Lisa Halliday Interview: Looking for a Tone


“I like fiction that acknowledges its inability to supplant reality.” American writer Lisa Halliday is widely praised for her debut novel ‘Asymmetry’ (2018). Watch her talk about writing and the writers from which she draws inspiration and encouragement – from Flaubert to Mario Vargas Llosa.

Halliday’s novels start with a character, in the sense that she begins with “someone I want to spend a lot of time with.” If she gets stuck in her writing, she feels it is because she has not found “the right voice, or angle, perspective, tone in which to tell it.” While searching for the right tone, Halliday shares that she often looks to other writers: “I read books that I’ve loved to look for solutions as to how I can frame what I’m doing – or for a tone.” This isn’t stealing, she stresses, but rather “taking the encouragement of someone who’s already done it, and then, inevitably, it becomes your own later, as you go over and over it.” Finally, Halliday offers two pieces of advice that have stayed with her: One of them from another writer, who recommended writing as though no one will ever read it, stripping away the ego and self-consciousness: “Obviously when you write, you hope that what you write will survive you, and that means it will survive your insecurities, which are not going to matter to anyone fifty years from now.” The other piece of advice was simply: “Write the book you want to read.”

Lisa Halliday (b.1977) is an American writer. Halliday’s debut novel ‘Asymmetry’ (2018) won the Whiting Award for Fiction and made The Time’s and New York Time’s list of the best books of 2018. Halliday’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, among others. She works as a freelance editor and translator in Milan, Italy.

Lisa Halliday was interviewed by Tonny Vorm at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark in August 2019 in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard

Edited by Klaus Elmer

Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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