My writing friend Sue Moorcroft has kindly invited me to take part in the Lovely Blog Hop, in which writers are asked to talk about some of the things that shaped their life and writing.
You’ll see that at the end of the post, I’ve linked two other writing colleagues. They, too, think that this is an interesting and fun way to tell you about themselves, and they will be doing so. It’s also a good way to discover blogs you might not have known about. So, here I go …
This is a Christmas memory. I must have been about five years old. It was Christmas Eve and my sister, a year younger, and I were tremendously excited. My father had helped us hang up our stockings and was about sit down when he suddenly remembered something he needed to ask the caretaker of the flats, and he went out to see him. About five minutes later, there was a knock on the front door. My mother opened the door – and it was Father Christmas in full regalia!!
My sister and I were beside ourselves with excitement. For a moment we stood there in a haze of wonder, and then words started tumbling over themselves. Desperate for our father to meet Father Christmas, too, and tell him how good we’d been all year, we pleaded for him to wait until our father came back. But sadly, he couldn’t stay long as he had so many other children to visit. When our father returned – about five minutes after Father Christmas had left – he found us in tears of happiness mingled with distress that he hadn’t been in time to meet our visitor.
I’ve always loved reading. At an early age, my parents introduced me to what had been their childhood favourites, novels such as Children of the New Forest, Little Lord Fauntleroy, What Katy Did, Just William and Little Women. When I was about nine, my mother – who’d been an actress – introduced my sister and me to some of Shakespeare’s more accessible plays. She and I divided the best parts between us, while my sister and father, reluctant participants, were assigned the equivalents of third ostler and fourth gardener.
By ten, I must have read all of Enid Blyton’s novels – I loved every one of them. And then I started on Jane Austen. I was an eclectic reader and by the end of my teens, I’d read all of Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Nevil Shute, Mrs Gaskell, Mickey Spillane, some of the Russian writers and all of the crime books written by Earl Stanley Gardner, to name but a few. It was thanks to Earl Stanley Gardner and his Perry Mason series that I later read Law at university.
On a par with my favourite novels are the three companions who are always by my side when I write: my ancient Roget’s Thesaurus, my Slang dictionary and Chambers Dictionary.
I have always loved libraries. From quite young, I used to work as a Saturday volunteer at the Finchley Road Central Library. School work finally intervened, but some years later I returned to Camden Libraries and worked there during my university vacations, this time being paid.
The library working day was divided into hourly slots, and my favourite task was to work in the Reference Section first thing on a Monday morning. As soon as the library doors opened, crossword fanatics would fall over the threshold and speed to the Reference Section in order to get help with completing the Sunday crosswords. It was our task to help them find the elusive answers, and that was tremendous fun. I imagine, however, that the internet has done away with the need for such help today.
My enjoyment of cryptic crosswords may well derive from Camden Library days. When introduced to Colin Dexter in Oxford a few years ago, we got talking about cryptic crosswords – and also The Archers, another interest we had in common – and Colin later read my debut novel, The Road Back, and asked to endorse it, which he did. I have a lot for which to thank libraries!
What’s Your Passion?
Cryptic crosswords (I expect you’d guessed that!), the theatre, travel and languages. Re language, I love finding out about the structure of a language. In the talk I give to WI groups, I discuss what a language tells you about the culture and priorities of the people who speak that language. Hmm. I recognise that sounds a bit dry. But believe me, it isn’t!
I enjoyed every single minute of school, and I even like exams. In my final year at school, I was Head Girl (I was very bossy) and then I went off to read Law, got the degree and went to California. While in the States, I took a course in American Studies at LA City College, which I found fascinating, and which instilled in me a love of the American West that has stayed with me ever since. I then returned to England and did an English degree. America has remained very close to my heart, and three years ago, I was overjoyed that my research for A Bargain Struck meant that I ABSOLUTELY HAD to go to Wyoming (or so I told my husband).
It’s the most wonderful feeling to come down in the morning, sit in front of the computer and know that there’s a day ahead in which to write – a day in which I’ll be living with the characters to which I’ve given birth, and in the world I’ve created. Every day is a new adventure.
To create a fictional world, a world which one inhabits for the duration of writing the novel, is the most marvellous, powerful feeling, and it makes the job of being an author one of the most exciting and fulfilling jobs there can be.
Well, I think that’s me done! Many thanks to Sue Moorcroft for nominating me. I’ve very much enjoyed writing my Lovely Blog Hop, and hope you’ve enjoyed reading what I’ve written.
