Author Interview: Tasha Sylva

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This month, a selection of our members are reading The Guest Room by Tasha Sylva. While they’re quickly turning the pages of book, Tasha took some time out to chat with Beauty and Lace.

You can learn more about the author in this interview –

What can you tell us about your novel, The Guest Room?

The Guest Room is about a woman who goes through her guest’s possessions, curiosity a distraction from the pain of her sister’s recent death, still unsolved with an ongoing police investigation. Arran comes to stay for a month and Tess finds his diary, which she reads.

It’s all about an unnamed woman and Tess quickly gets hooked, needing to know who this woman is. Throughout her narrative, Tess is unaware that she’s being watched by another character.

This is a story about grief, violence against women and the nature of obsession – how it can be tightly woven with or often driven by love. I explore the extremes any of us have the potential to go to and the complexity of human character, questioning who we can trust and whether we can ever truly know someone to their depths.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Staying in many Airbnbs while travelling around Spain – one day I was looking for olive oil in my host’s kitchen, to pour on a salad I’d made for lunch. My host was out and as I was poking through their cupboards the thought arose: how easy it is for me as a guest to look through my host’s things. But also the flipside: that my host could have looked through my possessions and how would I know?

Curiosity is a powerful thing and Airbnb creates a unique situation of bringing strangers together – staying in the home of a person you’ve never met before, or inviting a stranger into your home.

This was a hook of intrigue for me, and sparked the possibility of the story. What if a host, out of curiosity, went through their guest’s belongings? What might they find?

What are the key ingredients for a good thriller?

For me, it hinges on character. Why-dunnit is more intriguing than a whodunnit – what makes people behave in a certain way, what drives us to act, or what situations can arise or develop. This is the basis of what it is to be human and I am fascinated by both the individual and collective psychology.

One of the most interesting openings of a book in this regard is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, revealing that Bunny is dead and the protagonist and a group of friends are responsible for his death. Why? How? These are the questions that loom up through the dark.

Who are your favourite authors?

I find this question tough every time someone asks me. Particular books stand out in the light of my memory as impactful stories and pieces of writing, more than authors.

But over the last few years, some of the most powerful and enjoyable names are Cormac McCarthy, Daphne du Maurier, Chris Whitaker, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Winston Graham, Madeline Miller, Gillian Flynn, and Delia Owens.

What are you currently reading?

These days I read a lot more non-fiction than fiction. I also have multiple books on the go at once. I am loving Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake and How I Became A Tree by Sumana Roy. I’m reading a few books on herbalism and medicinal plants, and I just finished Circe by Madeline Miller which I adored.

The vividity of her writing really inspires me and immerses my imagination, bringing a richness and presence to the experience of reading which I would love to cultivate in my own writing.

We heard you’re a bit of a green thumb, what are you currently growing?

At the moment I’m doing a course in agroecological food growing, learning how to grow all kinds of things on a small scale for the local community. Harvest has just got a bit crazy in our field – chard, lettuce, sugar snap peas, beetroot, and courgettes are all producing beautifully.

I helped harvest our first basil of the year, which is exciting, and soon the berries will be ready – blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, and raspberries.

We are in a moment of abundance here in the UK. I’ve also been learning a lot about forest gardening. Earlier in the spring we were often gathering from lesser-known plants to create a forest garden salad for the college kitchen – such as oxeye daisy, sweet cicely, garlic mustard, oregano, aquilegia, wild spinach, buckler’s sorrel, apple mint.

There is so much to discover and it’s amazing how many plants are just growing out there in diverse array that we overlook or even demonise, when they are an incredible source of food and medicine. Dandelion is the ultimate example of this.

How did you get started as an author?

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 13, after getting hooked on fantasy. I started with a Lord of the Rings rip-off that was planned as a trilogy and had a wizard-like character called Gamleaf. Since then I’ve written other novels, half novels, short stories.

In 2017 I did a master’s in creative writing which really set me onto the old familiar path after time drifting off it. My feet in its earth, the master’s got me writing again and it was towards the end of the course I had the idea for this story.

What is one fun fact we wouldn’t know about you?

I can identify most birds in the UK from their songs and calls. And I believe in magic.

Where do you like to write?

I wish I had a more interesting answer to this question, but the honest one is in my bedroom. I’ve tried writing in cafes and libraries but it doesn’t seem to work for me in public places. I

need a quiet, comfortable and steady space where I know I won’t be interrupted, in order to get into the zone, and to energetically feel into the flow of creative writing. I would LOVE to be able to write outside sitting under a tree, to somehow merge these two worlds of mine.

What’s next for Tasha Sylva?

I am continuing with my course into the autumn, meanwhile working on my next book due out in 2025. The working title is The Man in Hawk Wood. It’s about a homeless man living in the forest. A woman from a local village comes across him one day and is drawn in, going back to visit him and forming a friendship.

She keeps him a secret from the village and her husband. Gradually, the reader begins to realise he’s not who he says he is, and he’s not in this wood by chance.

2 thoughts on “Author Interview: Tasha Sylva

  1. Interesting. Always good hearing how authors create their stories and where they get their ideas from.

  2. Enjoyed reading Tasha Sylvia’s interview, so cool to hear the inspiration behind stories and characters, as I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

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