Liz Harris – hello from a new Choc-liteer in the box

a-page-from-kbs-album5Hello, all! To those of you I don’t know, my name’s Elizabeth Harris, but I’m usually known as Liz. On twitter I’m known as @lizharrisauthor

Last October, a dream came true when I learnt that Choc Lit was going to publish The Road Back. It was an unbelievable moment, and I’m still pinching myself to make sure that I really am awake.

Since The Road Back is my very precious link with Choc Lit, I decided that I would say something about how I came to write it in this, my first Choc lit blog. Now there’s a surprise, I can hear you say!!

My novel has been described as ‘a sumptuous tale of love and adventure in the sweeping and little-known backdrop of Ladakh, north of the Himalayas … which throws together two people from radically different cultures with explosive results.’

Until fairly recently, however, I’d never even heard of Ladakh. The first time I learnt that there was such a country was three years ago when my cousin, who now lives in Australia, asked me to help her find a home for an album that her father, my late uncle, had compiled after a visit he made to Ladakh in the mid 1940s.

When my uncle had been stationed with the army in North India, he’d managed to get one of the few authorised passes to visit Ladakh. Upon his return to England, he’d assembled the photos and notes into an album, which he had passed on to his daughter.

The album is now in the Indian Room of the British Library, on Euston Road. It was brought over to England by friends of my cousin, and I collected it from their hotel. In the two weeks I had it before handing it over to the British Library, I read it from cover to cover … and I fell in love with Ladakh. From that moment, I knew I had to set a novel there and I began to research the country in depth.

From the very start, I knew that my heroine, Patricia, was born in the 50s and brought up in Belsize Park, a part of London I know well. I saw her as a lonely child, living with parents who’d been torn apart by grief over a tragedy that had happened to the family in the past.

But I didn’t yet know my hero, Kalden, beyond the fact that he was born and brought up in a Ladakhi village in the Buddhist part of the country. While I waited to ‘see’ him clearly, I continued resourcing Ladakh, learning more and more about the country. And then one day, I read a very interesting fact about life in Ladakh. It was a Eureka moment! I felt a powerful surge of excitement when I read that …

Oh, dear. I seem to have run out of time. I’d better say goodbye for now!

P.S. I’d like to have been able to include some photos from my uncle’s album, but I don’t yet seem to have the right connection to upload an image to the blog. I shall have to sort that out.

63 thoughts on “Liz Harris – hello from a new Choc-liteer in the box

  1. I really enjoyed your blog, Liz. I didn’t know anything about the background to your novel before and it sounds so good. I can’t wait to hear more about it – and most important of all, to read it when it’s published!

  2. Many thanks, Sandra.

    I was so sorry not to be able to upload a couple of photos from my uncle’s album. On the other hand, had I done so, the posting would have even longer!

    Liz x

  3. Thank you, Emma and Lesley. I loved writing the book and I’m over the moon that Choc Lit are publishing it.

    In the three years since I learnt of Ladakh’s existence, it’s become a popular subject for travel supplements and radio programmes, such as Excess Baggage, and I’ve now met the name on many occasions. Owing to its interest and beauty, it’s become a huge hiking destination, but happily the tourism there is very much sustainable tourism.

    Liz x

  4. What a fascinating background to your novel, Liz. I’m looking forwards to reading it.

  5. Many thanks for your comments, Chris and Henri. I can’t wait to see the cover and to hold the book in my hands for the first time.

    Liz X

  6. Congratulations on your first Blog, Liz. Very impressed with your research material now being in the British Library – one of my top research haunts. Now we have to wait a whole year to read the book!

  7. Many thanks, Christina and Evonne.

    Time flies by when you’re having fun, and I’m having fun, Evonne.

    Liz X

  8. Congratulations on an excellent first blog, Liz! You have done a great job in tempting us, just enough information to make buying your book essential. It sounds like that wonderful mixture of fiction based on fact and, given that life is often stranger than fiction, this is the perfect combination! Looking forward to a good read. Linora

  9. Thank you, Sue and Talli. If I’m as excited as I am now, I can’t imagine what I’ll be like on publication day!!

    Liz X

  10. wow – sounds fascinating. Roll on publication day of ‘The Road Back’ – can’t wait to read it. And enjoy the excitement!

  11. Great insight into the inspiration behind your book, Liz. Hope you manage to sort out the connection thing, I’d love to see some pictures of this fascinating-sounding country.

  12. Many thanks, Sarah, Debs and Jane. I can’t wait to see what Choc Lit do with the cover – their covers are tremendous.

