I am thrilled to interview Lizzie Harwood today! We met over ten years ago in Paris at a course at the British Institute, where I immediately fell in love with her prose. As a writer, Lizzie has an amazing scope – screenplays, personal essays, short stories, memoir, and a novel coming soon. She is also an insightful editor who has started her own business, Editor Deluxe. Her keen eye and perceptive comments have helped many writers improve their manuscripts. I have many pages with Lizzie’s beautiful handwriting in the margins, encouraging me to go deeper with her thought-provoking questions and comments.
What brought you to France? What keeps you here?
I met my love at a dinner in Paris on the 21st of September 2001 and moved back here, after vowing never to live here again. (I’d spent a year and a half here in 1999 and only learned about five words of French!) After constantly moving all my life I found that I actually stayed put for longer than 3 years at a time once I came here. Not by design, must be something in the water.
You are an amazing writer and editor, and you have received great feedback from your clients. How did you decide to start your business, Editor Deluxe?
That’s a huge compliment, thank you, Janet! I love reading, and editing came out of that. I love writing my things too, of course, so I know how it feels to be on the other side – receiving sketchy feedback from reader services on our book babies can be soul-destroying. I wanted to be the kind of editor that writers can trust not to rip apart the guts of their work, yet help them move through the highs and lows of writing books to make them as awesome as they can be.
What have been the challenges and rewards?
Like anything it’s getting word out to those who understand that a quality editor can’t charge $5 per 3,000 words or we’d be on the streets. It literally takes 100s of hours to properly edit a book that the author intends to pitch to traditional publishing professionals or to self-publish. But then the rewards (for me) are in seeing authors launch their book armed with a well-written book, and even a beautiful interior layout that I can also do, plus loads of tips about book marketing and promotion that I’ve gleaned. Book publishing is so exciting today but authors need to spend a little on a quality editor and a beautiful book cover. And let go of the words to then focus on marketing in a way that won’t burn them out. Authors need their own cheerleading team. I’m so happy when I can help in this way.
You have an international clientele. Can you tell us a bit about some of the projects you’ve worked on?
I’ve been working on some fabulous books recently. Lots of Americans who live all over the world. I love how Americans have the confidence to take on self-publishing and it’s something that many of us of other nationalities (I’m a Kiwi/Canadian/Brit) can emulate.
Jennie Goutet just launched her memoir, A Lady in France, which I edited. It’s a heart-breaking and then warming story about grief, depression, loss, faith, with France as a sort of Gatsby’s green light beacon bringing her through to the life she has today.
Chantal Panozzo lives in Zurich and has a hilarious essay collection Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known coming out in May 2014, and her stories go beyond what it’s like to move to Switzerland to encompass what it’s like for any of us who have expatriated ourselves for love or career and find ourselves outside our home culture and yet never able to fit in completely to our adopted home.
And then author David Scott who moves between Singapore and Beijing has a wonderful spiritual novel coming out very soon also: The Longest Distance, part rollicking globe-trotting chase, part love story, it’s a meditation on philosophy’s masters, our inner voice, our questions about what we are on this Earth to do and what love truly is. It’s been an eye-opening honour to work on that novel. I call it Eat, Pray, Love with a guy!
What is the best advice you have ever received?
It’s not been said directly to me, but through the medium of articles and writers writing on writing… the clearest and most important advice I’ve gleaned is to keep failing, keep writing until what you are doing finally makes sense, clock up the 10,000 hours of writing you may need to do to become a genius at it, but also don’t be afraid to start showing your work. Get it out there in as many forms as you like. Be what you envision as a creative person by acting as if you are already the writer/illustrator/famous author. It’s all the negative self-talk that holds us back.
What books are on your nightstand?
Oh, I am a total nightmare about stacking up books: currently reading Alice Munro’s Dear Life, Morrissey’s Autobiography, A.M. Homes’ May We Be Forgiven. Stacked up beside them is: Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Watching the Door by Kevin Myers, Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All by Christina Thompson, The Whore of Babylon by Warren Roberts. And a load of ‘classics’/modern classics that I like to reread or finally read: Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy, The Stories of Raymond Carver, Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party and Other Stories, Philip Roth’s The Human Stain. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. Plus A Long Walk Home, a memoir by Judith Tebbutt about surving Somali pirates for my local book club!
My novel. This year. That’s a promise. It’s done and I’m currently pitching it to traditional publishing professionals but if it’s not for them then I’m self-publishing.
And I’m putting up a series about crafting your story and outlining it before you start (or after you’ve banged out a first draft) on my website.
Plus offering a Writer’s Mentoring Package, which is like having a personal trainer for your body of writing. Low monthly cost for high-end results for muscular book projects!
And very importantly, connecting with fellow writers! My kids have been so little that I’ve had no time for writing workshops and getting out to book launches or reading events, so that’s due for a change now that the littlest one is turning three.