Friday, September 6, 2013

Interview with Liz Harris

Liz was born in London. After graduating with a Law degree, she moved to California where she led a varied life, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company.

Real life intervened and she returned to the UK, completed a degree in English and taught for a number of years.

1. Tell us about your latest book and what inspired you to write it.

A Bargain Struck is set in Wyoming, 1887. Widower Conn Maguire sends for mail-order bride, Ellen O’Sullivan, assuming - as anyone would - that she’ll have been completely honest in their initial exchange of letters. But sometimes, it’s wiser not to make assumptions.

A year ago, thinking about what would make a good book to follow The Road Back, I heard the words ‘mail-order bride’ on the radio as I was driving to meet a friend for lunch. I sat up - I’ve always thought that a romantic concept.

The radio article was about Russia, but by the time I’d reached the restaurant, I’d located my developing story line to a time and a place where mail-order brides were relatively commonplace - to the wide open plains of Wyoming in the 1880s.

2. What’s the first thing you do when you start a new novel?

I think about the principle characters. A story develops from the nature of the characters, as well as from conflict, so I have to understand my characters.

I get to know them in my head by thinking about their background and how it would have affected them. We’re all products of our environment and socialisation, and this determines the characterisation.

3. How important is a sense of place to you in your work?

Extremely important. I go to the location where I’ve set my novel, if at all possible. It was easy with Evie Undercover – I often go to Umbria - but I had to drag my sun-hating husband to Wyoming in August last year to finish researching A Bargain Struck because I couldn’t find answers to all my questions, and I
On horseback at the foot of the Rockies in Wyoming
wanted to avoid educated guesses. A bonus was that we had an interesting and unusual holiday.

4. Have you ever based one of your characters on a real historical person?

No. (That must be the shortest answer I’ve ever given.)

5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer wishing to break into the historical romance market?

Read as many books of the genre as possible, particularly those set in the period in which you’re interested.

Research your period thoroughly. You need to know the customs of the time and the constraints upon the characters if you’re to avoid your character thinking and acting in a way they would never done in the period in which they lived.

People who choose to read historical novels want to lose themselves in the period and be carried away by both the romance of the time and the romantic action between the characters. They don’t want to be jarred out of the mood by modern thoughts and actions.

6. If you could travel back in time who would you most like to meet?

I’d like to meet George Stevens, who died in 1975. He produced and directed the American Western film Shane (1953). I love the film, and I really would like to know whether he thinks Shane lived or died at the end. (No, that’s not a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen it – you’ve got to do one thing or the other!)

7. How does chocolate help you in your writing?

Is there anything that chocolate can’t help you with? If there is, I don’t think I know it.

Apart from being associated with romance, owing to its silky smooth richness, chocolate boosts your energy level and gives you a massive surge of creativity.

Talking of chocolate …

Thank you for sparing time to talk to us today, Liz. We wish you continuing success with your books.
Best wishes, Henri

Interviews on the RNA Blog are carried out by Freda, Henri and Livvie. They are for RNA members only. If you are interested in an interview, please contact:


Margaret James said...

Great to see another writer endorsing chocolate, Liz!

angela britnell said...

Can't go wrong with chocolate! Interesting to find out more about your writing, Liz, and I'm looking forward to reading your mail-order romance.

Unknown said...

I'm drinking chocolate as I write this, Margaret and Angela. I have a cup every afternoon - for inspiration, is my excuse. :-)

Poor Ellen O'Sullivan, Angela; I don't think chocolate was one of the good things on offer in Wyoming 1887.

Mandy K James said... where did I put that chocolate? Great blog, Liz. x

Berni Stevens said...

Great interview Liz - and I love the photo of you riding in Wyoming. I really enjoyed A Bargain Struck, especially the setting. I was completely transported back in time. You brilliantly portray the hardness of life in Wyoming in the nineteenth century.

My family and I have had (and are still having) a long-term love affair with America, so I understand completely how you fell in love with Wyoming and based your book there.

Well thank goodness we have chocolate to help us today!

Unknown said...

Many thanks, Mandy. It was a fun blog to write.

Unknown said...

I cannot wait to go back to the area again, Berni. I enjoyed writing the novel so much that I'd really love to do another set in the same area.

Your cover is terrific. It captured the tone of the novel so well. We are so lucky to have you capturing for us the perfect pictorial image for our novels.

Beverley Eikli aka Beverley Oakley said...

I've also just finished reading A Bargain Struck and I found it incredibly moving. I wept several times - the first time from sadness, the second from happiness. If I could have enriched the experience with chocolate I would have, but I was sick in bed and the thought of food was the last thing on my mind.

But a deep, multi-layered romance novel... well, A Bargain Struck hit just the right note.

Thank you, Liz :)

Unknown said...

Many thanks for your lovely comments about A Bargain Struck, Beverley. I was very touched by them.

I loved writing the novel, and found it a huge wrench when I had to say good bye to the characters, not just Conn, Ellen and Bridget, but also Niall and Oonagh.

I'm pretty sure that I'll return to the period, though not the characters, again one day.

Unknown said...

I am a big fan of contemporary western romance - love a man with a big hat and a horse.
I have read a very few western historicals - but yours is on my Kindle waiting for me.
I have a feeling I'm gong to enjoy it!

Unknown said...

I sure hope you do enjoy it, Janet. Yup, as you can see, I'm in Western mode on this my Publication Day!

Margaret Kaine said...

I'm halfway through A Bargain Struck, Liz and enjoying it enormously. My other half is a great western fan so I'm on familiar ground here. I too, have always been fascinated by the mail order bride concept, and you've introduced a unique twist. I love your writing, too.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much, Margaret, for that lovely comment. I hope you continue to enjoy the novel.

Sue Fortin said...

Great interview. Particularly interested in the research tips for period writing.

Thanks, Liz - wishing you every success with your novel.


Unknown said...

Many thanks, Sue.

It was a fascinating period to research, but surprisingly difficult to find much about. There's masses written about the 1850s and 1860s, the Cowboys & Indians period, but little about the years after that; for example, to what extent mechanisation would have impacted on the lives of the isolated homesteaders.

Yes, a good excuse for an exciting trip!

Gwen Kirkwood said...

After reading the blog and comments it makes me want to read A Bargain Struck. So far I have enjoyed all the novels I have read which ChocLit have published.