Interview and Blog Tour Post ~ Ghostwriter by Lissa Bryan

I have to say that I have had the pleasure of reading Ghostwriter and it is a wonderful story and very original!

You can read my review here!

Interview

What was your inspiration for Ghostwriter?

My inspiration for Ghostwriter came a few years ago when I happened upon an article about the “Iron Harvest.” Every year, farmers in France who live where the battles of WWI raged find tons of unexploded artillery shells after they plow their fields.  They pile them up along the roads and a government agency comes along to collect them for disposal.

The numbers in the article boggled my mind, and I thought the columnist had to have made a mistake. They said that it’s estimated that there are still twelve million unexploded shells buried in the soil of Verdun alone. At the current rate of recovery, they’ll still be disposing of them 900 years from now.

I just couldn’t believe it, and so I started reading more about the battle itself. And I kept encountering numbers which made my jaw drop: the length of the battle, the amount of munitions used, the estimated number of casualties. I had heard of the battle before, but I’d never realized how truly horrific it was.

Verdun wasn’t a “traditional” battle how we picture it from the movies, with men charging across the field to fire their guns at the enemy. There was some of that, yes, but the primary weapons used were artillery shells, and the majority of casualties originated from them, not from combat. Two armies, throwing bombs at each other’s lines for nearly a year. I’ve seen estimates that around fifty million shells were fired during the battle. About a quarter of them failed to explode, so they’re still lodged beneath the fields and forests, leeching their poison into the soil.

I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the men living there for nearly a year. There was never a moment when the ground didn’t shake from explosions, when shells didn’t shriek overhead. The sound could be heard from a hundred miles away. The night sky was lit nearly as brightly as day. As Seth puts it in the novel, “A year without stars.” And that was just the beginning of the horrors of that terrible place.

There  aren’t many eyewitness accounts, at least, not as much as you would expect from a year-long battle in which about 75% of the French army served at one point or another. But what eyewitness testimony there was haunted me. It haunts me still.

The battle left horrible scars on the landscape and on the minds of the men who survived it. Post-traumatic stress disorder wasn’t understood at the time. Doctors thought the soldiers who exhibited mental disturbance must have been physically injured in some way, their brains jarred around in their skulls by having a shell explode too close, perhaps. Men who broke down under the strain were derided as being “cowards,” which is one reason militaries didn’t want to recognize PTSD as real; they thought it would encourage “cowards” to use it as an excuse to get out of fighting.

There aren’t many statistics in this regard. Unfortunately, the majority of the war records were destroyed in the bombings of WWII, but we know from pension records that by 1929, the British military was paying a pension to about seventy-five thousand “neurological cases.” The real number of sufferers was probably far higher.

I also learned about the American ambulance drivers who went over to help save lives in France, long before the U.S. entered the war. A surprisingly large number of them became writers later in life, including Ernest Hemmingway, e. e. cummings, and Somerset Maugham. That’s how Seth began to take form in my imagination.

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Where do you write?

I wrote this story the way I write most of my stories: in my mind. I’m not sure how long it took, because I’ll sometimes sit one aside in favor of another idea and come back to it from time to time. I have some stories I’ve been “working on” for over a decade. I may re-write it multiple times before I’m satisfied, trying it with new plots, new characters. It used to be once a story was finished, I’d just tuck it away in my mind’s archive, but I decided on a whim one day last October to write one of them down, and … well … the rest is history, as they say.

So, when someone asks me where I write, I can truthfully say, “Everywhere.” If I’m running errands or washing dishes, I’m writing. I write while I drive, while I work, sometimes even while I’m dreaming. When I sit down at the computer, it’s like taking dictation from my brain, though it never seems to come out of my fingertips as good as it sounded in my head.

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Who is your favorite author?

I have so many favorite authors that it’s almost impossible to name just one. I once saw a cartoon on the internet that said asking a bibliophile to name a favorite author or book is like asking a parent to name their favorite child. So, I’ll name a few from some favorite genres.

Margaret George is my favorite historical fiction author and Colleen McCullough runs a close second. Both have a talent for bringing history to life, weaving in little historical details like a rich tapestry.

Emily Brontë is my favorite Victorian author. The prose poetry of Wuthering Heights is incredibly evocative and the author was masterful at creating a mood.

My favorite children’s author is the magnificent J. K. Rowling. I’m in awe of her ability to weave such a complex plot, especially over the course of a seven-book series.

Stephen King is my favorite horror writer. The Stand is my favorite of his books, but my preference is for his short stories, which I’ve always enjoyed more than his full-length novels. In a similar vein, I also love P.D. James’ Children of Men.

Catherine Anderson is my favorite romance author, because I’m a sucker for a sweet love story.

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Lissa Bryan is an amazing author and I am privileged to have read her work and spoken with her.

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