Lizzie Lamb’s blue VW camper attracted admirers at Urquhart Castle, Scotland. The engine purred obediently, as Lizzie expertly manoeuvred the vintage beauty into a parking space, overlooking Loch Ness. Excited to see the van featured in Boot Camp Bride, I patted the gleaming bonnet.
The door opened, Lizzie emerged and invited me inside. She wore a very glamorous blue and white blouse and jeans.
While she prepared some tea in the compact kitchen, I opened a tin of Scottish shortbread, with a picture of Nessie on the tin, and managed to drop biscuits on the pristine table. Laughing, Lizzie helped me to clear up the mess. A copy of Lizzie’s novel, ‘Girl at the Castle’, invited me to peer inside. Lizzie’s books are always so beautifully designed and presented in a distinctive lilac colour, they match perfectly with my handbag.
Jessie: All of your books look like tempting gifts of lilac loveliness for the reader. If I open the book, then I will start to read it. Tell me about ‘Girl in the Castle’.
Lizzie: Fate takes Henriette Bruar to a Scottish castle where the laird’s family are in mourning over a tragedy which happened many years before. Cue a phantom piper, a lost Jacobite treasure, and a cast of characters who – with Henri’s help, encourage the family to confront the past and move on. As part of the healing process, Henriette falls in love with the laird’s son, Keir, and they achieve the happy ending they both deserve.
Jessie: The plot and setting sound thrilling. I know you write in a very natural and witty style. Can you tempt us with a couple of words from ‘Girl in the Castle’?
Lizzie: ‘Giving a superstitious shiver, Henriette acknowledged there were subtle forces at work in this ancient castle. Forces which wanted her and Keir to be together, forever.’
Jessie: This is so tempting! You craft the words so artfully. I know you have been longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize. What did the reviewers say?
Lizzie opened up a folder on her laptop and read some reviews. I was sure I heard the distant sound of bagpipes, but Lizzie didn’t comment.
Lizzie: Ah, here they are. I’ll read three reviews.
‘I loved all the many elements in this novel: The location, history, slightly paranormal atmosphere, love lost and found, and a missing treasure. Not to forget gorgeous Keir MacKenzie, a hero to swoon over.’
‘This convincing romance beginning in conflict and distrust is set in stunning scenery which comes to life through Henri’s experiences and Keir’s enthusiasm for his birth right. A great read!’
‘Girl in the Castle is romantic, witty, interesting and you don’t want it to finish. I enjoyed all the characters – and the storyline. I laughed, gasped, and wished I were Henriette! I love the way Lizzie is knowledgeable about Scotland and shares this with the reader in a heartfelt way. A romantic novel with substance and wit – hurry up and write us the next one, please.’
Jessie: As expected the reviews wax lyrical about your writing. Having read one of your novels, I get the sense that you are very attached to the characters and this brings them to life so beautifully. Did you miss the characters of ‘Girl in the Castle’ when you had finished writing the novel?
Lizzie: When I finish a novel it’s always hard to say goodbye to the characters. Many of my readers feel the same and often ask for a sequel. However, although I miss the characters and the setting ,once I type THE END, that’s it for me. I leave the novel so that readers can imagine what would happen next . . . I think it has been hardest to say goodbye to Henri and Keir. And – mad writer alert – I still have conversations with them in my head and I know exactly what they’re doing now. I felt the same about Charlee and Rafa in Boot Camp Bride and Fliss and Ruairi in Tall, Dark and Kilted.
Jessie: Did a particular place inspire ‘Girl in the Castle’?
Lizzie opened a collection of photographs in a gallery. She left me to scroll through the images while she refilled the teapot. I was sure I heard the bagpipes again as I studied the photos.
Lizzie: We spend a month each year in Scotland. Castle Stalker on Loch Linnhe, near Oban is the inspiration behind Girl in the Castle.
Jessie: Of course, I have seen this iconic image on the front cover. I’d love to visit the castle and read all your novels. Who would you like to read your novels?
Lizzie: I would choose Jilly Cooper. I adored her earlier books: Emily, Prudence etc. and her bonk busters: Polo, Riders et al. I would like Jilly to read my books because that would be my way of saying: ‘thank you for inspiring me to become a writer, and for making it all seem possible’. If I’m allowed a second, more practical choice, I would thank Amazon for giving indie authors the means of getting their books ‘out there’ to a wide audience of readers.
Jessie: As an independent author, I notice your wealth of images and campaigns. Where do you get the photos from?
