My guest today is the lovely Lizzie Lamb. Lizzie was the first author I ever got in touch with, and she very kindly answered my questions with great patience. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to meet her in person, and discovered that she’s just as fabulous in real life as she is online, so it’s a great pleasure to welcome her to the blog today, so she can share with us her five photos.
My Earliest Photo (just about)!
On the back it reads: Betty aged three, written in my mother’s hand. I lived with my mother, grandparents and two young uncles who teased me, stuck me up trees and then walked away, and thought it was hilarious to encourage me to stand on the dining room table and amuse visitors with a medley of Shirley Temple songs. When I was five, the Salvation Army came to our street with a microphone and a boom box and asked for children to sing hymns. Instead of the expected Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam, I sang The Old Rugged Cross in a strong American accent (those uncles, see?) After five minutes they prized the microphone from my fingers, and suggested that, maybe another wee girl would like a go? I was christened Elizabeth, but my family call me Betty. As soon as I could, I jettisoned the name and became (fanfare, please) Lizzie Lamb. A great name, and get-out-of-jail-card for agents and editors who usually say: fabulous name for a writer of romance, before showing me the door. Some people say I’m still precocious but being brought up by two crazy uncles has made me virtually uncrushable and given me a great belief in myself. Two traits vital to survive in the publishing world, perhaps?
Me and Bongo Man.
This is one of the earliest photos taken with my husband-to-be Dave (aka Bongo Man). It was taken in his room at College of Education (circa 1970) when we were training to be teachers. It was never my intention to marry. I wanted to be a famous bluestocking, lecturing history and forswearing all contact with the male of the species. Kind of like a nun but with better shoes and makeup. Failing that, a writer of historical novels in the same mould as Jean Plaidy or Margaret Irwin. Then I met Dave, we became engaged and those intentions flew out of the window. I couldn’t qualify fast enough and set up home with him. We married in 1973 and lived in happy penury, all of my annual salary (£1500, I think) going to pay the mortgage. All other expenses were met out of Dave’s wages. I couldn’t afford driving lessons until I was thirty years old, but I did pass at my first attempt. Our first house cost £4000 and we bought it from the school caretaker who wanted a quick sale because his son was about to be released from prison (where he was banged up for murdering his wife!) Small wonder I’m a writer, eh?
This is my first study (I could never call the space where I write my office; failed blue-stocking, see?) I lined it with as many precious second-hand books as I could afford or bought at jumble sales, there being no charity bookshops in those days. Knowing how much I longed to be a published author, Dave built me this desk and bought me an electric typewriter. My study was my inner sanctum and the first step towards realising my ambition of becoming a writer. It was difficult fitting in writing in at the end of a long hard slog at the chalk face, but I managed to write an English civil war epic entitled: A Different Drummer. I still have the manuscript in my study in our current house, but it doesn’t make for good reading. One thing I will say about my teaching career is that it gave me the opportunity to run after school drama clubs and put on three shows a year for parents and friends, thus satisfying my creative bent. My teaching colleagues nicknamed me Cecil B. de Lamb and referred to the members of my drama club as my ‘cast of dozens’.
Me and Jilly Cooper.
I abandoned all attempts at writing historical fiction when I read the first of Jilly Cooper’s romances, each one bearing a girl’s name. From that point forward, I was hooked on rom-coms (although I’m sure we didn’t call them that back in the day). Imagine my delight last month when I met Jilly in person at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards, I was so overcome, I was almost in tears. They say you should never meet your heroes, but Jilly was everything I’d imagined, and more. I told her what an influence she’d been for me and other writers and that I have all her books. She thanked ME for buying her books, how gracious is that? I remembered how buying her books were the highlight of the year for a newly-married aspiring author and shared that with her. In return, she called me darling Lizzie, and kissed me. Imagine that. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven; which, in many respects, I had.
Celebrating in Style:
Where to end this tale? I’d been submitting manuscripts to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and getting positive feedback, but the critiques told me to go away and polish, polish, polish. In 2012, lovely Amanda Grange had lunch with June Kearns, Adrienne Vaughan and Mags Cullingford in my garden. We asked her when we should publish our books and she said NOW. The Amazon algorithm was changing (the what?) and becoming less favourable. She gave us the nudge we needed. We formed New Romantics Press and put our books on Amazon. In retrospect, I wish we’d done it earlier because, soon after that, small e-publishers sprang up like teeth of the hydra and traditional publishers started to follow the indie model. Now, the market is saturated and its harder to stand out. This photo was taken shortly after I’d published Tall, Dark and Kilted and was hosting my first Facebook event (November 2012). Minutes earlier, Dave had entered my study in full highland gear, carrying a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket, and bearing a dozen red roses. What a guy! I’m sure I’ve driven him bonkers with my writing, but he did marry me for better or worse. LOL. I’m getting to ‘the better’ bit, soon.
Thanks so much for sharing your photos, Lizzie. I’ve loved looking through them and reading the stories behind them. I’m not jealous about you meeting Jilly Cooper at all – nope, not one bit!
After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy headteacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided to pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), followed a year later by Boot Camp Bride. Although much of her time is taken up publicising her novels she published a third novel SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS in July 2015. It achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon. Her latest novel Girl in the Castle was published in 2017 and reached #3 in the charts. Lizzie is a founder member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press and has held author events in many venues and loves meeting potential readers. In March 2016, she was a finalist in the prestigious Exeter Novel Prize for Scotch on the Rocks. She has also co-hosted an author event at Aspinall, St Pancras, talking about writing and the amount of research which goes into her novels. Lizzie is currently editing a novel set in Wisconsin – Sweet Little Lies, and hopes to publish it Summer 2018. Lizzie has more Scottish-themed romances planned, so watch this space. As for the years she spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste as she is building up a reputation as a go-to speaker on indie publishing, and how to plan, write, and publish a debut novel.
Lizzie lives in Leicestershire (UK) with her husband and a naughty parrot called Jasper.
She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch . . .