THE GUILTY ONE wins R&J Book Club Vote

Fantastic news! Lisa Ballantyne has won the readers’ vote for the Richard and Judy autumn Book Club titles at WH Smith with her “emotionally intense” debut novel The Guilty One.

Readers voted online for their favourite of the chain store’s autumn Book Club reads, with The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Headline) coming a close second in the poll and The Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell (Orion) coming in third place.

When asked why he and Judy had come to choose The Guilty One, Richard Madeley said: “It is of the most readable, emotionally intense novels of the year, and a debut one at that.  By the end of the first chapter, we were completely hooked.”

Ballantyne said: “I was utterly delighted that The Guilty One was voted the winner of the 2012 Autumn Book Club. It was wonderful to have been chosen for the book club in the first place and to be listed among other such established authors.”

Huge congratulations to Lisa – if you haven’t yet got your hands on a copy of this debut, it’s time to hot foot it down to the bookstore now!

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Extract from THE GUILTY ONE

At the beginning of The Guilty One, London-based lawyer Daniel receives a letter. But who is it from, what are they apologising for and why was he unable to forgive her?

Dearest Danny,

This is a hard letter to write.

I’ve not been well, and I know now that I don’t have much longer. I can’t be sure to have my strength later, so I want to write to you now. I’ve asked the nurse to post this when it’s my time. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the last bit, but I’m not frightened about dying. I don’t want you to worry.

I wish I could see you one more time, is all. I wish you were with me. I feel far from home, and far from you. So many regrets and bless you, love, you are one of them –if not the biggest regret that I have. I wish I’d done more for you; I wish I’d fought harder.

I’ve said it to you often enough over the years, but know that all I ever wanted was to protect you. I wanted you to be free and happy and strong, and do you know what? – I think you are.

Although I know it was wrong to do what I did, I think of you now, working in London, and it brings me a strange peace. I miss you, but that is my own selfishness. In my heart I know that you are doing grand. I am fit to burst with pride at the fact that you’re a lawyer, but I am not a bit surprised. I have left you the farm, for what it’s worth. You could probably buy the old place with a week’s wages, but maybe for a time it was home to you. At the very least, I wish that.

I always knew you’d be successful. I just hope that you are happy. Happiness is harder to achieve. I know that you probably still don’t understand, but your happiness was all I ever wished for. I love you. You are my son whether you like it or not. Try not to hate me for what I did. Release me from that and I will rest easy.

All my love,

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WIN a copy of THE GUILTY ONE to review

The Guilty One – the sensational debut novel from Lisa Ballantyne – is available in exactly two weeks.

Publishing into the same slot as Rosamund Lupton’s unforgettable bestseller Sister, we can’t recommend this novel more highly. Emotional and compelling, with all the pace and suspense of a thriller, The Guilty One is a book that will have you hooked from the very first page.

But don’t just take our word for it. We’re already receiving rave reviews from book buyers, sellers and press but we want to know what YOU think.

We’re giving away five copies of The Guilty One. In return, we’d like you to read it and write us a short review (100 words or less).

If you’d like the opportunity to read and review this incredible debut before it hits the shelves, head on over to the Piatkus website to enter the competition here.

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Write What You Know?

The first copyeditor who read The Guilty One contacted my Little, Brown editor to ask if it was written by someone working in social work, psychiatry or the law. It is a terrible admission but I actually have no experience in any of these fields. I literally did make it all up and am therefore not a good example of the adage, ‘write what you know’.

My own experience is vastly different from the world of the book. I studied literature at university, and have worked in the charity sector, international development and higher education. I spent six years of my life in China and have travelled all over the world… but I have never visited Cumbria where one narrative of the book is set.

To make the world of the book believable therefore, I had to undertake a lot of research, which included visiting the infamous Old Bailey courthouse in London. I scouted out the location for the murder and the area where Daniel lived as well as the area around the courthouse. I researched farming and the Cumbria area where Minnie Flynn lives. I consulted social workers and criminal solicitors to learn more about the worlds of my characters.

Once my research was done and the characters were fully formed, it was just a case of getting it out, writing it and trying to make some sense of the story. When I was writing it, I could never have imagined that I would be able to get published, I just felt very driven to tell the story.

So why did I write this book? For me, writing is very much an act of discovery and I am often more surprised than anyone else about where it takes me. In this case, I began to have a very clear image of the book’s two main characters: Daniel as a child, and his foster mother, Minnie. I could see them and I could smell them. In the same way as you may dig something out of the sand, I discovered the story from working through that essential relationship.

I knew that Daniel was telling us the story, as an adult. I could see him in a suit in London, but it was after some time that I realised he was a lawyer, and a criminal defence solicitor. Similarly, I knew that Minnie was drinking so much because she was in terrible emotional pain, and it was after a while I realised that she had lost her daughter and her husband.

When I was working on the beginning of this book, there were a number of stories in the UK press about two young boys who had nearly killed another two children. The newspapers were vociferous, demonizing the boys, and invoking other famous children who had killed.

At the time, reading those newspaper stories, I felt appalled by the crime but also very frustrated. There seemed to be an issue that very few were discussing. This was why the children had committed this terrible crime, and, now that it had happened, what they needed to help them realise what they had done and move past it.

I then became interested in juxtaposing Daniel’s troubled childhood – which was heading for a similar life of violent crime before Minnie’s intervention – with that of a young client accused of murder.

This book is very much Daniel’s story – of being a young, damaged and violent child, but someone who grew to become a largely functional, caring adult. Sebastian, the young boy on trial in the book, is there to throw Daniel’s story into relief. There is a quote at the beginning of the book from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, which reads: The soul in darkness sins, but the real sinner is he who caused the darkness.

For me, this draws out one of the main themes of the book: The causes of crime, and our responsibility for people who commit crime, particularly children. The question of Sebastian’s guilt or innocence is really irrelevant, as everyone in the book is guilty.

So perhaps the adage should not be write what you know, but write what interests you? Certainly, the journey that I undertook in writing this book was very satisfying. I can only hope that readers will share my fascination with these characters and their struggle.

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Hello, welcome and thanks for visiting my website!


Today is a sunny day in the City of Glasgow! It is approaching summer again and it reminds me of what a strange, rare, wonderful year it has been. Since Little, Brown decided to publish my debut it has been a whirlwind of a time and I will admit to being apprehensive but excited about what will happen next.


It is a wonderful privilege to get the chance to share the characters who so intrigued me with their lives during the year that it took me to write the book. While I was writing the novel I was working pretty hard and also travelling to far-flung places with some regularity.


I didn’t really have time to write a novel but I was driven to do so. I just loved, and was haunted by, these characters. I can only hope that they will intrigue you too. I am so grateful for your interest and very much look forward to your comments.

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