Sunday 8 August 2021

Sunday Guest Spot - Liz Harris

Continuing our Sunday Series
of taking a look at some fabulous authors!

Hello Liz, welcome to our Discovering Diamonds Guest Spot. Along with my readers and visitors I love to hear from authors who write wonderful stories. There’s nothing better on these long, cold winter evenings, than curling up with a good book in front of a cosy fire, box of chocs and glass of wine to hand. (Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case it’s still the wine, but a platter of cheese, crackers and grapes to hand, while stretched out in a deckchair in the garden on a warm, sunny, evening...)

Q. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself....
A. I was born and brought up in London. After getting a Law degree, I moved to California, and lived there for six years, doing a variety of jobs from waitressing on Sunset Strip, to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company, to returning hired cars to their original locations, to helping with studio tours at MGM.
When real life intervened and I had to return to the UK, I decided that I’d like to teach teenagers - I don’t think I’d ever met any at that point! – and I completed an English degree and then taught for a number of years before I decided to focus upon my writing.
When I’m not writing a novel, I’m pursuing my interests, which are the theatre, travelling, reading, and tackling cryptic crosswords.

Q. Where do you live?
A.  I live in a village south of Oxford, which has been the scene of many a Midsomer Murders in the past. I love Oxford, which is within easy reach, and I also love London, which is easily accessible, too. It’s a terrific location in which to live.

Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A.  I am going to sound really boring – I love England, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I thoroughly enjoy visiting other places on my travels, but I’ve never seen anywhere I’d rather live than in England.
But, since I’m choosing to stay where I am, perhaps you’d allow me to have a flat in Hampstead, in London, as well as my Oxfordshire house? I was born in Hampstead, and would love to be able to step out of doors again, after going to the theatre the evening before, and walk across the Heath. 

Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A.  A house with character, but sufficiently modern that the bathroom and kitchen belong to this century, not the last. The windows of a cottage would be too small, and the roofs possibly a little low – I like the feeling of space you get in light, airy rooms. And a castle would be too large and draughty. Just the thought of my central heating bill if I lived in a castle makes me go cold!

Q. Cat,  dog or budgie?
A.  While I’m very fond of dogs, I’m definitely a cat person. A cat is both independent and highly affectionate – a great combination. And a bonus is that I don’t have to go out in all weathers to walk the cat.

Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A.  Definitely, a ‘tray on the lap’ person. It’s what I do every night. The only exceptions are on Sundays, when I always do in a roast lunch, which I eat in the dining room, and also when I have dinner guests. That, too, is a dining room situation. Unless it’s a party, of course, when it’s a buffet evening, and people can eat wherever, and however, they want. 

Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A.  Thrillers. I love Scandi Noir, and watch all such series. I must be almost fluent in the Nordic tongues by now! And I’m counting the minutes to the next series of the French ‘Spiral’. I love police series. I also enjoy a good drama, too. Basically, I like a strong story, whether it comes framed as a thriller or as a drama.

Q. What was your first published novel about?
A.  It was set partly in London, and partly in Ladakh, an Indian province north of the Himalayas. It tells of Patricia in London, born into a home where there’s such grief that she’s hardly noticed, and Kalden in Ladakh, who’s born to a destiny he accepts, but wouldn’t have chosen. Two lonely young people, their paths are fated to cross, with unforeseen consequences.

Q. What was your last novel about?
A.  It was the second in a saga set between the wars, which is focused on the London-based Linford family, the head of which, Joseph Linford, runs a successful construction company. The first in the series, The Dark Horizon, told the story of Lily and Robert Linford, and The Flame Within, tells the story of Alice and Thomas Linford. 

The next novel in the series, The Lengthening Shadow, which was published in March 2021, tells the story of Dorothy Linford, and of Charles Linford’s daughter, Louisa.
Each novel is complete in itself, and they can be read in any order.
And then there will be a change of scene - to India for my next novel, Darjeeling Inheritance released in October

Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A.  In several genres, but mainly historical.

