Friday, 27 November 2015
Release Date: 16th October 2015
Publisher: Choc Lit
Publisher: Choc Lit
Genres: Historical Fiction / Romance
What if you were trapped between two cultures?
Earlier in the week I was luck enough to read and review The Lost Girl by Liz Harris. You can read my review here. Now, I'm thrilled to welcome the lady herself back to the blog with an author interview.
Do you write under your real name or is this a pen name you use?
I write under my real name - Liz Harris. I’ve been a Liz rather than an Elizabeth since university days. Although I’ve written contemporary as well as historical novels, I’ve used the same name for both genres.
Where are you from?
I was born and brought up in London, England. I lived in California for six years, though, and my love of the US has stayed with me.
Did you write as a child?
I’ve always loved writing – essays, letters, imagining I was a donkey in a desert, anything I was given to write. However, for many years I failed to spot that there could be a way of bringing together my love of reading and my love of writing. I rather assumed that books just happened, and never thought about me being instrumental in making them happen. It was a long time before a chance remark from a desperate friend, in receipt of yet another voluminous letter from me, set me on the road to writing novels.
What was the first thing you ever had published?
I’m excluding the letters about films I’d seen that I used to send to cinema magazines, and which were published. I’m excluding also my article for a caving magazine after I’d been saved from a near-death situation far beneath the surface of the ground. My first published novel was The Road Back, set in the 1950s and 1995 in London and in Ladakh. Colin Dexter, the author of Morse, wrote of the novel which he told me he greatly enjoyed, ‘A splendid love story, so beautifully told.’
Do you have a writing routine?
Never let it be said that I’m a creature of habit, but …
Every morning when I come downstairs, the first thing I do is go into the study and switch on my laptop. I then go into the kitchen and make the same breakfast that I’ve had for more years than I can count – a form of muesli that I make myself – and then take that, with a cup of tea, into the study where the computer is waiting, all warmed up.
While eating my cereal, I catch up with twitter, Facebook and my emails, and do any administrative work That Must Be Done. When the deck is clear – figuratively, but alas not literally (as an historical writer, I have books and research notes all over the place when I write), I start working. I write all day, pausing briefly at some point mid-morning to swap nightie for jeans, and again a little later for lunch, the same lunch that I always have, which is cheese, apple and yoghurt.
Very wisely, I take care of the need for daily physical exercise in addition to my mental exercise. Every hour on the hour, I rise from my very comfortable computer chair, walk along to the kitchen, make a mug of coffee, and return with it to my study.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I start my day’s work by editing everything I wrote the day before. In doing that, I tighten the text that I’ve already written, and by the time I finish, I have the words and phrases I’ve recently used so clearly in my mind that I lessen the risk of repetition in what I’m about to write. In addition, when I’m ready to break fresh writing ground, I’m already in my characters’ heads and back in the period in which I’ve set my novel.
Do you have a current work in progress?
I have just submitted another full-length novel to Choc Lit and I’m already working on the next novel, The Inheritance.
Where did the idea for The Lost Girl come from?
After The Road Back, I had the idea for the novel that was to become A Bargain Struck and started researching life in Wyoming in 1887. Despite getting a great many books from the US and from closer to home, I couldn’t find out everything I needed to know about the life of a second generation homesteading family at that time, so I dragged my sun-hating, heat-hating husband to Wyoming one August to find those elusive historical details. I found them all during what turned out to be a wonderful trip, and Wyoming will always have a place in my heart.
When I completed A Bargain Struck, I knew in my heart that I’d again have to return to Wyoming in my novels, and the following year, I wrote a novella, A Western Heart, which is set in Wyoming 1880, and now, with The Lost Girl set in SW Wyoming in the 1870s and 1880s, I’ve yet again returned to Wyoming.
However, I would dislike having to keep on describing the same sort of scenery, and each of my novels is located in a different physical environment. A Bargain Struck takes place in an agricultural area south of the railroad. A Western Heart is located in ranching country north of the railroad, and The Lost Girl, set in the 1870s and 1880s, is located in the South West in an arid, non-agricultural region, but one that is rich in coal.
Who was the first person you gave the book to read?
My Friend in the North, Stella. Stella reads everything that I write and then phones me and goes through the manuscript with me, pointing out things she thinks need clarification/deletion/developing, and so on. I would never submit a manuscript to any publisher or agent that wasn’t the best I thought it could be, and in order to make it that, independent eyes are needed.
Do you have any advice for budding authors?
Read as many books as you can in the genre in which you’re going to write.
If you know that you’re weak on punctuation, get one of the excellent, user-friendly books that help with punctuation. Our gestures help the listener to understand what we’re saying when we talk; punctuation performs this task for a reader.
Make sure you have a good dictionary and also Roget’s Thesaurus at your side whenever you write. If you write historical fiction, a good dictionary of slang is also invaluable as it will help you to know the date of the first usage of a word or phrase.
Once you’ve finished the novel, have it professionally critiqued, send it out to agents and publishers when you’ve given effect to the advice in the critique, and then get on with the next novel.
What if you were trapped between two cultures?
Life is tough in 1870s Wyoming. But it’s tougher still when you’re a girl who looks Chinese but speaks like an American.
Orphaned as a baby and taken in by an American family, Charity Walker knows this only too well. The mounting tensions between the new Chinese immigrants and the locals in the mining town of Carter see her shunned by both communities.
When Charity’s one friend, Joe, leaves town, she finds herself isolated. However, in his absence, a new friendship with the only other Chinese girl in Carter makes her feel like she finally belongs somewhere.
But, for a lost girl like Charity, finding a place to call home was never going to be that easy …
ABOUT LIZ HARRIS
Liz Harris lives south of Oxford. Her debut novel was THE ROAD BACK (US Coffee Time & Romance Book of 2012), followed by A BARGAIN STRUCK (shortlisted for the RoNA Historical 2013), EVIE UNDERCOVER, THE ART OF DECEPTION and A WESTERN HEART. All of her novels, which are published by Choc Lit, have been shortlisted in their categories in the Festival of Romantic Fiction. In addition, Liz has had several short stories published in anthologies. Her interests are theatre, travelling, reading, cinema and cryptic crosswords.