Lizzie: As a writer and blogger I am very aware of infringing copyright so I have subscribed to a couple of websites where I pay and download images: https://www.123rf.com https://www.dreamstime.com https://unsplash.com Other than that, I take my own photos with my iPhone wherever I go. A word of warning, don’t assume that images you see on Pinterest etc. are copyright free, always double check before uploading anything onto your sites. If in doubt, credit the artist/photographer.
Although, it was drizzling and grey outside, we decided to enjoy the Scottish weather. Meandering along the shores of Loch Ness, we both joked about meeting up with Monster.
Jessie: Tell me, why should I keep your novel in my handbag?
Lizzie: My book would be the ideal companion when you’re feeling at a low ebb because I write feel good books, set in wonderful locations, with humorous secondary characters and, most importantly, a hero to fall in love with. If you want a break from the usually run of the mill romances, try one of mine. Oh, and bring a large handbag, my paperbacks are 9”x5” and need lots of space.
Jessie: Don’t worry, I am always hunting for a new handbag. I think a tartan handbag is called for, after this trip. What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?
Lizzie: Dialogue between the hero (Logan) and his grandfather written as bullet points (which is how I generally write dialogue in my first draft).
– do you love the girl?
– I guess I do, but . . .
– then what are you waiting for. Go get her. As the poet said: faint heart never won fair lady.
While Lizzie read her dialogue, I noticed a mysterious shadow in the water, and the skirl of bagpipes sounded closer. I think a certain Nessie may have been listening to the story. Neither of us commented because we just knew… Lizzie removed a delicate whisky flask from her handbag and we celebrated with a wee dram. Slainte!
Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?
Lizzie: Writing books has never been an issue, my head is teeming with ideas for future novels. The hard bit is getting my books to the notice of a wider public and finding new readers. I would love to get my books in supermarkets etc. but I know that won’t happen without my being a contracted author. If I was contracted to one of the ‘Big Five’ publishers I’d probably have to write books in genres I wouldn’t enjoy. So, its Catch-22 for me. I would like more time to write and spend less time on social media, but without social media I wouldn’t have achieved the sales I have.
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
Lizzie: Stop endlessly polishing the first three chapters and a synopsis to send to agents and publishers. You might find that once the novel is completed you jettison the first few chapters in any case. Finish the whole novel, edit it and then polish it to send out to agents/publishers (if that’s the route you want to take). Failing that, publish it yourself – but remember, time, tide and the whims of publishers/agents wait for no man. By the time you write that great novel of yours, trends will have changed and your novel won’t be what agents/publishers are looking for.
Jessie: This interview has inspired me to plan a trip to Scotland, but my Scottish neighbour is always warning me about the midges.
Lizzie: The received wisdom is that you are ‘pretty safe’ in late May/ early June but the wee beasties are bad in July and August. Having said that, if May is very warm, the eggs hatch and they come early. We’ve never been bothered by them and I’ve received worse bites in our garden in the summer.
Jessie: That’s reassuring. Where’s the best place to begin a tour?
Lizzie: Edinburgh or Inverness make great centres to tour from if you’ve never been to Scotland before. Fewer midges on that coast, too. We love the west coast but it is much wetter (and more midges). Stirling is also a good centre as you can have some fantastic days out exploring the Trossachs. When you get a feel for those parts of Scotland you can head for the ‘wilder parts’ on another visit.
Lizzie showed me collection of photos. Ardvreck Castle, Assynt Geo Park Nth West Scotland, Achnasheen nr Kinlochewe, island in middle of Lake Maree, Argyll and Bute
Jessie: Thanks for the advice. I am going to stock up on your novels then plan another trip to Scotland.
Lizzie: If you have a dream – go for it. Life is not a rehearsal After teaching my 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, I decided it was time to leave the chalk face and pursue my first love: writing. In 2006 I joined the Romantic Novelists? Association’s New Writers? Scheme, honed my craft and wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed a year later by Boot Camp Bride (2013) and Scotch on the Rocks (2015) – finalist, The Exeter Novel Prize.
Lizzie is hardworking, creative and focused on writing the best book she can. She loves sharing her stories and ideas with readers, new and old. She gets a real buzz when readers tell her that when they turned the last page of her novel they feel bereft and she should hurry up and write another.
I first stumbled on Lizzie’s books when searching for another great reading escape. Thrilled at Lizzie’s ability to inspire comedy, I downloaded all of her novels. Her Scottish books motivated me to plan a holiday in Scotland. Lizzie is great fun and her love of writing shines through her novels.
Lizzie says: “when I’m not writing – I’m dreaming”
Amazon author page: viewAuthor.at/LizzieLamb
Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/