In November 2013 I reviewed A Bargain Struck which was Liz Harris’ first historical novel to be set in Wyoming. I enjoyed the romance and the setting felt very authentic with the history coming alive. So I’m delighted to be welcoming Liz Harris today to chat about her third historical novel set in Wyoming, The Lost Girl.
Liz Harris was born in London and now lives in South Oxfordshire with her husband. After graduating from university with a Law degree, she moved to California where she led a varied life, trying her hand at everything from cocktail waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company, not to mention a stint as ‘resident starlet’ at MGM. On returning to England, Liz completed a degree in English and taught for a number of years before developing her writing career.
Liz’s debut novel, The Road Back, won a Book of the Year Award from Coffee Time Romance in the USA and her second novel A Bargain Struck was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award.
Follow Liz on Twitter: @lizharrisauthor
See her website: www.lizharrisauthor.com
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise The Lost Girl in 20 words or less.
Set against unrest between the whites and Chinese in nineteenth-century Wyoming, The Lost Girl depicts the power of forbidden love.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
The Lost Girl is the third historical novel I’ve set in Wyoming. All three of which, however, are set against a different backdrop. A Bargain Struck, 1887, tells the story of a second generation homesteader who lives on agricultural land south of the railroad; A Western Heart, a novella set in 1880, is located in ranching country north of the railroad, and The Lost Girl is set in the 1870s and 1880s in SW Wyoming, an arid, non-agricultural region, but one that is rich in coal.
When I visited Wyoming a few years ago in order to research A Bargain Struck, I fell in love with its openness, with its endless wide blue sky, its history and its people – not to mention the rugged, good-looking wrangler on the ranch where I started my trip!
The idea of the American West, and the lean, sun-browned men who inhabited it, is so romantic, that it isn’t surprising that I was drawn back to Wyoming for another novel, and I started to delve further into its history in search of a story. The moment I discovered the way in which the Chinese had been treated by the Americans since they were first shipped into San Francisco in the 1850s, and the American-imposed prohibitions under which they lived, which have rarely been the subject of fiction, I knew I’d found my story.
Please tell us about the characters in The Lost Girl.
Meet Joe Walker. When seven-year old Joe finds a new-born baby girl alongside her dead Chinese mother, he knows what he must do, and he begs his parents to keep her. They finally agree, and the child is named Charity and taken into the Walker family, a mining family, with a view to her helping Joe’s mother in the house when she’s older. Joe is always there for Charity as she grows, her protector and her friend, but as he gets older, he increasingly feels the call of the wild, and longs for the freedom of a life with horses, that’s somewhere many miles away from any mines, out on the open grasslands of the west.
Meet Charity Walker, a girl with a Chinese face, who wears American clothes, speaks like an American, and thinks and behaves like an American girl. Seen by the Chinese as an American, and by the Americans as Chinese, Charity is shunned by both communities. But Joe’s presence gives her strength, and that, plus her sense of duty, strong work ethic and firm belief that she’s American, means that her days are full, and any feeling of loneliness is kept at bay. And then Joe leaves.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if The Lost Girl were optioned for a movie Liz?
Robert Pattinson as Joe! He’d be perfect for the grown-up Joe – lean, good-looking, with warmth in his eyes.
Liu Yifei as Charity. She’s a beautiful Chinese actress, who could convey both Charity’s vulnerability, and her steely determination.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
I find it extremely difficult to single out any one author. I read voraciously, and I read books of every genre. If I have to pick out a couple of authors from the many whose books I’ve enjoyed, I would say that I’d like to think that Jane Austen and Mrs Gaskell, my favourite authors, have helped me with my writing, and that thriller-writer Linwood Barclay, whose ability to come up with terrific story lines I so admire, has helped me to keep my focus on my plot.
What are you reading now?
I’ve just finished reading The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. It’s been top of the bestseller list for so long that I thought it high time I read it, especially as I love psychological thrillers. I really enjoyed the book, although at times I was a little confused by whether an event, or sequence of thoughts, was taking place before or after the last such event or sequence, but I still found it gripping and would recommend it.
I’m about to start reading House of Secrets, by fellow Choc Lit author, Lynda Stacey, and I’m very much looking forward to it.
Finally Liz, can you tell us what you are working on now?
It’s a novel set in Darjeeling in 1930. It tells the story of three tea plantation families, whose lives are intertwined. After eleven years at school in England, Charlotte Lawrence returns to India and her family’s tea plantation, the terraced slopes of which lie in the shadow of the Himalayas, but finds that everything’s very different from what she’d expected.
Many thanks for interviewing me, Shaz. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking to you today.
Wishing you success with all your projects Liz.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Choc Lit (8 Aug. 2016)
What if you were trapped between two cultures?
Life is tough in 1870s Wyoming. But it’s tougher still when you’re a girl who looks Chinese but speaks like an American.
Orphaned as a baby and taken in by an American family, Charity Walker knows this only too well. The mounting tensions between the new Chinese immigrants and the locals in the mining town of Carter see her shunned by both communities.
When Charity’s one friend, Joe, leaves town, she finds herself isolated. However, in his absence, a new friendship with the only other Chinese girl in Carter makes her feel like she finally belongs somewhere.
But, for a lost girl like Charity, finding a place to call home was never going to be that easy …