Monday, 1 June 2015

Author Interview: Lisa Heathfield

Lisa Heathfield is the incredible, debut author of Seed - a standout YA title, this year, for its beautifully eerie and chilling portrayal of life lived in a cult. Lisa lives in Brighton with her husband and three sons. Before becoming a mum, she was a secondary school English teacher and loved inspiring teenagers to read.

Follow Lisa on Twitter: @LisaHeathfield

Buy 'Seed':

- Waterstones

The Interview

For those that haven’t read Seed, could you sum it up in 140 characters?

An idyllic community. Innocent teenagers, vulnerable to the abuse of power. The unravelling of secrets. And a darkness threatening to destroy them all.

Where did the premise for the novel come from? Have you drawn the inspiration and emotion for Seed from a personal place?

Pearl appeared to me one day, when I was writing another book. I wouldn't say she was demanding, as that's not what she's like, but she was quietly persistent that I should write her story instead. As soon as I picked up my pen, the community of Seed was there. I wrote it as though I was reading it - I had no idea what was going to happen next, so it was really exciting to write.

How long did it take to pen Seed and how difficult was it to develop Pearl’s see-sawing, psychological balance?

I think the first draft took about six months. Then I edited it a bit with my agent, before it went on submission and then I edited it again with Ali Dougal, at Egmont.

Pearl actually swung back and forth, between loving and questioning Papa S, far more in the initial draft. It was under Ali's brilliant guidance that Pearl found a stronger footing in realising that Seed was actually a really dark place. It was very hard for Pearl to see and accept, though. She has been raised at Seed her whole life - it is all she's ever known. She's never had any reason to doubt in Papa S and it's very tough for her to realise that the man she adores is actually very flawed.

If you had to write from the perspective of one other character, which character would you pick and why?

I love Kate - her growing defiance, yet her stark vulnerability. Although, I think it would be really gruelling writing from her perspective, bearing in mind what's happening to her. I'd also be intrigued to write from Papa S' perspective. I'd like to see what makes him tick.

Seed exhibits a lot of taboo, behavioural moments. I found it a compulsive read but deeply unsettling. What was the most unsettling moment, for you, to write?

Pearl going to Papa S' chamber, having been chosen to be his Companion, was pretty horrible. And when she has to wear a blindfold and is in the corn field. Thankfully I kind-of 'zone out' when I write. It sounds strange, but I often don't even know what I've written, until I type it up at the end.

There are some strange, sick rituals at Seed. Where did these ideas come from?

I think the cutting of their palms and tasting blood must come from the more innocent 'blood-sister/brother' thing we used to do as children. The women being confined underground when they first get their period was, I'm sure, influenced by Natascha Kampusch's incarceration in 3,096 DAYS, which I had just read.

But not all the rituals are sick! I love it when they go to Dawn Rocks, to watch the sun rising. And when they kiss their palms and face them to the sky, there are echoes of the women in Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE (not that I'd ever in a million years compare myself to Margaret Atwood, but I think that so much of what I read seeps into my subconscious and comes out in my writing).

At what point did you decide that there would be a sequel? What can we expect from the sequel?

I actually wrote SEED as a standalone, so it was a surprise to me when my publishers asked for a sequel! I think a lot of people are expecting and hoping for different things! It will be interesting to see where Pearl takes me.

Pearl narrates much of the story but there is also another story. You never explicitly state who that is and I think it is unlikely that you will tell us before the sequel. I would like to ask, though, if we’ll get to see more of the backstory for this character in the next book? And why did you decide to write a from this second point of view? Did you begin the story writing this way or did it develop at some point during Seed?

It's interesting that you've asked this, because when I began writing SEED, there wasn't this second view point. Then one day, I was walking our boys back from school and out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw someone looking out of a top window as we went past. And it was instant - I realised then that there was someone else, hidden away at Seed.

How did you find the publication process?
It's been amazing! Everyone at Egmont is so lovely and welcoming. It's been incredible having such an experienced editor work on my book with me. And all the build-up to publication was so exciting. And of course, SEED was paired with the super-talented Ben Hughes, who designed the cover. I feel VERY lucky.

Was Seed the first book you’ve ever written?

It was my second book. My first got as far as the submission process, but didn't quite get picked up. I'd like to work on it again one day and see if it gets further.

You’re on Mars and you have meagre food reserves. You’ve used up your last Kindle battery. You have no communication with Earth and you’re down to your last two canisters of oxygen. You have just enough time to read five books. What five would you choose?

Two would be re-reads: Markus Zusak's THE BOOK THIEF and William Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING. Both of these are beyond extraordinary and I just have to read one sentence from either of them and I'm gone! The other three would be books I haven't read. The first one I'm totally ashamed to admit - I really have been meaning to for years and years and I'm not quite sure why I haven't got round to it: Emily Bronte's WUTHERING HEIGHTS. I loved Stephanie Kuehn's CHARM AND STRANGE, so I can't wait to read DELICATE MONSTERS which is almost out. And I've just bought Jandy Nelson's I GIVE YOU THE SUN, which looks amazing.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.

Thank-you for writing them for me!

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