Lisa Ballantyne was born in Armadale, West Lothian, Scotland and was educated at Armadale Academy and University of St Andrews where she studied English Literature. She spent most of her twenties in China, working in international development, education and latterly for small English and Chinese magazines. She speaks Mandarin. She returned to the UK in 2002, to work in higher education, most recently for University of Glasgow. She lives in Glasgow.