    I shall certainly work out how to upload photos before the next blog I do. I’ve followed Christina’s advice about making the photos smaller, but so far my trial runs have failed. I must get it sorted, though, before I do a Wednesday Hottie! To try to describe my chosen male’s attributes, with words only, could end up with me being arrested!

    Liz X

  13. Your book sounds fantastic! Isn’t it wonderful how things just fall into place sometimes? I can’t wait to read it.

  14. How wonderful to find such romantic inspiration from within your own family. We can learn such a lot from listening to our elders, who are of course, the original storytellers.
    Thank you for the insight and I’m looking forward to having the book in my hands.
    Kind regards

  15. What lovely comments I’ve been receiving today. It’s been completely impossible to get my head round the current wip, but that hasn’t mattered one little bit – I’m in a warm glow, which is a heady feeling.

    Thank you Linora, Heather, Jane, Alison, Laura (I love the twist on your name) and Annie, for the very kind comments you’ve made. Ladakh is such an interesting country, with a people who see things so very differently from us – and who can put us to shame in many ways – that I found my background research absolutely fascinating.

    Liz X

  16. Wow, what a fascinating way to find a story. That’s a wonderful story in itself. Really looking forward to reading The Road Back when it comes out.

  17. Many thanks for that, Kath. Holding the age-worn album in my hand, and feeling the stirrings of what was to become The Road Back, was very exciting.

    I photographed every page of the album; I’ve now just got to learn to upload the pics. Those who’ve responded to pleas for help from the non-techie me on many previous occasions may well be groaning inwardly!

    Liz X

  18. Blog is great Liz- you cartainly know how to end on a cliff- hanger! So looking forward to reading The Road Back and thrilled that your dream has come true.

  19. A fascinating story, Liz – so now I’m really looking forward to reading your novel. I find researching my stories is one of the most interesting things about writing fiction.

  20. Many thanks, Liz, Jackie and Margaret. I’m so pleased that my first novel to be published has elements drawn from my family’s background. But I shall have to make it very clear in the acknowledgements where fact ends and fiction begins, or I’ll find myself shunned at all future family gatherings!

    Liz X

  21. Great, Liz, can’t wait to read the novel through. You have introduced what is a fabulous book really well though just a niggle engaging better than sumptuous but that is a personal opinion and I know how brilliant The Road Back is. Great blog post.

  22. Thank you for your lovely comments, Carol and Kate. I think I was so fortunate to come across Ladakh, which I found really inspiring and very interesting.

    I look forward to hearing what you learnt about Ladakh when you were in India, Carol.

    You have a new look, Kate, I see, and very cute it is, too! I note that you didn’t choose demon puppy as your avatar!

    Liz X

  23. What an interesting story, Liz, thank you so much for sharing it. I can’t wait for ‘The Road Back’ to be published, it’s already on my list of must-reads!

  24. Ooh, many thanks, Joanna. There’s a point in the story where a Ladakhi village doctor treats a wound – you might get ideas that you can take back to the NHS – it could help them with their cost-cutting!

    Liz X

  25. Hello Liz,
    It’s lovely to find out more about your novel-what a great idea transforming your uncle’s notes and photos into a story. I look forward to reading it.

  26. Great post, Liz. I’m so looking forward to reading The Road Back. Hooked already! Thrilled for you and wish you every success x x

  27. Many thanks for that, Jan. I am so excited about it all – it’s been an amazing few months.

    Liz X

  28. I once worked for the British Library and I know Belsize Park! Guess if I want to find out about Ladakh, I’ll have to read the book! I will, I promise. Interesting blog. Good job.

  29. Congratulations Liz! It sound like a fantastic story! I’m looking forward to reading it. What a great USP to set it in Ladakh (I’ve never been there, so it will be nice to find out more).

  30. Many thanks, Maria. How interesting that your husband has visited Ladakh.

    Much of the west is now Muslim. It was by the western route that my uncle entered the country in the 40s, and so, too, my characters in the early 60s, but it would be too dangerous for visitors today. The eastern area is Buddhist. Leh, the capital, is in the Buddhist area, as is the village where Kalden lives.

    Liz X

  31. Thank you very much, Susan and Rhoda. How lovely to read your comments.

    That’s almost an omen, Susan – you working in the British Library and knowing Belsize Park. Not sure what it’s an omen of, mind you – but something very nice, I hope!

    To ‘discover’ a new (to me) country was amazing, Rhoda. It’s so interestiung as a place that it was a joy to research it. I even had to look at the Ladakhi language! French is easier!

    Liz X

  32. OMG!! I’ve just seen that a page of my uncle’s album has been put on my blog posting! I didn’t know that I’d succeeded in doing it. I wish I knew what I did that made it appear!

    Liz X

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