Continuing with my series of interviews with fellow Choc Lit authors, this week it is the turn of Liz Harris to join me on my blog.
After graduating in Law in the UK, Liz moved to California where she led a very varied life – from cocktail waitressing on Sunset Strip to CEO of a large Japanese trading company. Upon returning to England, she completed a degree in English and then taught for a number of years before developing her writing career. She is published by Choc Lit.
Her debut novel, THE ROAD BACK, was voted Book of the Year 2012 by US Coffee Time & Romance, and in the same year, EVIE UNDERCOVER was published, first on kindle, and recently in paperback. A BARGAIN STRUCK, published in September 2013, was shortlisted for the RoNA for Best Romantic Historical, and later in the year, THE ART OF DECEPTION, a contemporary novel set in Italy, was published digitally. A WESTERN HEART, a novella set in Wyoming 1880, was published digitally in spring 2014. THE LOST GIRL, her most recent full-length novel, was brought out digitally in 2015, and in paperback in 2016.
Liz has a story in each of Choc Lit’s anthologies: ANGEL CAKE in Choc Lit Love Match, and CUPCAKE in Kisses & Cupcakes. Each anthology is a collection of short stories by Choc Lit authors, with a recipe accompanying each story.
I asked Liz some questions:-
You seem to be a very busy person, when do you find time to write?
I know it’s a cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway – if you want a job well done, give it to a busy person. A busy person knows how to organise their tasks, how to prioritise and how to get going on what has to be done, and those skills are necessary if you don’t have unlimited free time, but still want to write.
As a writer, my current writing project is always something that ‘has to be done’. More than that – it’s something desperately want to be doing. After all, I’ve created a fictional world and given birth to the people who live in that world; I’ve placed obstacles in the way of them reaching the destination I intend for them, so it’s natural that I want to spend as much time with them as I can.
If I’m kept too long from my work in progress, I get really tetchy and bad-tempered, and am generally very unpleasant to be around. So in order to make sure that I stay calm, even-tempered and laid-back (ahem), I have to strive for the right balance each week between must-do tasks and my writing.
Sadly, that balance goes off kilter at times, and when that happens, I look at what it is that’s keeping me from writing, and put things right.
Where did your interest in the American West come from?
I’ve always loved Westerns. From a very young age, I used to go with my father to the cinema whenever there was a Western playing, while my sister and mother went to something rather more gentle. My love of films set in the American West, and of the cinema generally, may have been among the reasons why I chose to spend a few years in California after university.
During my time in Los Angeles, I did a course on American Studies at the City College, and I loved every minute of learning about life in the West, and the lives of the people who lived in the isolated homesteads that stood proud beneath the wide blue skies of Wyoming Territory. I found that period inspiring and romantic, and I knew the day would come when I’d set a novel in Wyoming.
And indeed it did. A Bargain Struck, A Western Heart and my latest novel, The Lost Girl, are all set in Wyoming in the 1870s and 1880s, and going to Wyoming to complete my research was one of the best trips I’ve ever made.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To write. That’s the first of my two pieces of advice.
That may sound mad, but it’s so easy to put off writing because there are other things you can be doing. While some things do, indeed, have priority over everything else, including writing, there are many others that can be put on the back burner and left for another time.
Don’t wait for a stretch of several free hours in which to write. If you do, you might end up never able to get started. If your life is such that you can write for an hour a day only, then so be it. It’s better to do that than wait in vain for three clear hours, for example. It’s amazing what you can achieve in a focused hour, and you’ll be establishing an excellent routine for writing.
My second piece of advice is that you should think carefully about how you’re going to write the novel before you start. I’ve heard people say they write the whole book without stopping – maybe 90,000 words – and then go back and check it. You might be able to do this, but I couldn’t.
I would find it a formidable task to go through so many words, checking the character development, the pacing, the punctuation, the continuity, the writing – seeing that it’s tight as it should be – the occasions of repetition, checking that cause and effect go hand in hand, and so on. And I’d hate to have reached the end of the book and then, when I’d started to edit it, find that early in the novel I’d got things wrong with a key plot point, for example, and would have to make substantial alterations to the rest of the book
If you feel ideas for a story crowding into your head, you can always write them down as continuous prose, but not attempt to write it in the form of a novel. When you’ve done that, you’ll know where you’re going with your book, and you can take a clean sheet and transform that outline into a page-turning novel.
Many thanks for hosting me today, Morton, and for your questions. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed answering them.
You are very welcome, Liz.
To buy her books click on any of the titles in this blog to be taken to buying pages. The books are available from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBookstore and Google play.
Blurb for The Lost Girl
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 …
You can contact Liz on the following links:-
Facebook: Liz Harris