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Liz Fenwick

Q & A With Cornish Writer Liz Fenwick

3 January 2017

In our second instalment of 'Ulverscroft Interviews' we asked the wonderfully talented Liz Fenwick a series of questions.

Born in Massachusetts, Liz has lived around the world before settling down in Cornwall. An award winning author, her newest Ulverscroft published novel is 'Under The Cornish Sky' which was nominated for the RNA Romantic Novel of the year award.

You moved to Cornwall after living in Massachusetts, what attracted you to the UK and Cornwall in general?
I discovered Cornwall thanks to love. I moved to London at the end of April 1989 then on the first May Bank Holiday I met the man who is now my husband. After a month and a half of dating he took me to Cornwall. I thought it was to meet his parents but I've since learned it was to take the 'Cornwall' test. If I hadn't fallen in love with Cornwall that glorious June weekend I don't think I'd be preparing to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary in July. And to answer the first question... what attracted me to the UK... the men. I was twenty-six and bored with the men I was meeting in Boston who spoke of nothing but business and sport...the rest they say is history.

So far all your books have been based in Cornwall, is that due to you living there or is there something specific about Cornwall that makes it perfect for your books?
I'm sure that having our home there helps but there is something about the landscape that inspires me, calls to me and motivates me. Writing about it is the one way that I can hold onto it.

How do you come up with the plots for your books? Do you have a general idea and see where it goes or plan it out beforehand?
Each book has been different. I believe writers are magpies picking up shiny objects (in this case snippets of life, odd facts, bits of research...) which then when one key piece comes our way it pulls the others together. For example I was researching A Cornish Affair and found the old Cornish saying... save a stranger from the sea, he'll turn your enemy. My mind went ping and suddenly the setting, Frenchman's Creek, and the characters arrived in my head. But each book is different. I never used to plan at all but now that I'm published and have less time some planning is essential.

We recently published 'Under A Cornish Sky' in large print, how was that to write and what can readers expect from it?
I loved writing the characters in Under A Cornish Sky. Both Victoria and Demi were so different that putting them on the page together was fun. Then I added in some Cornish myths and legends, which created an extra layer of intrigue. So readers, I hope, can be swept away to Cornwall with two women whose circumstances suddenly change when they're brought together at the beautiful Boscawen estate and their lives take an interesting, and unexpected, turn.

Have you always wanted to be an author?
YES! I am an only child and books were what kept the loneliness at bay. It wasn't a huge leap from continuing these stories in my head to writing them down... it just took many years for them to be worthy of sharing with others.

Are any characters in your books based on people you know or have known?
Yes and no. I love watching people and imagining their characters. As I mentioned above I'm a magpie, so I pull bits from many and create something new. Having said that Old Tom from The Cornish House is based on what I imagine my husband's old headmaster is like. I have met the man several times and he struck me as one of the last of the true gentlemen - informed, courteous and always thinking of others before himself. Also there is more than a bit of me in Tamsin...

How long does it take for you to usually write a book?
Good question... the actual writing part is broken up by the first draft - 3 or 4 months then more research and then rewriting for another 3 or 4 months then polishing, polishing, polishing as long as my editor lets me! It's all normally completed in about a year but the book I'm working on at the moment The Returning Tide is taking a bit longer.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Learn to love yourself so that you can truly love another and accept their love in return.

And finally, do you have any advice for budding authors?
Listen to your work. I use text to voice software so that my computer reads the books to me... this gives me distance and allows me to be more critical of my work.

Ulverscroft have so far published three of her books in large print as well as a number of audiobooks.