Tuesday Chit Chat with Liz Harris

Morning, Liz, and welcome to Romaniac HQ. We’re a little short of chocolate Hobnobs since Jane Lovering’s visit, but all good Romaniacs always have a supply of cakes. Celia has made a particularly spectacular chocolate cake…

We would love to find out more about you, so here we go…

How has being a member of the NWS helped you on your journey to becoming published?

Swaggering inwardly that having taught A level English, I knew it all and that writing a novel had been a cinch, I sealed my ms into the envelope, sent it off to the NWS, put champagne in the fridge, sat back and waited for an ecstatic report to land on my doormat. It didn’t happen quite like that! My first NWS report was the beginning of a lesson in the art of writing a sellable novel. Part way down the line, that lesson culminated in the publication of The Road Back, but that lesson is still continuing today through the copy-editing.

Just how big was your smile the moment you found out Choc Lit wanted to publish you?

It was ginormous. It was also a very emotional moment. I was alone in the house when I learnt that Choc Lit was taking The Road Back. I had to wait half an hour before my husband returned. During that time, I walked around the house, unable to sit still. When he finally got home, I flung open the door, smiling. Amazingly, he didn’t see this as unusual (normally, I remain buried in my computer). He walked past me, talking about the choir he’d been taking. I cut through him. ‘Choc Lit’s replied,’ I blurted out.

He looked at me hopefully, and I burst into tears. Arms outstretched, he came forward. ‘Someone will take you,’ he said.

It took a while before I could get out the words to make him understand that I now had a publisher.

Six days later, DC Thompson accepted my pocket novel, A Dangerous Heart.  Another super moment, but there will only ever be one first acceptance.

With the publication of The Road Back, how have the last few months been?                         

They’ve been hectic.Instead of doing as I did when writing The Road Back – coming down, having breakfast, opening the laptop and writing till the close of day, breaking only every hour on the hour to make a coffee – I found that I no longer had great stretches of uninterrupted time in which to lose myself in my work. My concentration was forever being broken by the emails that fell regularly into my inbox and by the demands on my time relating to matters of promotion. I am very happy with the way that my next novel, A Bargain Struck, set in Wyoming, 1887, has turned out, but I shall organise my day differently in the future.

How easy/hard do you find self-promotion?

When it involves going to parties, conferences and so on where I’ll meet friends, any promotion is incidental and my priority is to have fun and to catch up with friends I don’t see often enough. And I enjoy giving talks; after all, I was once a teacher. But things like the book launch and the drop-in session at my local library were beyond scary – whether anyone turned up was out of my control, and also whether they bought any books. I have to steel myself inwardly for anything where the sole object is to sell my books.

Have you found writing book 2 more difficult or has publication given you more confidence?

It was definitely much, much more difficult than I’d expected. Had I had a drawer of rejects, I could have picked one, worked on it and sent it in as my second book. But I started A Bargain Struck from scratch, and as I did so, I felt the weight of expectation heavy on me. When people tell you that they really enjoyed your first novel and were very moved by it, you love to hear that, but at the same time a niggly little fear grows that you may not be able to achieve the same effect with the second.

You recently visited Wyoming where Book 2 is set. Do you feel visiting settings in person is important?

If it can be done, it can’t be beaten. There’s a real thrill in walking where your characters walked, breathing the air they breathed, seeing the sights they saw. But it isn’t always possible to do that, and when it isn’t, the internet and books can do a brilliant job of transporting us to the world beyond our study whilst we’re still seated in our computer chair.

How do you use the modern day Wyoming to influence the historical Wyoming setting?

Beyond seeing the scenery and the vegetation in Wyoming today, I haven’t really used modern day Wyoming at all. My focus in going to Wyoming was to see the area in which my characters, Conn and Ellen, lived, and to explore Wyoming’s museums to discover the answers that had eluded me in my research. It turned out to be a brilliant, very worthwhile trip – both in terms of having fun as well as finding out those all-important answers.

How many projects/books do you have on the go at any one time?

