Jane Lythell on writing about workplace drama

  

Jane Lythell on writing about workplace drama

You’ve got the TV career of your dreams. Let the nightmare begin.
 
What happens at work has such an impact on our lives but there is very little fiction exploring this. Just this week MPs were debating the merits of a ban on requiring women to wear high heels at work. MPs said they were shocked at the stories about women’s dress codes, including the case of a woman who had been told to dye her hair blonde and a woman sent home from her temp job when she refused to wear high heels.

In Woman of the Hour it is the pressures women face balancing work and family that drives the story. I lift the lid on workplace abuse and intrigue in the glamorous, pressurised world of TV.
 
My heroine Liz Lyon is a respected TV producer and a guilty single mother. She works at StoryWorld TV station which puts out a daily show. Liz has a power-crazed boss and spends her working days managing the huge egos of the on-screen talent. She has to walk on eggshells, bite her tongue and soothe frazzled members of staff while her programme budget is shrinking. She returns home to a stroppy teenage daughter, her beloved Flo, who Liz feels she is failing. It is hardly surprising that Liz dreads Monday mornings.
 
Does any of this sound familiar?
 
And on the subject of dress codes, one of the pundits at StoryWorld is sacked because she refuses to wear the pastel colours demanded by the station. She turns up for her slot in a black top and is summarily dismissed by the power-crazed boss.
 
As well as Liz’s story, I explore the working lives of two younger team members. Harriet Dodd is the daughter of a national newspaper editor who got her the job by pulling strings. Ziggy is a vulnerable intern who is on a one-year scheme to help young people in care build a career. The issues for Harriet and Ziggy are different to those facing Liz. They are starting out on their working lives and their stress points are what they have to put up with to have a job in television. They are expected to work long hours for little money; accept being snarled at by celebrities and, far more seriously, they feel they cannot speak out about sexual harassment at work.
 
The drama of the workplace offers such a rich vein to explore in fiction. So many issues and moral dilemmas are thrown up by this aspect of our lives. There are power struggles, intrigue and betrayals as well as moments of camaraderie and satisfaction at a job well done. I am working on a second book featuring Liz and the team at StoryWorld TV, which will be out in August 2017.   

Woman of the Hour is out in paperback and ebook