22 Jul 2015

Author Interview / Lisa Ballantyne

The crash is the unravelling of Margaret Holloway. Trapped inside a car about to explode, she is rescued by a scarred stranger who then disappears. Margaret remembers little, but she's spent her life remembering little - her childhood is full of holes and forgotten memories. And now she has a burning desire to discover who she is, why her life has been shrouded in secrets, and if it has anything to do with the mysterious man who saved her life.

In a thriller that flits effortlessly between past and present, this is a harsh, gritty yet ultimately uplifting journey of an estranged father and daughter, exploring the strength of family ties and our huge capacity for forgiveness. 


1.    If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?

That is a really great question, which I have never been asked before. The nature of novel-writing is that it tends to be a solitary undertaking. Dramatists often work together, and I can visualise a writer working with an artist…but novelists working together sounds novel indeed.
            I am interested in graphic novels and loved Persepolis – because of its drama and emotion – and because I have visited Iran. Perhaps I might choose to work with Marjane Satrapi – the author of Persepolis. I am sure my work would benefit from being ‘storyboarded’ in places and perhaps we would complement eachother with our mutual interest in family, culture and religion – all themes in REDEMPTION ROAD.

2.    What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
I am trying very hard to change my habits to become a morning writing person, but as of yet I tend to get all my chores done early in the day and then settle in the afternoon to write – and evening if things are going well. I am a very active, impatient person with a short attention span and so I like to do exercise before I write, as it seems to calm me down and help me to focus.

3.    What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
The part of the writing process that I am engaged in at the time is the hardest part. If I am just starting to tease out a story, then that is the hardest; if I am trying to find a voice and a structure, then that will seem unsurmountable; if I am trying to get a draft finished then that can seem overwhelming and sometimes – when the novel is done and an editor has given me changes to complete - these can seem extremely challenging. I think the answer is that writing is very hard and none of it is easy. I must enjoy a challenge.

4.    When and why did you first start writing?
I started writing when I was very small, and I am sure that the reason was some kind of drive to express myself. For many years I wrote poetry, but I started writing long fiction when I was living in China. Novels are like a relationship – they’re a big commitment and you have to work on them every day and after a while, that effort becomes your habit and then it is hard to shake. No matter how I earn my money in life, I will always write.

5.    How did you come up with the idea for the book your book?
When I first began to work on REDEMPTION ROAD, I was interested in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the mechanism of memories from the past impacting on the present. The first scene of the book – involving the car crash and the strange, scarred saviour – came to me quite quickly and I knew that the burned man who rescues Margaret would be the key to her past. In writing the 1980s scenes, I knew I wanted to write about a man who steals his daughter and for the journey they undertake to be a redemptive one, spanning the whole country. I wanted the relationship between father and daughter to gradually soften as the road trip progresses, from one of captor and captive, to one of genuine mutual affection and love.

6.    Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
I read a lot, but at any one time I am reading about ten books and this can be a fatiguing situation. I usually have about four or five books (sometimes more) that I am reading for research, then I usually have a novel I am reading for my own pleasure, and usually something non-fiction as well, just for me. Then there are books that I am sent to review and I often stop and focus on them so that they are not lost in the pile.
At the moment, for sheer pleasure, I am reading Marilynne Robinson’s GILEAD and Barack Obama’s DREAMS FROM MY FATHER.

 7.    Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
I don’t ever feel in a position to give advice, but I know things that have helped me! My motto is always, ‘once it’s finished, it exists’. I try not to get disheartened as I write, but press on… once a manuscript is complete you can assess it, but you can’t edit what you have not written. My other advice would be ‘write if you have to, and if you don’t…don’t’. Writing is agonising, obsessive, draining and gives you curvature of the spine. Only embark on it if you are driven to it so much that you cannot avoid it.