CHANCES are you may be familiar with Harriet Tyce's debut novel Blood Orange. There might even be a copy sitting on your shelf or bedside table. Nor would you be alone: the gripping psychological thriller was one of the most popular titles during lockdown, according to Amazon.

It has become an international bestseller, received the hallowed Richard and Judy Book Club stamp of approval and there's a TV adaptation in the works with Blood Orange optioned by the same production company behind Line of Duty and Bodyguard.

Reel off that list to Tyce and she keeps coming back to the same word: surreal. The Edinburgh-born author, who began writing books after stepping away from her legal career to raise a family, has the air of a woman still pinching herself.

"It was a total and utter surprise," she says, referring to the juggernaut success of Blood Orange, which was published in early 2019 and came out in paperback at the end of last year.

The novel centres on a high-flying criminal barrister tackling her first murder case. But as her career takes off, Alison's marriage and family life are left hanging by a thread due to her workaholic schedule, heavy drinking and destructive affair with a colleague.

Testament to the old adage that timing is everything, the book's profile soared – largely through word of mouth – during lockdown. "It suddenly went a little bit crazy for a while," says Tyce. "The whole thing is surreal. I don't think I have processed any of it yet."

Her newly published second novel, The Lies You Told, is also set in the legal world, a twisting tale of ambition, secrets, power, jealousy and deception.

Lead protagonist Sadie has separated from her husband and after a decade in New York has returned to London where she is trying to revive her law career while raising her young daughter alone. All while staying in the creepy house that belonged to her dead mother.

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Sadie and Alison share a profession, although that's where the similarities end. While Tyce, 47, knew that Alison in Blood Orange was an anti-heroine in every sense of the definition, even she was taken aback by how polarising the character proved.

"I had quite a lot of reader pushback about Alison's character," she says. "So many people told me Alison was dislikeable. I knew she was difficult, but I didn't think she was horrible, so it gave me a bit of a rude awakening about my idea of likeability.

"I wanted to show I could write a nice character, or at least someone who wasn't as divisive. It was a very conscious thing. I had Sadie putting down glasses of wine, she didn't smoke and there was no suggestion of sex whatsoever. You get a paranoia about being pigeonholed."

Musicians often lament the difficult second album. It is a fear for many authors too. "Very much so," says Tyce. "There was actually a second book written in 2018 – the year after I got the deal for Blood Orange – that ended up having to be scrapped because it just went completely wrong.

"I think that was because it was my first experience of writing to a contract and knowing there would be readers. I scrapped that book and started again at the beginning of 2019, just around the point Blood Orange was published. I was a year late on my deadline and freaking out.

"Mercifully, it was before I knew what was going to happen with Blood Orange because I think that would have freaked me out completely."

As Blood Orange began to garner attention and plaudits, Tyce says it made her feel oddly exposed. "I felt like lots of people were looking and that put me off my concentration. I had to get a lot better at tuning everything out."

HeraldScotland: Harriet Tyce. Picture: Paul StuartHarriet Tyce. Picture: Paul Stuart

Having abandoned her first attempt at a second book, she turned her attention to a new idea. That one did pan out. The Lies You Told is a whip-smart read that keeps you guessing to the very last page. Tyce sounds relieved to hear someone say that out loud.

"Blood Orange had become a bit of a wave and I wanted to catch it," she says. "I had given myself this huge setback of throwing away 82,000 words.

"In the end, the compulsion to get it done, so I could break what felt like this curse of the second book and then move on, was stronger than the fear of listening to everybody. I feel proud of the fact it is done."

The eldest of two children, Tyce grew up in Edinburgh. The areas around Stockbridge and the New Town were her stomping grounds. Her mother Jennifer is a classicist and an academic, while her father William is a retired judge, Lord Nimmo Smith.

During his career, Lord Nimmo Smith led an investigation into allegations of corruption and a so-called "Magic Circle" within the Scottish justice system during the early 1990s. He was among the five judges who heard the appeal of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands in 2002.

When Tyce chose to do a law conversion course after studying English Literature at Oxford University, she opted for City University in London, keen to carve her own career path and wary of being viewed as simply the daughter of a prominent legal figure in Scotland.

Tyce worked as a criminal barrister for almost 10 years before leaving the legal world in 2005, not long after her son was born. "I did try and go back part-time but it is not a part-time job," she says. "You have to be available properly for trials if you want your career to progress.

"While I was happy with the idea of some childcare while I worked, I didn't want to have to sign over to someone else 100 per cent of the time. In my head, the model I wanted was three days of work a week and you can't operate as a barrister with that kind of restriction.

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"I stopped working which was a bit odd and not much fun. I became the expert in where the pants were and in charge of the supermarket deliveries. I was quite frustrated for a while, until I started writing and that provided an outlet. It was good to be doing something a little bit different with my brain."

