I’m delighted to welcome to my blog the author Liz Harris to tell us about her life and work. Liz and I met recently at the Chip Lit Festival where we were both booked to read. The festival didn’t go quite as planned for us, for the full story on that see my post below, Day in the Life of a First Time Author, but I had a great day anyway thanks to her excellent company. And I’m very pleased she’s agreed to join us here today.
Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?
I was born in London. After getting a Law degree, I moved to California where I had a brilliant time doing a variety of jobs, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company.
I returned to the UK after six years, got a degree in English and taught up to A level for a number of years. For seven years of this time, I contributed weekly articles on education to a local newspaper.
In addition to my novels, three of which have already been published, and there’s a fourth coming out in September this year, I’ve written several short stories which have appeared in anthologies.
Wearing a slightly different hat, I’m the organiser of the Oxford Chapter of the RNA, a member of the Oxford Writers Group, and I’m a member of Historical Novel Society.
My hobbies include cryptic crosswords; frequent travel, particularly to Italy; reading books of every genre; cinema and theatre. I love the theatre and go to the London theatre every month.
Of course, the above tells you what I’ve done over the years, not what I’m like as a person. If you wanted something other than synonyms for ‘wonderful’, ‘giving’, ‘thoughtful’, you’d have to ask my family and friends, and I don’t think I’ll give you their names!
Tell me about your journey as a writer – how you started and how you have developed?
I loved writing essays and stories at school and at home, and I even enjoyed writing the essays for both of my degrees – I remember laughing out loud in the exam hall as I wrote an essay on Chaucer, I was having such a good time – but it never occurred to me to write a book. I thought that books just magically appeared, fully formed, without human intervention. If only!
My career choices changed over the years. First I wanted to be a farm hand, then a journalist, then a teacher, then a nun. The desire to be a nun lasted for ages as the memory of the virile, rugged Peter Finch as Dr. Fortunati in The Nun’s Story lingered long in my mind.
However, one night when my young sons were in bed – yes, I’d ditched my plan to become a nun – and my husband was out, I found myself irritated with the novel I was reading, felt my computer challenging me, and I suddenly pulled it towards me and started to type. At that moment, I found my vocation, and I’ve never looked back.
How would you describe your work – it‘s themes and the important things about it?
The Road Back was my first published novel. It takes place in the 1950s and 1995, and is set in London and in Ladakh, west of Tibet. I also have two other lighter novels, both set in Umbria and both published. The novel of the same genre as The Road Back, A Bargain Struck, set in Wyoming 1887, will be published this coming September.
My novels span two genres – historicals and rom com – but they all have to some degree themes in common; namely, appearance and reality, and the power of manipulation by words. I’m interested also in the effects of guilt on a person, and this comes out in my writing.
As a keen theatre-goer, I’m used to seeing actors adopt a disguise as a form of concealment, and I’m drawn to the dramatic possibilities of an ostensibly attractive exterior concealing a ‘worm i’ the bud’. And as a writer, it’s not surprising that I’m fascinated by the way in which one person can manipulate another, making that person think that the idea they decided upon had originated with them.
Tell me about your current book – what is it about and what makes it a great read?
The Road Back has been described as ‘a sumptuous tale of love and adventure in the sweeping and little-known backdrop of Ladakh, north of the Himalayas … which throws together two people from radically different cultures with explosive results.’
Until fairly recently, however, I’d never heard of Ladakh. Three years ago, my cousin, who lives in Australia, asked me to help her to find a home for an album complied by her father, my late uncle, after his visit to Ladakh in the mid 1940s.
My uncle had been stationed with the army in North India, and he’d managed to get a one of the few authorised passes to visit Ladakh. On his return, he compiled the photos and notes that he’d made.
I found a home for the album in The Indian Room of the British Library, on Euston Road, and it was brought to England by friends of my cousin. I collected it from their hotel, and in the two weeks before I handed it over to the British Library, I read it from cover to cover. As I did so, I fell in love with Ladakh. From that moment, I began to research the country in depth.
At the very start, I knew that my heroine, Patricia, was born in the 50s and brought up in Belsize Park, a part of London I know well. I could see her – a lonely child, living with parents who’d been torn apart by grief over a tragedy that happened to the family in the past.
I didn’t know Kalden, though, beyond the fact that he was born and brought up in a Ladakhi village in the Buddhist part of the country.
I continued to read my resource books, which were teaching me about life in Ladakh, until one day, I read a very interesting fact about life in Ladakh. It was a Eureka moment. I felt a leap of excitement. What I read was …
Oh, dear! I seem to have gone on for long enough about the book; I’d better stop now. I’ll address the last part of your question and move on.
I love reading books with strong stories and characters who display the complexity of human behaviour, and I hope very much that I’ve captured real people in The Road Back, people whose story will make the reader want to keep on turning the pages to find out what happens next.
Where can I buy a copy of your book?
It’s on sale through Amazon here and is in some Waterstones stores, and in WH Smith’s at airports and railway stations.
Many thanks for interviewing me today, Chris. I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions.
You can link up with Liz here:
Facebook: Liz Harris