I had two novels published several years ago that are contemporary novels set in Umbria, where I often go. My novel, The Best Friend, which is a freebie at the moment for those who subscribe to my newsletter, is what I call an almost-contemporary novel. I’ve just given Word Perfect, another almost-contemporary novel, as a festive freebie for my newsletter subscribers. The latter was inspired by my years in California.

The book I’m working on at present, Darjeeling Inheritance, is another historical novel. It’s the first in the series The Colonials, and is set in Darjeeling – no surprises there! – in 1930, during the time of the British Raj.

Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
A.  Thomas Linford. Severely injured in WWI, Thomas found it increasingly difficult to cope when back at home in post-war London, and took his moods out on his family and friends. But he is redeemed, I believe, by a dry sense of humour, and by the fact that he has his heart in the right place. I think that for a man to be attractive, a sense of humour is essential, and I’ve always thought I’d enjoy spending time with blunt, outspoken, amusing Thomas.

The other character is Nellie Linford, Joseph’s younger daughter. Nellie is sharp, and has spirit and liveliness, and a tendency to enjoy a bit of gossip. The afternoon would move very quickly in the company of Thomas and Nellie, who would, I feel, enjoy sparring off each other. There’d certainly never be a moment of awkward silence, leaving me scrambling for ways to fill it.  

Q. Where would you go / what would you do?
Because movement wasn’t easy for Thomas, prosthetic legs in the 1920s not being what they are today, we would have tea in my house. But not cucumber sandwiches. Neither Thomas nor Nellie was a cucumber sandwich type person. And probably not tea, either. Nellie and I would have wine - Chateau Mossé was Nellie’s favourite - and Thomas a whisky.

Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A.  I would always choose to fly. I love flying, and from the moment I approach an airport, I’m filled with a sense of excitement.

Q. You are out for a walk. You see a chap sitting on a wall, looking right fed up – but there’s something odd about him... What do you do?
A.  It depends upon the nature of the oddness. Perhaps as a result of all the thrillers I watch, at the sight of anything out of the norm, be it in appearance or body-language, I’d be instinctively cautious, aware that the man himself could pose a threat, but also he could be a lure. 

I remember being told a few years ago that there were people who’d drive up behind you, and cause a small prang to your car. Instinctively, you’d leap out of your car in anger, the keys still in the ignition, and someone else would then drive the car away. And there were people who’d p*ss against your wheel, with the same result. 

If I was seriously concerned that the person might be a potential for harm, I’d continue walking while getting out my iPhone, and punching in 999. If I couldn’t get a signal, I’d run!

(I’ll be really interested in what others say to this question. I don’t think I sound very heroic.)

We have a long-running Radio programme here in the UK called Desert Island Discs on which celebrities talk about their life and select eight of their favourite discs... so changing that slightly...

Q. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what eight books would you want to find left in an abandoned hut? (There’s already a Bible, the Quran, and the complete works of Shakespeare)

In no particular order …
1.  The Nun’s Story, by Kathryn Hulme.

2.  The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh.

3.  Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

4.  Persuasion, by Jane Austen.

5.  The Chosen, by Chaim Potok.

6.  Dombey & Son, by Charles Dickens.

7.  North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell.

8.  Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)

A.  A Semi-desert Island, please. I’d like the island to be comfortably warm both day and night, but not so hot that nothing will grow and that there’s a shortage of rain. Drinking sea water leads to madness, so I want to be on an island where natural springs abound. I also would not want the sea to be full of sharks and jelly fish.

A Hebridean Island would be far too bracing - too cold and too windy for me, I’m afraid.

(Oh, dear. Not so long ago, I was sounding unheroic. Now I’m sounding like a wimp!)

Q. And you would be allowed one luxury item – what would you want it to be? (a boat or something to escape on isn’t allowed.)
A.  A pillow, please. If you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you can face anything in the day.

Click HERE (and scroll down to 'H') to find our  reviews of Liz's books  on Discovering Diamonds

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