Today’s top post is a Q&A feature with author Lexi Landsman! Lexi discusses her debut novel The Ties That Bind, available now!
What was the most difficult aspect to write in the story?
The most challenging part of writing this story was the research. The novel covers a broad range of topics including Australian bushfires, childhood cancer, adoption and olive growing. All of these subjects needed copious amounts of research, interviews and fact checking with experts.
In the course of my research into bushfires, I read the Black Saturday witness statements from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. Their accounts helped me comprehend the full tragedy of these natural disasters that are an unfortunate part of Australian life. Within their harrowing accounts, I was comforted by the stories of bravery, camaraderie and community togetherness – hallmarks of the Australian spirit. I drew from their stories in describing the fictional bushfires depicted in The Ties That Bind in the made-up town of Somerset.
I spent time researching olive growing on Ambrosia Olive Farm, which is nestled in the hills of Silverdale. The owners, Stavros and Avgi Skarmoutsos, were incredibly warm and welcoming. They walked me through the process of olive growing, taught me some Greek words and even trusted me enough to hand over their tractor keys!
The research into leukaemia and stem cell transplants was the most daunting part of writing the book. I read endless research papers and was fortunate that Associate Professor Lourens Bester, an inspiring interventional radiologist and oncologist, answered my endless questions and was kind enough to read over sections of the manuscript to check the medical details for accuracy. Anthony Montague and Doctor Hung Yang from the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry gave me their time to explain the complexities that go into stem-cell matching.
Which character was the most challenging to write about?
Writing any character has its own set of challenges. Of all the characters, it was Jade that went through the most transformations in the editing process. I initially wrote the voice of Jade in present tense and in first person to give her story a sense of immediacy – particularly for the opening scenes when she is battling to survive the raging inferno that engulfs her home and town. It was a difficult decision to rework her voice into third person but I’m really glad I did, as the novel was better for it. It was only after reading the Black Saturday witness testimonies that I developed a much clearer picture of the emotional turmoil Jade would be experiencing in the aftermath of bushfires.
What are you favourite stand out reads and why?
‘The Blind Assassin’ by Margaret Atwood was a real stand out read for me. I was just captivated by the way her words hold you to the page, her ability to create a layered narrative, her exceptional storytelling skills and dynamic characters.
Alice Hoffman is one of my favourite authors and I particularly admire her novels like ‘The Dovekeepers’ and ‘The Marriage of Opposites’ that follow strong female characters. History comes alive through her exceptional storytelling craft, well-developed narrative voices and lyrical prose.
I’ve been reading Jodi Picoult novels for as long as I can remember. What I find remarkable is that she is able to produce a book a year and always manages to create thought-provoking narratives, with compelling characters, intriguing plots and plenty of unexpected twists. She writes beautifully and her characters are always fully formed with distinct voices. Among her novels, my favourite reads include ‘The Storyteller’ and ‘Handle With Care’.
Some of my other stand-out reads include ‘People of the Book’ by Geraldine Brooks, ‘Nocturne’ by Diane Armstrong and ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak.
What inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always loved the creative outlet of writing and disappearing into an imaginative world. As a child, I would write poetry on our family farm while wandering through the cornfields and sitting atop fruit trees. This love of writing continued throughout my schooling, particularly in performing arts, where I enjoyed writing monologues and creating backstories for the characters I played.
It was only after studying abroad at the University of Miami, where I completed the final semester of my undergraduate degree, that I looked into writing more seriously. I had three months off before starting a Masters degree in journalism at the University of Sydney. I picked an elective subject in novel writing, taught by author Delia Falconer, and the prerequisite was to have written 30,000 words of a novel. I spent the gap between courses developing a short story into a novel-in-progress and from then on, I was hooked on writing. It became an addiction, a passion – something I couldn’t not do.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently juggling working full time in television and writing my second book. My upcoming novel is set on an archaeological dig site in Italy and is full of mystery, secrets and suspense, with a family drama at its core.
About The Ties That Bind
The Ties That Bind is an emotionally riveting debut novel about the power of a mother’s love and the bonds among family that, though severed, can never be fully broken.
On opposite sides of the world, two lives are changed forever. One by the smallest bruise. The other by a devastating bushfire. And both by a shocking secret . . .
Miami art curator Courtney Hamilton and her husband David live the perfect life until their ten-year-old son Matthew is diagnosed with leukaemia. He needs a bone-marrow transplant but, with Courtney being adopted, the chances of finding a match within his family are slim.
Desperate to find a donor, Courtney tracks the scattered details of her birth 15,000 kilometres away, to the remote town of Somerset in the Victorian bush.
Meanwhile Jade Taylor wakes up in hospital in Somerset having survived the deadly bushfire that destroyed the family home and their beloved olive groves. Gone too are the landmarks that remind her of her mother, Asha, a woman whose repeated absences scarred her childhood.
As Jade rallies her fractured family to rebuild their lives, Courtney arrives in the burnt countryside to search for her lost parents – but discovers far more . . .
Title: The Ties That Bind
Author: Lexi Landsman
Release Date: 30/05/2016
Imprint: Bantam Australia
Add to your reading list on
About Lexi Landsman
Lexi Landsman is an Australian television producer and journalist. She has worked on a range of award-winning documentary series for the Seven Network that have aired in Australia and internationally. Some of these include Border Security, Australia’s Deadliest, Surveillance Oz and Marie Claire: Under the Cover. She recently spent time in the US producing World’s Richest Dogs.
Prior to working in commercial television, she was a newspaper editor of arts, books and lifestyle. She has degrees in Media Arts and Production, Drama Teaching and a Masters in Journalism. During her undergraduate degree, she spent time studying abroad at the University of Miami.
She lives in Sydney with her husband and their dog. This is her first book.
Author Social Media Links