Good morning Lizzie and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Good Morning Jo, thanks for inviting me onto your blog.
I live in Leicester with my husband (aka Bongo Man) and a mad parrot called Jasper. I was born in Scotland and lived there until I was eleven years old and my father moved south to find work – a familiar story, yes? I return to Scotland regularly to see friends and family and it helps to keep me on top of how things have changed and what’s stayed the same. I thought I’d write one Scottish-themed novel as a homage to my roots but it appears that readers can’t get enough of men in kilts, especially readers in the US, so I’m about to embark on my third. (I love writing about Scotland, incidentally). In the interests of authenticity, I have to spend hours searching the internet looking at men in kilts – but no sacrifice is too great for my readers.
When you bowed out from your teaching career was it with the intention of writing or did that decision come afterwards?
I was a teacher for thirty four years, the last sixteen as the deputy head of a large primary school in Leicestershire. It has always been my intention to become a published author but the demands of the day job with attendant marking, preparation, report writing, admin and managerial duties, meant that there was little/no time for writing in the evenings. (too knackered – lol) I joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2007 and dipped my toe in the water, learning as I went along. I published Tall, Dark and Kilted in 2012 and, as they say, I have never looked back!
You are one of the founders of the New Romantics Press. What made you decide to do this and how successful has it been for you and the other members?
Like many other members of the New Writers’ Scheme we had submitted our manuscripts and received encouraging critiques from experienced RNA authors. In July 2012, were in the process of polishing our manuscripts with a view to sending them out to agents when Amanda Grange (who’d critiqued June Kearns’ novel THE ENGLISHWOMEN’S GUIDE TO THE COWBOY, as part of the scheme) advised us to self-publish. Times were a-changing, fast, and we would be left behind if we waited any longer to upload our books to Amazon. All four of us took her advice and self-published our novels for the end of the year; we then held author events in pubs, clubs and hotels to publicise them, and got on with writing the next one.
That lunch in my garden was just the push we needed and we’ll be forever grateful to Mandy.
Have you any particular places you would love to visit – ideal bucket list destinations?
I would love to return to Positano and the Amalfi Coast in Italy. We stayed there in the early nineties and it’s remained in my heart ever since. I have lots of friends in the USA and I would like to revisit them. But, mostly, I’d love a long touring holiday in the highlands of Scotland with our caravan (parrot in tow, naturally). On this holiday, the sun would shine 24/7, the midges would mysteriously disappear and we’d visit all the places on my list.
Plotter or Panster? What works best for you?
I start off as a plotter and get the bare bones of the story down on a time line with post it notes, then I start writing. That’s when plotter becomes panster – the novel unwinds in front of me as I type, like a movie and I simply have to write it down and knock it into shape. Sounds easy? I spend all day dreaming about my novel and my characters act out scenes in my head, scenes I hadn’t even thought of. Then, when I sit down to write it’s all there, demanding to be made into a novel. Sometimes I wonder who’s in charge – them or me!
If you could invite five well known people to dinner, who would they be and why?
History has always been my first love and for that reason, some of my characters are from the past.
- Richard Third – I’d ask him if he really did murder the Princes in the Tower
- Rupert of the Rhine – I’d ask him why he never had any legitimate children, thus leaving the way clear for his nephew the Elector of Hanover to become King of England
- Lee Harvey Oswald – he might not be the perfect dinner guest but I want to know if he ‘acted alone’ or if there really was a second gunman on the ‘grassy knoll’.
- Jilly Cooper – I think she’d be jolly good fun. I’d ask her to return to writing the shorter, funnier novels, like EMILY and IMOGEN which she wrote in the 70’s before she starting writing bonk busters.
- Sam Heughan – If you’ve seen the Outlander series on cable television, you’ll know why. Jamie, we lurve you!
What would be on the menu?
Starter – a really nice chicken liver parfait (Heston’s from Waitrose will do) and melba toast
Main – my friend Joan’s lasagne (to die for)
Pudding – my mum-in-law’s trifle
Cheese – a really creamy stilton/ Cropwell Bishop/Great coffee and Belgian Truffles
Prosecco cocktails, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and a fabulous Chianti Classico
After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided it was time to leave the chalk face and pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, honed her craft and wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed a year later by Boot Camp Bride. Lizzie loves the quick fire interchanges between the hero and heroine in the old black and white Hollywood movies, and hopes this love of dialogue comes across in her writing. Although much of her time is taken up publicising Tall, Dark and Kilted and Boot Camp Bride, she has published a third novel SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS in July 2015 and has number four. Lizzie is a founding member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press. In November 2014 they held an Author Event at Waterstones High Street, Kensington, London the icing on the cake as far as they are concerned – and a fitting way to celebrate their achievements. As for the years Lizzie spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste as she is building up a reputation as a go-to speaker on the subject of self-publishing. This spring she will be talking about self-publishing to third year creative writing students at De Montfort University, Leicester.
Newsletter – http://tinyurl.com/ELNL-2016
Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/
Synopsis for Scotch on the Rocks
ISHABEL STUART is at the crossroads of her life.
Her wealthy industrialist father has died unexpectedly, leaving her a half-share in a ruined whisky distillery and the task of scattering his ashes on a Munro. After discovering her fiancé playing away from home, she cancels their lavish Christmas wedding at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and heads for the only place she feels safe – Eilean na Sgairbh, a windswept island on Scotland’s west coast – where the cormorants outnumber the inhabitants, ten to one.
