It’s a fight to the death—on live TV—when a gladiator’s daughter steps into the arena
Lyn is a neo-gladiator’s daughter, through and through. Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family. Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator. Remind him constantly of his victories. And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying. The rules help the family survive, but rules—and the GSA—can also turn against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn’s seventh father, he also captures Lyn’s dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him... For fans of The Hunger Games and Fight Club, Lise Haines’ debut novel is a mesmerizing look at a world addicted to violence—a modern world that’s disturbingly easy to imagine.
BRT: Can you please tell us about your self?
Lise: I’ve been a writer all my life, and my days and nights now are about single parenting, teaching full time during the school year, and staying up late and getting up early to write. I think I’ve packed in a fair amount of living so far, so it’s tough to know where to start with a wonderful question of this size. If you’re willing to shift over to my website, there’s a page where I have both my publishing and teaching credits and also something about my life as a writer. Lise Haines Website. I believe, friends and students know me by my sense of humor and compassion, my devotion as a parent, and my straightforward nature.
BRT: What or who inspired you to become a writer?
Lise Haines: I don’t think there’s any question that I was influenced by my parents. My mother and father were both reporters in Chicago at two of the big dailies. Writing was one of the central rituals of any given day. I don’t remember them taking a lot of time off. I know I don’t.
BRT: Can you please tell us about Girl in the Arena?
Lise Haines: It’s been called an alternate history, a dark satire, and social commentary wrapped into a pretty intense, visual story. Here it is in a nutshell but I warn you there are a couple of spoilers in this description: During the week, Lyn lives in a big house in Cambridge, and hangs out with friends in Harvard Square. But over the weekends she cheers her father on when he gears up for neo-gladiator competition—a high-profile televised blood sport that rivals the NFL. Lyn’s father is the top player in the league, and the paparazzi that have always swarmed him have started to dog Lyn’s every move. All this fame comes with an even higher price. Lyn’s family lives with the constant presence of violence, uncertainty, and a strict cultural code set by the Gladiator Sports Association. When a skilled young fighter slays Lyn’s father, the GSA imposes an unthinkable sentence—Lyn must marry her father’s murderer. Though her mother has made a career out of marrying into Glad culture, Lyn is prepared to do whatever it takes to claim her independence. Even if it means going into the arena herself…. Lise Haines’s debut novel, a dark satire for our time, is a mesmerizing look at a modern world addicted to violence, fame, and greed—a world eerily close to our own.
BRT: Was there a particular occurrence or story that inspired the ideas for this book?
Lise Haines: It came from a variety of sources. Greek tragedies, comic books, avatars in virtual reality, 9/11, young women going off to war in record numbers. And ultimately I discovered that I was writing about the impact of violence on young women in our culture.
BRT: What three words would you use to describe your main character Lyn?
Lise Haines: Smart, indefatigable, loyal.
BRT: Who is your favorite character in Girl in the Arena and why?
Lise Haines: You realize that this is too much like asking a parent to name their favorite child. Any answer is bound to make me unpopular with someone. Although I’d have to say Lyn, her young brother Thad has a big place in my heart. He is a boy who sees the world through the glasses of someone with special needs, and he is a human oracle—coming up with all sorts of predictions, not all of them accurate. He would continually remind me to look at things in a more simple and therefore a fairly profound way.
BRT: How did you come up with the GSA’s rules and regulations?
Lise Haines: When I did my research I learned that there were female gladiators in Ancient Rome, and I also found out that the gladiators lived and died by a very specific set of rules. The rules have been lost but I was intrigued by the idea. Lyn is at that age where she wants to start making her own rules but circumstances are making it very difficult for her to do so. The actual numbered rules you see in the book were made up like everything else in this overly vivid imagination.
BRT: Which part of the book was difficult to write about and why?
Lise Haines: Anything related to death was hard. I don’t want to spoil the book by going into it here. But I will mention another scene, when Lyn and her mother, Allison were out shopping together. They want to connect, they want to be there for each other—they have been for many years now--but there’s a lot of history that propels this moment, that brings things to a head between them. It’s hard when you see people who want to make something work but inevitably miss the mark and only end up hurting each other.
BRT: Is there a sequel in the works for Girl in the Arena?
Lise Haines: I’ve been asked this many times, and would love to just say: YES! But it wasn’t written initially to be part of a series, so I have to wait and see what the demand is. I’m working on something different right now, another novel.
BRT: Who is your favorite author?
Lise Haines: I have more than one, but Tim O’Brien is certainly a favorite.
BRT: What’s on your bookshelves now?
Lise Haines: I’m reading a new novel by Steve Yarbrough called SAFE FROM THE NEIGHBORS. I highly recommend it!
BRT: What advice you wish you’d been given earlier in your writing career?
Lise Haines: I certainly knew to write in a fierce and ongoing way. I realized the value of reading solid literature and making revision a natural part of the writing process (as in: revision is just more writing.) But I don’t think I really understood the value of networking early and well. Of course we didn’t have a thousand writing programs at the time. It’s pretty essential to do internships with publishers, go to conferences, and connect with organizations like PEN New England.
BRT: Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?
Lise Haines: Not even a question. Dark.
BRT: Winter or Summer?
Lise Haines: FALL or Spring. And plenty of sunlight.
BRT: Paper books or e-books?
Lise Haines: I hope we always have paper books but I look forward to having an e-book someday, so I can annotate freely and find my annotations quickly.
A huge thanks to Lise Haines for accepting to do this interview with Book Reader Times. I would also like to thank Bloomsbury USA for donating 3 copies of "Girl in the Arena" for giveaway.
We are giving away 3 copies of "Girl in the Arena". This giveaway will be open internationally. The giveaway will run from July 11th, 2010 to August 11th, 2010. You can enter giveaway at the Book Reader Times forum.