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.