Writer's Block with Lisa Hall - The Gloss Magazine

Writer’s Block with Lisa Hall

SOPHIE GRENHAM talks to author LISA HALL about escapes, CONSENT and SUBURBIA’S UNDERBELLY

 

British writer Lisa Hall is the bestselling creator of three crime thrillers, starting with Between You and Me and Tell Me No Lies, both published in 2016. Up until then, the idea of writing a book had been a lifelong dream, that finally came true when the pause Lisa was hoping for presented itself.

Her newest title, The Party, is a riveting story that will keep you guessing from the very beginning. An expert at the exposition of suburbia’s underbelly, Lisa’s prose pierces and probes, suggesting that the enemy often hides in plain sight. The narrative opens with a stomach-churning scene, where central character Rachel wakes up on New Year’s Day with the worst hangover of her life – and not a memory to her name. To her horror, it transpires that a roaring headache is the least of her worries.

The Party could not be a more relevant book for our time; how many women are afraid to report when they’ve been violated? And is it because they fear nobody will believe them? Lisa asks so many important questions and manages the highly sensitive subject matter with confidence and care, right down to the exhaustive detective questioning and gruelling medical examinations that are required when such felonies are committed. Fellow crime novelist B A Paris has called the The Party, “Compelling, addictive, brilliant.”

Lisa Hall lives in Kent, England, with her husband and their children, along with a gang of dogs, chickens and ponies. The Party (€8.99) is published by HarperCollins and available nationwide.

On home

I live in a little village, just outside of Maidstone in Kent. It’s a tiny slice of The Garden of England – we are lucky enough to live surrounded by fields, trees and there’s a stream at the bottom of our lane that leads into the river that runs through the village. The village itself has a lovely family vibe to it, which is one of the reasons we chose to live there and bring our children up there – every year the entire village gets together on the green and has a huge lunch, with a band, and a bouncy castle. It’s also rich in history – the village has been on the map since Norman times – the bottom of the church tower dated back to them, there is a Carmelite convent built in the 13th century, and the old bridge that crosses the river was built in 1250, so plenty of history for a writer to get their teeth into.

On roots

I grew up in Eastleigh, in Hampshire, before moving up to Kent when I met my husband. It’s a railway town between Southampton and Portsmouth. I’ve got good memories of growing up there – there’s a huge park in the centre of the town that was a big part of my childhood, where the fair would arrive every summer for a few brief days, and when I think about it I can still smell the hotdogs in the air and hear the shouts of the men in charge of the rides.

On creating

I’m lucky enough to have a very handy husband – he converted an old stable in the garden into a writing room for me. It’s got a beautiful oak floor and the walls are a soft grey, so the whole vibe in there is very calming. I’ve filled it with a huge old vintage desk, an old second hand bookcase that is crammed full of books, and a big squashy armchair, for those times when I’m researching and need somewhere comfortable to read. I keep a tiny wooden set of praying hands on the desk, that open up to show two Hindu gods inside – a little lucky charm I picked up in India for when the words don’t flow! If I need a change of scene I head straight outside. We live on an old watercress farm, and there’s plenty of space to march around and bash out plot points in my head.

On bookshops

I love Goldsboro books in London. The books are always displayed beautifully, and there is always an air of peace and calm in there. There are also some beautiful first editions. They have a brilliant monthly book club, and they hold some fantastic events there too. In short, the staff are some of the most passionate people I’ve met with regards to books, and every trip there is a joy.

On her “TBR” file

Red Snow by Will Dean, Hush Hush by Mel Sherratt and Sunburn by Laura Lippman are next up on my to be read pile, all of them purely for the reason that I love the authors’ work and I am excited to read them! I read Will’s debut, Dark Pines, last year and loved it – it features a deaf journalist as the main protagonist and I found it really interesting the way she dealt with the events going on around her. I am currently reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, which I am really enjoying, but it is a beast of a book! I picked that up after a trip to India last year, and I’m finding it really fascinating reading, as it is very different to the kind of book I would usually pick up.

On escapes

I have a small house in Lower Normandy that I escape to when I need to get away. It is in a tiny hamlet, where there is very little WiFi and phone reception, the pub is driving distance away and I only have one neighbour so it’s very easy to escape from everyday life there. This is the place where I get most of my first draft written – it is so isolated that there is very little in the way of distraction, and I can write all day without any disturbances. I would absolutely recommend getting away if you’re struggling with a deadline – I know a lot of writers use writers’ retreats, and I guess this is my version of a writer’s retreat. Getting away from the humdrum of everyday life can really boost your word count.

On consent

I found it really hard researching The Party. The idea came when a friend confessed to me that she’d been out drinking and couldn’t remember what happened the previous evening – I found that idea really frightening, and then Rachel’s character came to me and I knew that something really awful had happened to her. It’s absolutely shocking how outdated some points of view are when it comes to this subject. I read so many harrowing stories during the course of my research, and the really sad thing is that for a lot of women, it is someone that they know who does this to them. Although there is more support for women now than there was before, I think sadly, there is still a stigma attached to rape – the idea that because she was drinking/wearing a skirt/walking home alone she was “asking for it” – and when someone is charged it doesn’t always mean justice (Brock Turner, for instance). I don’t think we’ll see a huge change in that until perpetrators are punished accordingly.

On suburbia’s underbelly

I think it’s the idea that these things could really happen to you – that’s the idea that we are all drawn in by. We like to be frightened by things, while we’re tucked up safely on the couch under a blanket with a cup of tea, so reading a novel, or watching a TV show where it is realistic, where the monster isn’t a dragon but the man who lives next door, makes things even more terrifying.

On crime fiction’s timeless popularity

As I said before, it’s the idea that potentially this could happen to you, especially in the psychological thriller/domestic noir side of crime fiction. The other reason I think, is that we all like a puzzle – I like to try and solve who the murderer is, and there is something almost addictive about piecing together the clues the writer leaves us. Although I’m disappointed if I ever manage to get it right…

On highs and lows

I always wanted to be a writer, but family and children took priority for a long time. Once I had the idea for my first book, it wouldn’t go away until I wrote it – so I did, and I sent it off to HQ Digital. It wasn’t the idea of being published that spurred me on to write, it was more the case that the characters wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote their story. Obviously the day I got my book deal was a huge high, but the biggest highlight was probably when Between You and Me hit number one on the UK Kindle chart. The first one star review was probably my most terrible low – it really hit me when someone took a piece of work that I’d spent months on and tore it to pieces. I don’t read my reviews anymore – I find it doesn’t help to read bad reviews when you’re trying to write a book!

On what’s next

I am currently editing my next book, which is due for publication in June 2019. It’s the story of a child who goes missing while under the care of her nanny, but I think that’s about all I can say about it for now…

@SophieGrenham

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