Interview with Expat Author - Lizzie Harwood
I’m Lizzie Harwood, born in New Zealand and now living near Paris, France.
1. Why did you move abroad?
As kids we moved back and forth between New Zealand and my parents’ native Canada. Later Mum bought all of us one-way tickets in Europe around the age of 21 when we wanted to backpack. After university studies in New Zealand, I moved to Asia for a sudden job offer and kept moving until I settled in Paris in 2001. To date, I’ve lived in seven countries.
2. How do you make a living? Are you a fulltime writer?
I’ve had many careers after studying for a master’s in English Literature – as a waitress, film studies lecturer, documentary researcher, property manager, personal assistant, copywriter, nutritionist… but now I’ve built up a freelance business as editor and writer coach plus I publish my own books and others’.
3. How did you start the process of writing a book and get it published? Did you go to a publisher? Self-publish?
With my first two novels, I had a literary agent but they didn’t sell and that discouraged me for awhile until I read up about self-publishing and decided to make my writing goals happen for myself. My first book is a collection of short stories: Triumph, and a memoir comes out in May, Xamnesia: Everything I Forgot in my Search for an Unreal Life, which, being memoir, is obviously a lot more personal. I’m still open to publishers contacting me but really love being able to indie publish and helps others reach their publishing goals. That’s a job I can do anywhere.
4. What was the hardest part of taking your writing to a book format? Did you blog before writing your book?
My blog was too erratic to turn into a book… I’ve always slogged away at numerous drafts and I seek feedback from my writing groups and critique buddies. The hardest part has been learning marketing because the last sales job I had was selling timeshare apartments that were never going to be built!
5. What is your perception of the expat book market? Or is there a niche you consider your book to be part of?
When I was 20 I used to joke I was a “citizen of the world” because I have three passports, but 20 years later, it’s very common to live elsewhere for years or forever. The market for expat books is hugely exciting, especially when writers take specific stories and make them universal. That’s great storytelling. I always aim to tell a universal story, no matter what obscure setting I place the story in.
6. What is your favorite part of the book?
My favorite story in this collection is “Stephanie” – about a New Zealander who has expatriated herself to a new life in London and wants nothing to do with her native country – this is something I’ve seen and wanted to portray how sad this attitude is. There can be a reaction to making a life elsewhere where expats reject their homeland, but it’s better to draw on the positives of your original culture in order to be happy in your adopted country.
7. What was the most difficult part to write?
“Betty” is a tricky story about a bright young woman who can’t seem to get her act together. She’s drinking in bars after work and can’t make rent. Her flatmates (as we call it in New Zealand, or roommates) give her 48 hours to sort herself out but her ex-boyfriend reappears in the country and that throws her off-kilter. The story moves from third person narration into second person then back to third. That’s asking a lot of readers.
8. Besides your book, what book should everyone read?
A new multi-author literary short story collection, Legacy: an Anthology, is just out with profits going to the charity Paws for Reading, (it helps kids read by involving animals to read to). The publishers, Vicki Lesage and Adria J. Cimino of Velvet Morning Press are savvy dedicated women who launched their own boutique publishing house.
9. What advice would you give to other expats that want to write a book?
Keep at it. It takes time but time is only an illusion, right? Suck up all the knowledge you can about the publishing industry and give it all you’ve got. If you write a page per day, you’ll have a book in less than a year.
10. What are you working on now? Do you have plans to publish another book?
My memoir, Xamnesia: Everything I Forgot in my Search for an Unreal Life comes out in May so I’m in the trenches with that… and then book one of Polaroids, a seven-book series of literary suspense will consume me for summer…
Find Lizzie's short stories available now on Amazon and look for her memoir, Xamnesia: Everything I Forgot in my Search for an Unreal Life, in May. You can also read more about her expat adventures on her blog, editordeluxe.com.
On Sunday, May 17th catch Lizzie and 8 other France-based authors at the Facebook event "Escape to France: Travel Tips from Authors Living in France" with a PDF giveaway of fabulous travel tips.
Ra ra! Go Betty
I loved the story called Betty because it encapsulates the attitudes of many teen/20 somethings Living for today. The many different voices in Triumph come together like a chorus and this book served as a pretty tasty entrée leading up to an almost certainly delectable main course in Xamnesia, when it comes out.
Looking forward to it!