Does she miss law? "No," says Tyce, without hesitation. "There was a period before writing had become a career when I felt like it had been an awful waste. I did miss the odd moment when I could put on my wig and gown, sweep into court and feel like I was doing something semi-important.

"I missed having a role that was separate from being a mother and a wife. But now I'm past that and with the books I feel happy I have been able to repurpose that which I thought I had wasted into something constructive."

Tyce did an MA in Creative Writing Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia. She got herself an agent and landed a book deal with Wildfire, an imprint of Headline. "I had been trying to get an agent for seven years by that stage and had a lot of rejections."

While her first two novels are set against a legal backdrop, Tyce plans to draw the line there. "I don't think I have a third book about barristers in me," she says. Instead, Tyce will tap into her Scottish roots with a psychological thriller partly set in 1990s Edinburgh.

"I don't know if you saw the tweets during lockdown where everyone shared photographs of themselves at 20?" she asks. "Looking through photographs, it was such a relief to be back in that time, mentally at least for a few minutes, rather than being confronted by pandemic horror.

"There's also the whole question of the pandemic and how you can tie that into writing a book. For me, the answer is no, it is not something I can go near yet. We are nowhere near knowing how this is going to play out. Escaping to the past is something I'm really looking forward to."

What was she like growing up? "Up until I was about 14, I was quite square. I read a lot. I thought Gilbert and Sullivan were a pop band because it was jaunty operetta. Then I met friends who dragged me a bit more into the 20th century and got me listening to The Cure and wearing eyeliner.

HeraldScotland: Harriet Tyce plans to set her third book in her hometown of Edinburgh. Picture: GettyHarriet Tyce plans to set her third book in her hometown of Edinburgh. Picture: Getty

"I was at an all-girls school and then I went to the Edinburgh Academy for sixth form. It was all boys but there were 30 girls in the whole school which was definitely a sink-or-swim scenario. I have to say I loved it, especially in upper sixth when we started going out to the pubs and cafes around Stockbridge.

"We would hang out in the Bib and Tucker and the Blue Parrot." Tyce rattles off a few more. "The Shambles, The Antiquary and The Bailie. Then there was Trader Vic's. And somewhere called Floral Riot, although I can't remember where that was."

Attending an all-boys school sounds pioneering? "They only had girls in the sixth form. I'm sure it is considerably more evolved now, but the main rhetoric was that we were there to 'civilise the boys', to which you are a bit like, 'Oh, do f*** off'. And I'm not sure we succeeded in that objective at all.

"I will say, from my year, there are a lot of very successful people. It was the sort of environment where you had to become quite tough. The author Sarah Pinborough was in my year, as was the QC Anneliese Day and Georgina Usher, who is CEO of British Fencing."

Home these days is London where Tyce lives with her husband, who works in finance, and their two children. She hopes that writing her upcoming book may mean spending more time in Edinburgh – pandemic permitting. Her family are all hugely proud of her writing career, not least her father.

"He has turned up at every single event I've done in Scotland," says Tyce. "Because of coronavirus, my parents have been keeping a very low profile. The one building he has gone into recently, though, is Waterstones to check they had my book.

"When Blood Orange came out, he was moving things round [in bookshops] and putting it in a more prominent position," she laughs. "It is absolutely brilliant. Although, it does make events talking about Blood Orange slightly erm …"

Ah, the racy sex scenes? "My father's response was: 'Strong meat but it serves the story.' I think my parents were quite relieved when reading The Lies You Told that it was a bit less fruity."

Blood Orange has been optioned by Quibi and World Productions – the makers of Line of Duty and Bodyguard – for development into a TV series. How is that shaping up?

"They have commissioned a full script of the book," she says. "What I have seen of it so far has been brilliant. It is a very different beast. Screenplays are something far from my skill set, so watching it turn into that has been fascinating.

"The next question is whether they decide it is something they are interested in moving forward with. But the fact they have commissioned the full script is a positive sign. It would be great if it happens. It is something I try to keep out of my mind because it is the hope that kills you."

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Instead, the focus is on breathing life into her third book. "I can only work on one thing at a time," says Tyce. "My brain doesn't allow me to do more than that. I'm in awe of people who can multitask.

"There is a point in the middle of writing something when I think I'm never going to have another idea again. But, so far at least, the next idea has come along. I'm going to hope that will also be the case for book four, but I have to do book three first.

"It is exciting that, by 50, I might have four books out. That is an amazing thought and not something I would have anticipated at all when I was sitting thinking it was all over. I feel very grateful."

The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce is published by Wildfire, priced £12.99. Blood Orange is available in paperback, priced £8.99