Writing, Work and Wine With… Liz Harris

Liz is a contemporary and historical novelist, a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Historical Novelist Society. When she is not writing she likes to read and go to the theatre and cinema. She has travelled extensively, lived in the States for a number of years and was a secondary school teacher before becoming a full-time writer. Her new release The Road Back is out on 7 September.

Q. Welcome Liz, delighted to have another fabulous Choc Lit author drop in for a visit. Can you tell us about your writing? What do you write? Do you have an agent? 

A. I’m unagented and have written both historical and contemporary novels, full length (95,000 and more), novellas (50,000) and short stories, ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 words. My People’s Friend Pocket Novel A Dangerous Heart came out in March  2012 and The Road Back will be published by Choc Lit, 7th September 2012. I’m working on a full-length novel, A Bargain Struck, at present which is for 2013. I also have a short story in each of two anthologies coming out this Christmas.

Q. Wow, you have a lot going on. So tell us, what’s been your most memorable writing success? 

Being accepted by Choc Lit. I was alone in the house when I learnt that they were taking The Road Back.  For the half hour that I had to wait before my husband returned, I walked around the house, unable to sit still. When he finally arrived 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 running.

I cut through him. ‘Choc Lit have replied,’ I blurted out. And I burst into tears.

He came forward, arms outstretched. ‘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. 

Q. What a lovely story and I adore the cover for The Road Back; it’s beautiful. So dare I ask about your most memorable rejection? 

A. I don’t really have one. Increasingly, standard rejections are sent to the effect that they don’t think that they’re the right agent to place it. My first full length novel, Child on a Swing, as yet unpublished, has a dark theme, and it was frustrating to be told that, although very well done, an unpublished author would not be able to sell a book with that theme.  I was told by several agents that they wouldn’t be able to sell it. I haven’t given up with this.  I’ve now been told by two editors that it’s a Book Club book, and when I’ve time, I’ll decide what to do.

Q. I’m sure it’ll all come good, especially as according to a publisher at the RNA conference, readers are crying out for topical novels that deal with more serious issues. So can you describe your writing journey to date in circa 50 words? 

Writing a novel; getting a critique; editing the text; sending it out; reading the rejection; editing it again; pouring a huge glass of red wine; sending it out again; and again; and again; editing it; pouring another huge glass of red wine; sending it out again; starting on the next book.

 Q. Great summation. Sound familiar but mine would be accompanied by white wine!  Any top tips for writers? 

1.  Don’t just talk about writing your novel; if you really want to write it, write it.

2.  Consider carefully and dispassionately, every constructive criticism of your novel that you receive.  It’s impossible to read what you’ve written – one reads what one thinks one’s written.  A good critique, based on what you’ve written, and the way in which you’ve written it (we all have writing mannerisms), is a masterclass in writing a novel.

3.  It’s tempting to fiddle with the novel after every rejection.  At a certain point, however, you should leave the novel alone or you risk destroying its heart and your voice, and you should start on the next novel, but keep on sending the first novel out.

Q. Some great tips, thank you. I can wholeheartedly agree with the third point, it’s easy for your book to lose its sparkle. So can you tell us about your work? Do you have a day job or write full-time? What’s a typical day? 

A. I write full-time – and the day is still too short.  Once you have a novel accepted for publication, there are many things to do re promotion of that novel.  You also have to get on with the next novel.  At the same time, you have to keep up with social networking. Few publishers, including the large publishers, have much money to spend on unknown authors, and the author, as much as the publisher, has to work hard at selling the book.

I get up at around 8.30 a.m.  One of my greatest joys, now that I no longer teach, is that I don’t need to set the alarm for 6 a.mI have a bowl of cereal when I get up and then go on twitter for a short period of time. My husband and I do our own things in the day – mine being writing-related things; my husband’s being everything practical that needs to be done in the house – but we stop at around six, watch the News together, and then I do the evening meal.  The evenings are our together time.  It works well that way, although I do hear the cry, ‘You and that f—-ing computer’ more frequently than I’d like! 

Q. Laughing out loud picturing it! What about writing full-time do you love  and/or hate? 

A. I love being in the world of my work in progress (Wyoming, 1887) and I hate having to stop writing to attend to mundane things, such as shopping and cooking.  There is really nothing about the writing side of things that I hate.  I feel privileged to be able to spend all day doing something that I love, and although it’s a solitary activity, I have made so many friends through the RNA that it is in no way a lonely activity. 

Q. The RNA are certainly a warm, friendly bunch. Lastly, tell us what your favourite wine is.  

A. I love red wine, and my favourite is a good Malbec.  I like a strong wine.

Q. Me too, though my preference is  for full-bodied New World whites…  Thank you Liz for sharing your writing journey and writer’s life with us and good luck with the new release.

The Road Back is available to buy on Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Road-Back-Choc-ebook/dp/B008RMKX0U and will also be available in paperback from WH Smith, the Book Depository and most good bookshops from 7 September.

If you want to find out more about Liz and her books you can go to her website at http://www.lizharrisauthor.com find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/liz.harris.52206 or follow her on Twitter @lizharrisauthor. You can also find out about Liz or other Choc Lit authors at http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/ and on their Authors Corner blog at http://blog.choc-lit.co.uk/

Pop in for another guest post next week with Choc Lit author Chris Stovell.

I also hope to be updating you all with more about my own writing journey very soon.

For now, happy writing, Nikki


8 thoughts on “Writing, Work and Wine With… Liz Harris

  1. shazjera says:

    Well Liz, I am eating my cereal as I type (9.15am) but it’s my last day of not being ruled by the clock … back to school tomorrow. Am envious of you 🙂 Loved The Road Back. Wyoming 1887 sounds intriguing! Can’t wait x

  2. Liz Harris says:

    Many thanks, Shaz, for your lovely comment about The Road Back.

    Since giving up teaching in favour of writing, I have viewed the first week of September with a huge degree of pleasure!!

    Yes, Wyoming was terrific. It’s now wonderful going through the manuscript, putting in the things that I learnt whilst I was there.

    Liz X

  3. Janice says:

    Hi Liz – that was such an interesting interview. You are an inspiration to all. I love the cover for The Road Back and I can’t wait to get my own copy. xx

  4. Jan Brigden says:

    What a lovely interview. Very inspiring and so good to find out more about you, Liz. It made me go all emotional when I read how you burst into tears when you found out about ChocLit’s acceptance. What a magical moment that must have been! I’m so looking forward to reading The Road Back, it sounds intriguing. Fab post, Nikki & Liz 🙂 x

  5. nikkigoodman says:

    Hi Shaz, Janice, Jan and Sue,

    thanks so much for stopping in a leaving comments. Glad that you all enjoyed Liz’s post. I agree that she is an inspiration…

    Good luck with The Road Back Liz!


  6. Henriette Gyland says:

    Great interview – it was particularly interesting hearing about your daily writing routine. I’m afraid mine is all over the place! Good choice of wine too.

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