Tanya Byrne on her emotional new YA novel, In the Shallows

"That got me thinking about the fallibility of memory and how reliant we are on other people to tell us the stuff we can’t remember ourselves."


A deeply emotional exploration of love in all its forms, Tanya Byrne’s new YA romantic mystery, In the Shallows, is a story that will stick with its readers well beyond its final page. To celebrate its release, we had the pleasure of chatting to Tanya all about the book and received her dream itinerary for a day in her hometown of Brighton.

Hi Tanya! It’s great to get to talk to you again today, this time to celebrate the release of your newest YA novel, In The Shallows. Before we get started, could you tell us a little about the book for readers who may not yet be familiar with it?

Hi, guys! Thanks so much for talking to me again. I’m so excited about In the Shallows, which is the story of Mara and Nico who meet while Nico is busking outside Brighton station. Mara falls for her immediately, sure that she’s the one. She thinks that Nico is her dream girl, but in reality, she’s a bit of a nightmare. Yeah, she’s cool and mysterious, but she’s also evasive and unreliable and leaves Mara on read for weeks, then wants to see her again, like nothing happened. For six months, Nico comes and goes, then on New Year’s Eve, she arranges to meet Mara but doesn’t show up. After waiting for over an hour, Nico sends a text saying it’s been fun, but it’s a new year and she wants a new start. Without Mara.

Mara is devastated, but the next day she sees on the news that Nico has been rescued from the sea, but Nico doesn’t remember who she is or how she ended up in the sea. It’s the worst break up ever because Nico literally forgets her. Now there’s no hope that Nico is going to change her mind and get back in touch in a couple of weeks, like she usually does.

So, Mara moves on, but three months later, she bumps into Nico. She doesn’t remember Mara, though, and the pair fall for each other all over again. Except this time, Nico is the perfect girlfriend. Her accident has given her a whole new perspective on life. She’s suddenly sweet and vulnerable and is now the dream girl Mara always thought she was. But as Nico begins to remember how she ended up in the sea, will Mara lose her all over again?

How and when did the story of In The Shallows come about?

Since my mother passed away in 2015, my brother often bicker about stories from our childhood. He has one version and I have another and while I’m sure the truth is somewhere between the two, we’ll never know for sure because we can’t ask our mother.

That got me thinking about the fallibility of memory and how reliant we are on other people to tell us the stuff we can’t remember ourselves. Our first steps. Our first words. Our first day of school. All of these stories and photographs that we know so well and bridge the gap between what we remember and what they do.

I often wonder what it would be like to lose your memory as a teenager and forget who you are before you even know who you are yet, which is how Nico’s story came about. She desperate to remember who she is, but what if she doesn’t like the person she used to be?

New Year’s Eve is a pretty significant event in the book and considering we just entered a new year ourselves; how do you think the cast of In The Shallows would have welcomed in 2024?

Well, we know what last year’s plan was… for Nico, Mara and her friends to ring in the new year together, even if it didn’t quite work out that way. So, this year, I think they’d try again and Nico would actually turn up this time!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by tanya byrne (@tanyabyrne)

In The Shallows’ ending is somewhat hard to discuss without any spoilers but (in the least spoilery way possible) was it the ending you always imagined for the book or did story change at all during the writing process?

As you say, I can’t say too much, but while I initially envisioned a very different journey to that point, the ending – particularly the final line – has always been the same.

From romantic to platonic to familial; In The Shallows wonderfully explores multiple different types of love. Was there a relationship you particularly enjoyed developing?

Thank you. I really appreciate that because it was important to me to show the different ways that Mara is loved so the reader understands how lucky she is. And while each of these relationships is very different in their own way, Mara is a product of them. They’re why she is who she is and why she persists with Nico when she seems to have no reason to.

As someone who also loves the city, I adore the way you celebrate Brighton throughout your books! If you had to plan a day in Brighton for someone visiting for the first time, what would that look like?

Okay. Picture this: a clear, bright day. We’d meet at Kemptown Books and buy more than we should, then grab a coffee (or a tea in my case) from Egg & Spoon and head to the beach.

After a game of mini golf (that I’d win, of course) we’d carry on, past the neon splendour of the pier, perhaps giving into the call of fresh churros, and keep going to the West Pier, which is my preferred of the two because there’s something kind of haunting about its burned-out skeleton emerging from the waves that speaks to my cold, black heart.

Then we’d head up to the Pavilion, walk through the gardens and onto North Laine. There we’d try the tea at Bird and Blend, then flip through the records at Resident and hunt for a few more at Snooper’s Paradise and admire all the weird and wonderful curiosities (a doll’s leg in a glass case, anyone?) before basking in the glory of Lucy & Yak, then grabbing lunch at Iydea, because you kind of have to go to a vegetarian café when you’re in Brighton.

Then, we’d head to Pen To Paper where, if you’re a stationery nerd like me, we can marvel at the glass bottles of coloured ink and fountain pens then buy a notebook that’s too pretty to use. After that, we can head to Hove, go to the Booth Museum of Natural History and admire the butterflies, before hitting my favourite trifactor of bookshops: City Books, the Book Nook and the Feminist Bookshop to buy all the ones we resisted in Kemptown Books.

We can finish with dinner at The Little Fish Market (let’s pretend that we don’t need to wait four years for a reservation) and, in honour of Nico, go to a gig at The Old Market. How does that sound?

Finally, are you currently working on anything new and if so, is there anything you can tell us about it?

I’m working on my next novel now, actually! Unlike In the Shallows and Afterlove, this one isn’t set in Brighton, although it features. It’s set on a farm nestled in the South Downs beneath the shadow of Chanctonbury Ring, so it’s more rural. And claustrophobic. It’s about two girls who don’t like one another very much, but are forced to spend the summer on the farm together and by the time summer is over, everything has changed.

Get your copy of In the Shallows by Tanya Byrne here.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.