Author Q&A

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, but not always a novelist. For many years I wrote poetry, which, as a pastime, is somewhat more sociable. I felt compelled to write long fiction because characters and their lives began to inhabit me.

Can you tell us a little about what inspired you to write The Guilty One and whether the writing process was an easy one?
I am always drawn to characters, and I was ‘visited’ by the characters of Minnie and Daniel. The other characters and the story of The Guilty One evolved as a result of trying to understand this fundamental relationship.

How did it feel to get a UK publisher for your debut
I can’t describe it. Even now, months after the fact, I have trouble believing it has happened.

After your book deal in the UK, The Guilty One then sold around the world. How did you react to this?
Luckily I was very busy at work while all this was happening, and it helped me to distance myself from it. I still wonder if I somehow slipped into a parallel universe.

New writers are often advised to write about what they know. Do you know a lot about criminal law and foster care in order to have written about it so authentically?
I don’t write about what I know, but I do write about what interests me, and my commitment to the characters fuels my research. In wishing to make my characters believable, I want to make the worlds they inhabit believable too – however, I am still reticent to call my representations of these worlds authentic. At best I would hope they are believable. There are few things more fun than researching fictional characters. It is like stalking your own imagination.

Did your characters appear in your head fully formed or did they transform as the book evolved? Who is your favourite character?
Daniel and Minnie were very vivid – right down to the smell of them – from early on. Other characters, but also the adult Daniel, evolved as the story progressed. Daniel is the most intriguing, and I wonder what he is up to now, but I admire Minnie’s bravery.

Daniel has a very strong view about the ways in which society should deal with juvenile criminals. Do Daniel’s views mirror your own?
The character of Sebastian developed almost as a construct to elucidate Daniel’s struggle with nature and nurture. The story suggests that criminals are made not born but the adult Daniel also highlights how out-of step England and Wales is with much of Europe when it comes to children and criminal justice.

Do you think it was right for Minnie to lie to Daniel?
I think when we love people we often make choices that can be difficult to justify afterwards.

In your opinion, who is most guilty in the story?
Almost everyone in the story is guilty. They are all guilty in different and almost incomparable ways.

What are you working on now?
A story about obedience and rebellion.

Find out more about the book

Watch a video of Lisa introducing her debut novel

16 Responses to Author Q&A

  1. christine ward says:

    I am half way through this book (Chapter 19) and DO NOT want it to finish
    this is the first time I have ever been inspired to comment on any book

    • admin says:

      Dear Christine
      Many thanks for reading and I am so sorry that your first book comment took over a year before a response was given. I am grateful for your kind remarks and thank you for taking the time.
      Best wishes

  2. Loretta Lavan says:

    Thank you Ms Ballantyne for a fabulous read. I have just read it for our bookclub, and couldn’t put it down from Page 1. When I was finished I wanted more.

    I wanted to know more about Daniel and what turns his life may take, knowing now, the truth about Sebastian. Would it affect his career and his relationship with Irene? How did Minnie’s life go on after Daniel walked out? So much more to know about these wonderful characters. You have brought them to life

    Are you going to write a sequel? I hope so.

    Thank you again

    Loretta Lavan

    • admin says:

      Dear Ms Lavan
      Many thanks for reading and for your kind comment.
      I am so glad that you enjoyed the book. There are no plans for a sequel at present. The novel for me was Daniel’s story and with Minnie gone and his emotional journey there complete, I saw that as the end. Of course there is the hope that he will go to find happiness, possibly with Irene. Maybe a sequel will come one day.
      I have a new book, with new characters, out in 2015. Look out for Redemption Road.
      Best wishes

  3. liz says:

    Hi I loved your book and have given it to my book group to read – when is your next book out – regards Liz

    • admin says:

      Dear Liz
      Many thanks for reading and for your kind comment. Look out for my next novel, Redemption Road in 2015.
      Best wishes

  4. Beryl Ruane says:

    I would be very interested in knowing how Lisa got her information about Brampton because that is where I was born and brought up so you can imagine my delight when I started the book and discovered Brampton is where a lot of the story took place.

    • admin says:

      Hi Beryl. Thanks for your comment and sorry for the delay in replying. I chose Brampton because I wanted somewhere outside Newcastle where Daniel was from, somewhere rural. A friend of a friend (who I thank in the acknowledgements) was from Brampton and told me that her hometown would be my perfect location. Thank you so much for reading and glad you enjoyed. Lisa.

  5. Naomi says:

    I have just finished ‘The Guilty One’ today and enjoyed it so much, I am now sad that I am done! It was thoroughly enjoyable – thank you. Would also love to read a sequel, but will now of course look out for your new book.

    Best wishes, Naomi

    • admin says:

      Dear Naomi. Thanks so much for reading The Guilty One. I am sorry that I don’t have a sequel yet, but never say never…. Daniel may return! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Redemption Road which is out in mid July. Really grateful to you for reading, and for sharing your thoughts! Best wishes, Lisa.

  6. Cindy Washington says:

    The best book ! Could not put it down and still crying. Thank u!

  7. Frances Couper says:

    I just finished reading The Guilty One this morning and I am feeling stunned and so concerned for all the characters. I am having trouble convincing myself not to worry and that it is only a story….

    • Lisa Ballantyne says:

      Frances, sorry for the delay in replying. I still get sad when I do readings of parts of The Guilty One. I am grateful to you for reading and glad that you are moved.
      Best wishes

  8. Jay says:

    Hi Lisa
    Just curious about how you know so much about adoption and all the complex feelings that goes with it? I have read many books with this theme but few convey the mydraid array of messy feelings accurately – such as the child’s longing for their birth mother to be adopted too!! I work with traumuated adopted children so talk with children and young people about this longing.
    I was left wondering are you adopted? It was a gripping and powerful read on so many levels – thank you Jay

    • Lisa Ballantyne says:

      Hi Jay, I do a lot of research! For The Guilty One, I talked to a social worker who was familiar with adoption. Thank you so much for reading, Lisa

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