The Lie Tree wins Costa Book of the Year 2015: Frances Hardinge interview

Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree is winner of the Costa Book of Year 2015 award. Here Laura Summers interviews Frances on the book and being a writer.

1) Congratulations on your win. How long did it take you to write The Lie Tree?

It’s always hard to be sure how long a book takes, because it includes a research and plotting stage even before I start writing, and it sometimes overlaps with corrections for the last book. On average, however, each of my books takes over a year to write the first draft, and then another few months to edit it.

2) What inspired you to write the book?

I had the idea for The Lie Tree itself while I was on a long walk – I can’t quite remember what train of thought led to it! The story itself was inspired by many things – Victorian gothic novels I read while I was growing up, a fascination with post-mortem photography, the Crystal Palace dinosaurs. A friend with an archaeological background provided me with lots of colourful information about nineteenth century archaeology and palaeontology, which also gave me plenty of ideas for the story.

3) Will there be a sequel after the success of The Lie Tree, or will you be writing something different next?

The Lie Tree is a standalone, so I will be moving on to something else.

4) How did you first get interested in writing as a career?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in writing. I was always scribbling stories, though many I never showed to anybody. I only started submitting short stories to magazines when I was sixteen.

5) What tip would you give to anyone who aspires to be an award-winning writer?

My advice is, don’t! I don’t think there’s any point in thinking about awards when you write. Instead, aspire to tell the story you can’t help but tell, which has your heart and soul in it.


Frances Hardinge spent a large part of her childhood in a huge old house that inspired her to write stories from an early age. She read English at Oxford University, then got a job at a software company. A few years later she was persuaded to send a few chapters of Fly by Night, her first children’s novel, to a publisher. Macmillan made her an immediate offer. The book went on to publish to huge critical acclaim and win the Branford Boase First Novel Award. The Lie Tree is Frances’ seventh novel.