And there’s more to read. Below are the links to two blogs from writers I think you’d find interesting. But from me now, it’s over and out.
Liv Thomas (one half of Isabella Connor). Liv will be putting up her blog on Sunday, March 29th.
Lovely post Liz. I really enjoyed reading it. We share a love of America – as well as books 🙂
Re both, we do, indeed, Berni. I really enjoyed the photos you sent from your trip to the States a few months ago. Monument Valley and the whole of the American West is a such a lovely – and very romantic – part of the world. xx
Fabulous blog, Liz. Such a sweet story about Father Christmas. Fancy Daddy missing him!
Many thanks for your comment, Jan. Yes, that was such bad luck on our father’s part. It’s amazing – looking back – how easily he seemed to get over it. Far more easily than my sister and I! 🙂
Lovely blog, Liz 🙂 I have a Roget’s Thesaurus held together by tape. I still have it, but it became too ‘loose’ to use, so my husband bought me a wonderful hardback version some years ago.
I’ve never felt able to replace it, Laura, as it’s been through so much with me, and also as the layout has changed in the newer editions. I’m so used to the layout in my old edition that it’d be hard to get used to a different one. Alas, however, I’m soon going to have to take the plunge as it’s fast approaching being unusable. xx
Head Girl! Not bossy – just organised. As writers have to be 🙂 Lovely blog Liz x
Many thanks for your comment, Kirsty. Yes, I’ll go with organised. Sounds a bit better than the truth!! 🙂
Oh, how sad that your father missed Santa. 😉 What a lovely story, Liz. Oh, for the innocence of childhood. And what a fabulously interesting story your life is! I can almost feel your zest for all things writing leaping off the page. I love your writing space, btw. It all looks very tranquil. I wonder, is it always? Thanks for sharing, Liz. I’m impressed with the Colin Dexter endorsement. What a nice, generous thing to do. Best of luck. xx
Those were the days. I mean, those were the days 25 years ago. Ahem. But you’re right, there was a magic about that time that seems to have got a little lost in the fast-moving world of today. xx
Liz, what a fabulous post. I had the biggest grin on my face when I was reading the Father Christmas story. I could vividly picture the scene. As I did with the cryptic crossword peeps falling through the library doors 😀 It’s great to learn more about you! xx
That’s very kind of you, Jan; thank you. I genuinely meant that I very much enjoyed writing the blog – it was fun to go back to the past. I don’t often do that, and am probably wise not to: the present is so much fun and the future very exciting. But just occasionally, a trip down Nostalgia Lane is very pleasant. 🙂
What a great post, Liz! I’m interested in what you say about languages and what they give away about people’s cultures and priorities. Elder DD has just decided she’d like to read linguistics at uni and it sounds absolutely fascinating. I’m impressed by your number of degrees, by the way (and the cryptic crossword skills)!
I love languages, but the first time I looked structurally at a language outside of those spoken in Europe was when I was researching The Road Back. When I looked into the Ladakhi language, or rather the form of language spoken in the region of the capital, Leh, I found that there was no word for ‘love’ or for ‘hate’. I thought that amazing, and stopped to think what it told me about the Ladakhi people.
Good luck to your daughter: she’s chosen a fascinating topic. 🙂
My mother is a cryptic crossword fan too but I always tell her my mind isn’t twisted enough to crack them! Love the Father Christmas story.
Colin Dexter gave me a book he’d written called Cracking Cryptic Crosswords, which was very interesting. I love the pun! In the book, Colin had broken down the various styles of clue. I think they’re the sort of things you like or loathe. I find them absolutely absorbing – so much so that I’m scared to start one in the morning as I wouldn’t do anything else all day! And many thanks for your comment about the Christmas story. 🙂
Fabulous blog, Liz, and all the comments have been really interesting too.
I’m a cryptic crossword fan too – or any kind of puzzles with cryptic clues.
Thank you for linking me, although I won’t get mine up until the weekend.
I think it a good thing that there’s a gap between blogs, Liv. And re crosswords, we’ll have to do a cryptic crossword together when we get the time to do more than say Hello. I hope that occasion won’t be too far away. 🙂
Ooh, bring it on!
I shall be holding you to that!
Fantastic blog. I loved the books you read as a child too. Delightful.
Thank you very much, Carol. Just typing the names of those novels which gave me so much pleasure brought back really happy memories. I sometimes wish that I hadn’t read them yet so that I’d have the enjoyment all over again of discovering them. 🙂
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