Liza Perrat is a successful historical fiction author. Her first two novels, Spirit of Lost Angels and Wolfsangel, have won prizes and helped build a worldwide fan base who applaud the quality of Liza's writing and wait in anticipation for each new release.
And yet, like all writers, she has her writing secrets. In the fourth installment into our mission to uncover the hidden treasures and utter disasters nestling hidden on computer hard drives, we ask Liza where her passion for story-telling first began, and order her to come clean about those first scribbles she would much rather forget.
So, Liza, what do you have hidden in your bottom drawer ...
"I’d completed the Creative Writing course. I’d written a string of articles, several published in international magazines. I’d written enough short stories for a collection, many of which won competition prizes and featured in anthologies. Right, I said to myself, I must be ready to tackle The Novel.
A year and 100,000 words later, Wolf with a Red Rose emerged. It seemed to have everything: dashing, bad-guy hero, sorrowful heroine, suspenseful plot-line, murder and mayhem, and a gorgeous French countryside setting, including lashings of wine and food.
Blissfully unaware of the clichés, the stilted dialogue, the semi-autobiographical element, I eagerly posted it to over a hundred agents and publishers. Five requested the whole manuscript. Four of those rejected it; the fifth turned out to be a vanity publisher.
What is wrong with this, I asked myself. I couldn’t answer that, but I wrote another novel––Hosing Venetian Blinds––also heavily autobiographical, and including enough poorly-disguised neighbours, friends and relatives to potentially land me in a lot of trouble. This novel was a little more successful though, and landed me an agent. “Nice writing,” she said, “but the whole plot needs redoing.”
I’d already spent two frustrating years rewriting Hosing Venetian Blinds, but just couldn’t get it right. I knew that (besides the plot) there was something dreadfully wrong with it, but still I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Then, for reasons unknown to me, I fell into writing historical fiction. I was no reader or fan of this genre, but suddenly found myself writing a novel set in 18th century France. And voilà, I discovered that in writing about the past, I'd stumbled upon my all-elusive “voice”; something I then knew was clearly missing from those first two novels.
Am I more comfortable writing about times gone by, rather than in modern-day settings? Were those first two novels simply part of the all-important learning arc of novel-writing? Probably a bit of both.
I might have found my “voice” in historical fiction, though it’s still a rough, untamed voice. I’ll soon publish my 3rd novel, but I’m still learning from each new book, striving to make it better than the last. And every so often I open my bottom drawer and glance at Wolf with a Red Rose and Hosing Venetian Blinds. I smile affectionately to myself, try not to cringe, and shut the drawer."