I can work on only one book at a time. Next week, I shall hand A Bargain Struck to Choc Lit, and the week after that, I shall start on my new novel. It’s a very exciting thought. I do have one other project at hand, though, and that is to introduce my rom com, Evie Undercover, to the world. The Choc Lit readers’ panel took Evie Shaw, newest reporter on the gossip magazine ‘Pure Dirt’, to their hearts, and Evie Undercover has just come out on a year’s exclusive with kindle. It’s a very different book from The Road Back, I hasten to say, and not just because it’s only 78,000 words.

Is there a book out there that you liked so much, you wished you had written it?

I haven’t read Fifty shades of Grey, but I certainly wish I’d written it. I could have easily got used to lugging sacks of lucre to the bank! As to both parts of your question, though, I’ve loved many novels over the years, but I don’t think that I’ve ever consciously wished that I’d written one of them myself. I have too much fun creating my own fictional world ever to wish that I’d created that of someone else.

Does music influence your writing mood at all or do you work in silence or have minimal background noise?

I prefer to work in total silence. I find music very distracting. And I could never work with the television on. Fortunately, the road in which I live is a quiet road so I have little background nose, and that’s just how I like it.

What makes you howl with laughter?

In term of books, Three Men and a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome. That is one funny book. I also like slapstick programmes, such as Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em, although that’s a bit dated now. Some of Ben Stiller’s films have had me weeping with laughter. My husband also makes me laugh – he’s a great mimic.

Tell us about the funniest RNA and/or Choc Lit event moment?

Do you know, I can’t answer this! I never seem to stop smiling and laughing at all get togethers with writer friends, but I can’t look back at a specific event or moment which was particularly funny. I know that as soon as I send this, I’ll think of something, but for the moment, a funny event escapes me.

Are you ever bored?

No, I’m never bored – it’s impossible to be bored in a home when there are always books to be read. Having said that, I do remember being horrendously bored on one occasion some years ago. It was at a talk given to the staff on an inset day at the secondary school where I worked. I can’t remember the topic, but the talk went on for more than two hours and was unbelievably boring. I was in the front row so I couldn’t pull out a book or a crossword. I was sooooo frustrated. I understood then what it felt like for pupils who were forced to sit through a lesson that had no relevance in their lives nor held any interest for them. I, too, had an empty chair been handy, would have been tempted to throw it!

How would you spend an unexpected windfall?

Obviously, I’d see that my family and close friends were sorted, and then I’d buy a flat in London so that I could stay over in my own place after the theatre and after the RNA parties. I go to London a great deal, and it would be lovely not to have to get a hotel or stay with the family.

And finally…

What’s the worst interview question you’ve ever been asked?

Hmm. Apart from when I was asked my age, I think this might just be it!! I can’t answer your question because the person who posed that particular question might see it. Tactful or what!

Liz, thank you so much for popping in for a chat and for being a brilliant supporter of The Romaniacs. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Thank you so much for inviting me to join you for tea. I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you. I must add, too, that that chocolate cake was pretty fabulous. Do congratulate Celia for me. Someone must have told her that chocolate fudge icing was my favourite.

Liz Harris was born in London and read Law at Southampton University. After graduating, she moved to California where she led a varied life, trying her hand at everything from cocktail waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company, not to mention a stint as resident starlet at MGM. On returning to Britain, Liz completed a degree in English, awarded by The University of London, and then taught for a number of years before developing her writing career. Liz has written several short stories, articles for local newspapers and has had a pocket novel released by DC Thomson in 2012. Her debut novel, The Road Back, was published by Choc Lit in September 2012, and her rom com Evie Undercover, also published by Choc Lit, is now out on kindle. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, she is the organiser of their Oxford Chapter. She is also a member of both the Oxford Writers’ Group and the Historical Novel Society. Liz’s two sons live in London, while she and her husband are now based in South Oxfordshire.

You can follow Liz on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/#!/liz.harris.52206?fref=ts

on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lizharrisauthor

and on her blog: http://www.lizharrisauthor.com/?page_id=14

The Road Back is available for the Kindle at Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Road-Back-Choc-ebook/dp/B008RMKX0U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350396389&sr=8-1

or in paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Road-Back-Liz-Harris/dp/1906931674/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350396419&sr=1-1

and Evie Undercover is availble for the Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=evie+undercover