When she arrives at her family home – now a bed and breakfast managed by her left-wing, firebrand Aunt Esme, she finds a guest in situ – BRODIE. Issy longs for peace and the chance to lick her wounds, but gorgeous, sexy American, Brodie, turns her world upside down. In spite of her vow to steer clear of men, she grows to rely on Brodie. However, she suspects him of having an ulterior motive for staying at her aunt’s Bed and Breakfast on remote Cormorant Island. Having been let down by the men in her life, will it be third time lucky for Issy? Is she wise to trust a man she knows nothing about – a man who presents her with more questions than answers?
As for Aunt Esme, she has secrets of her own . . .
And a Taster….
1. A WING AND A PRAYER
Ishabel Stuart raced her car against the combined forces of time and tide, a thunderstorm snapping at her heels. The wind gave her car a rough shake and she glanced in her rear view mirror at bruise coloured clouds rushing to overtake her. With an involuntary cry of alarm, she squared her shoulders, focused full attention on the road and prepared to tough it out. By her calculations she had just minutes to reach the causeway linking the mainland to Eilean na Sgairbh, Cormorant Island. Any later, the land bridge would be submerged by the incoming tide and she would be unable to make the crossing.
If that happened, home, the loving arms of her Aunt Esme, the comfort of a shower and hot meal would have to wait until the tide ebbed the following morning.
Worse still, she’d have to spend the night in her car or – God help her, at Mrs MacKay’s Highland Guest House, where she’d be forced to sleep beneath a candlewick bedspread, shower with a sliver of grimy soap and a scratchy towel no bigger than a face flannel. Then, over a meagre breakfast of watery porridge and burned bannocks, she’d be bombarded with a thousand personal questions no one had any right to ask. Least of all Mrs MacKay – the biggest gossip this side of Fort William.
‘Okay, Stuart – man up. You know this road like the back of your hand. If anyone can beat the tide, it’s you. You’ve done it hundreds of times.’ Glancing at her father, who was fastened securely into the back seat, she added grimly: ‘Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.’ But, for once, James Stuart had no criticism to level at his daughter’s driving skills, or her foolhardiness. Biting her lip, Ishabel slipped into a lower gear and started the descent down the sloping jetty and onto The Narrows, a causeway packed hard by over eight hundred years of continuous use by Eilean na Sgairbh’s highland community.
At this time of year the tide came in faster than a man could walk, and so her tyres squished in the shallow water which splashed up the sides of her Mini. Holding her nerve, she gripped the steering wheel, switched the headlights onto full beam and peered into the descending dusk. If she got stuck half way across and was forced to abandon her new car or – worse still, call out the coastguard to rescue her from an ill-timed attempt to cross to Eilean na Sgairbh, she’d never live it down.
If that happened, the inhabitants of Cormorant Island would give a collective shrug and say such recklessness was no more than expected of Miss Ishabel Stuart. She was James Stuart’s flesh and blood, after all, and – like her aunt Esme, was bad news as far as they were concerned. However, Ishabel wasn’t about to give them the chance to shake a collective finger at her, or the satisfaction of sending her censorious looks next time she went in the General Store. She’d make it across, and damn anyone who harboured a less than flattering opinion of her – or her family.
Pushing her driving glasses further up onto her nose with her forefinger, she made for the lights on the farther shore. It’d take more than a summer squall, a neap tide, and recent events to keep her from the island where she’d grown up. And, if she’d lately grown apart from it, she was coming home to make amends and to reacquaint herself with Eilean na Sgairbh, a place she’d once held dear.
Ten minutes later, Issy cleared the jetty on the far side of The Narrows and let out a long, slow whistle. She stopped by the harbour wall and looked back at the distance she’d travelled (now submerged beneath the waves) and acknowledged she’d made it by the skin of her teeth.
She wasn’t a natural risk taker, if anything she liked to think things through before deciding on the best course of action. But recent events had shown her that she’d inherited the determination, stubbornness and sheer bloody-mindedness which marked her out as a Stuart. Qualities which she considered demonstrated a kind of foolhardy courage, but which the islanders regarded as arrogance and mule-headedness.
She glanced one last time at the submerged Narrows and then at her father on the back seat.
‘No need to say it, Daddy, I know I’m reckless. How could I not know it? You’ve told me enough times, haven’t you? So like my mother, so . . .’
At that, her breath snagged – but with the same determination which had made her race against the tide, she put the thought behind her and drove forward, pausing only to test the brakes after their dip in the harbour. They worked just fine and she felt confident enough to journey the few remaining miles along the coast road to her aunt’s house without any mishaps. There was so much she wanted to discuss with her aunt in the warm fug of her kitchen, hopefully over a glass of Stuart’s Twa Burns single malt whisky.
Which, neatly, brought her back to her father, buckled into the back seat.
His opinions on women drinking whisky, having careers and driving souped-up cars in dangerous weather conditions, were on record. He didn’t consider any of it proper – which, conversely, would make Ishabel savour every drop of the peaty whisky when she reached her aunt’s house.
Reflecting on the life-changing decisions she’d made on her journey from Edinburgh to Eilean na Sgairbh and her race against the elements, Ishabel considered that whisky, given the role it had played in the Stuart’s fortunes over the last century and a half, was aptly named:
The Water of Life.
Thank you Lizzie, a fabulous interview…