My brain needs the mental space from whatever I’m creating in order to come back to it fresh the next day. And it doesn’t matter how engaged I am in my work, if there’s food within reach… watch out!

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

To be honest, I’ll read anything. I started off my career writing guide books (24 Hours London and 24 Hours Paris) under my real name, Marsha Moore, so I really enjoy reading non-fiction and travelogues – Peter Mayle is a favourite. As long as there’s a good story and characters I care about, I really don’t care what genre it is.

What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

That’s an interesting question! I’m not sure you can convince readers a book has the X factor – the content has to speak for itself. You can make an effort to get your book noticed, though. The line between promoting and annoying is very fine: with more and more books out there, the cries of ‘buy my book’ on Twitter and social media can be overwhelming. I try to build relationships first, then think of something unique that doesn’t scream self-promotion but instead attracts attention to the novel. When I launched Watching Willow Watts, where the main character becomes a famous Marilyn Monroe impersonator, I asked people on Twitter, Facebook and blogs to talk about who they’d like to be for a day, if they could choose. And when I launched Build A Man, I directed people to a poll where they could vote on their favourite noses, lips, etc. Then, using the results, I created a composite of the perfect man (who turned out to be hideous!). I think those strategies worked because I wasn’t asking people outright to purchase my work.

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

My first two novels were traditionally published with a wonderful editor, and I’m lucky enough that for my self-published novels, I’ve also been able to work with a terrific editor. However, the inevitable typo slips through the net! I try very hard to create a professional product, so I’m always disappointed if a reader spots something that tears them away from the novel. However, I appreciate any reader input and if someone spots a typo, at least I can change it!

What do you like most about visiting KUF?

It’s such a friendly forum, and I love that the moderators are always thinking of ways to improve and involve the community. Everyone is there to support each other, unlike other forums where there can be a bit of a ‘let’s attack’ attitude. I’ve been a member since December 2010, and I’m so glad I joined!

What is on your near horizon?

Construct A Couple, the sequel to Build A Man, is due out in June. In November, The Pollyanna Plan is scheduled for release. It’s been a busy year so far and it looks like it’s going to stay that way!

Where can we find you for more information?

You can find me on the web, follow me on Twitter, read my blog, or find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

You can learn more about Talli at


  1. Joo, thank you so much for taking the time to interview me! :)

  2. Great interview - nice to see how people go about this 'writing' business, particularly someone like Talli, who turns out such well-crafted books.