Lulu Allison’s latest novel, Salt Lick, was published by Unbounders on 16 September 2021.
Lulu kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Salt Lick.
Salt Lick imagines an England further along the road we are on – not a dystopia, but further down the wrong road. Food importation becomes total and the countryside is once again wild. People live in the cities. There is a Greek chorus – the herd voice of feral cows, who watch over the protagonists with love and exasperation.
Jesse and his family are forced to leave their village home and move to London. Thirty years later, Isolde leaves London on foot, walking the abandoned A12, hoping to find out what happened to her mother. Salt Lick is the story of how their lives intersect.
2. What inspired the book?
Four things: The dialling up of right-wing populism across the globe made me want to explore racism, from the point of view of the white people who instigate it. The political consequences of Brexit making farming and rural economies unviable. The idea of a man in prison who imagines the inside of his body as a terrain into which he can escape. A song by American alt-country duo, The Handsome Family, called Peace in the Valley Once Again, a beautiful, poetic song about nature reclaiming a shopping mall.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
Both. I think of it as ravelling and unravelling, then leaving it to settle. Then tracing the threads to see what is there, loosening some knots, tightening others. I have learnt it is really valuable to let things develop, to give myself a chance to notice off-shoots and side issues. I need to settle into the characters and it can take a bit of time, just letting them grow in my imagination, before I try and grow them on the page. Most of it is planned in outline but I like to give myself the opportunity to change direction as I go.
4. Having been through the publishing process, is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
I think having come from an art background, and engaged in a lot of collaborative work, I was really ok with the idea of the editing process. But I enjoyed it a great deal more than I expected – those wonderful, knowledgeable eyes going over your work is a real blessing.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I teach art, and am also a maker, selling on Etsy. It is hard to have hobbies when you are working in the arts, I think. Most of what I make, draw or paint for fun ends up giving me an idea for something I could sell and so very quickly becomes work. But I have just started a pottery course and went wall climbing for the first time ever this week – there’s something that is guaranteed to be safe from the threat of becoming work! And I read.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman. Or Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman. Is that cheating?
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I feel I have been very lucky with the way that people have curiously engaged with me and my books, so:
Q – What’s your favourite Motörhead song?
A – Bomber
About the Book
Britain is awash, the sea creeps into the land, brambles and forest swamp derelict towns. Food production has moved overseas and people are forced to move to the cities for work. The countryside is empty. A chorus, the herd voice of feral cows, wander this newly wild land watching over changing times, speaking with love and exasperation.
Jesse and his puppy Mister Maliks roam the woods until his family are forced to leave for London. Lee runs from the terrible restrictions of the White Town where he grew up. Isolde leaves London on foot, walking the abandoned A12 in search of the truth about her mother.
Now I love the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóðið (Jolabokaflod), where books are given as gifts in the run up to Christmas and on Christmas Eve people spend the evening reading and eating chocolate. To help create your own Jólabókaflóðið, Lulu has kindly offered a copy of her book, a postcard and a handmade decoration. To be in with a chance of winning simply leave a comment below before midnight tonight, 14 December 2021. UK only. Neither myself or Lulu take any responsibility if the prize is lost in the post. No cash alternative.