My Tote Bag


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Lizzy Walter is looking forward to leaving behind her tiny apartment in London ó and a whole host of headaches ó and going home to the beloved family manor for Christmas. Just thinking about Keeper House, which has been in the Walter family for generations, brings comfort to Lizzy, and she can't wait to relax and spend time with her close-knit family. But when she arrives, it's not the cozy family holiday Lizzy had in mind. Behind the mince pies and mistletoe, family secrets lurk ó and suddenly the very future of the dear manor appears to be in jeopardy. And just when Lizzy doesn't think she can handle anymore surprises, an old flame shows up unexpectedly, throwing her into even greater turmoil. With the new year off to a rocky start, and as winter makes way for spring, Lizzy realizes she must take charge of her family, her life, and her heart.

Book a BTB!

Dear Author, I'd love to take a look Beyond The Book with you. If you're interested in an interview, please email me today.

Let's talk about your book!

Harriet Evans

I was born in London in 1974 and grew up on the mean streets of Chiswick, where I went to school. I was a completely undistinguished pupil in every way, except I absolutely loved reading and drama. My only achievements from the age of 5 to 18 were a) winning a doodling competition at primary school (of a witch flying in the sky with balloons in her hand) b) I was head chorister of the church choir, which believe me is not something that wins you cool points with anyone you know apart from your granny c) I wrote an article for Harpers & Queen's Teenage Issue when I was fourteen which meant going to a very smart gallery opening in my friend Kate's black Lycra evening dress from Next (I've still got a copy of the magazine and I look like a teenage vulture).

After school I went to Bristol University and did Classical Studies, which was great; I absolutely loved Bristol and I liked being a student and being with people who didn't know my shameful head chorister past. I left university and adventurously headed straight back down the motorway to London again. I wanted to get into magazines, but the only place that would give me a job was the Lady magazine, which turned out to be one of those horrific first jobs you have when you're twenty-two and don't understand a word of what's going. I did learn how to polish chandeliers and a lot of facts about interesting road signs in Devon, however.

But somehow it wasn't enough, so I left, and a couple of months later I was lucky enough to get a job as secretary at a publisher called Reed. When my bosses moved to Penguin I went with them and stayed there for seven very happy years, where I progressed from secretary to editorial director, doing mostly women's fiction. I left in 2003 and went to another publisher, Headline, where I am today and I adore it. I live in a flat in Kensal Rise, which is a highly desirable area of London very close to Notting Hill (or am I lying about that?).

My mum and dad both work in publishing and my dad wrote thrillers many years ago, so you could say writing is in the blood. I don't know about that, I just know I love it, and I love telling stories where you can decide what happens to your characters, and making up a whole world of people and plots that hopefully means the reader loses themselves in something for a few hours, that makes them smile, keeps them gripped and is complete escapism. I wrote the book I wanted to read, and I hope Going Home is just that - I also hope it means other people will enjoy it too.

Beyond The Book - Harriet Evans on GOING HOME

Lee : Please tell us more about yourself.

Harriet: Hi Lee! Well, Iím not sure how much or how little to tell you without boring you rigid, but I live in London, where Iíve lived most of my life, and I work in publishing as well as writing too. My interests include: gossip magazines, watching repeats of Friends and Frasier, and drinking cocktails. Iím a very deep person as you can see.

Lee : I really enjoyed reading GOING HOME. It's funny and warm, witty and poignant too. I also found it very easy to get wrapped up in the story and feel a part of the Walter family. What was your inspiration for the story? Is any of it based on a real family you know?

Harriet : That is so lovely to hear. Thank you very much. Itís all made-up, especially the house and the family, but the idea for it came from my mumís family. Sheís one of four and, before my grandparents died, we used to spend our Christmas and Easter holidays at their house in the countryside, near Bath. It wasnít old or anything, but it was just a lovely house and I still miss it. My familyís not as dysfunctional as that Ė I hope! But there are definite similarities as I hope there are with lots of families Ė arguments, secrets, things you donít talk about... how your mum and dad drive you up the wall but you still love them... etc etc...!!

Lee : The sense of family is strong and are characters come across realistic and three-dimensional for the most part. I think you did a excellent job with the parry of words between Jess, Tom and Lizzy. Did you find it easy to write the dialogue?

Harriet : Thank you again, Iím so pleased you think that. Thatís really kind of you. I like talking, in fact I talk far too much. So I think thatís where that comes from. Also, I type very fast and I like telling stories, and so I want to get it all down so that itís as lifelike Ė to me Ė as possible. They do talk like me and my friends a bit, so it was easier to do than if theyíd been, say, from a small village in Russia.

Lee : There are so many interesting characters in this story - and all of them so very unique. Which character was the easiest to write?

Harriet : I donít know about easiest, because with all of them you just have to get into it. Really think from their point of view and empathize with them Ė thatís why characters are believable, even when theyíve done something awful. But my personal favorites are, of course, Lizzy (the narrator) and Rosalie, who I always thought of in my head as being a bit like Karen from Will and Grace. And I loved writing Chin the aunt and Gibbo the crazy Australian. Thatís fun, that bit. Itís the working out how to do it all thatís hard!

Lee : Whose character did you struggle to know better?

Harriet : David, the hero, because itís so important we like him and yet donít quite know why heís done what heís done and been so horrible to her.

Lee : Please tell us more about Lizzy. Who or what was the inspiration behind her character?

Harriet : Thereís a lot of me in her, but lots of lots of people. Sheís a bit scatty, doubts herself, a bit useless, but sheís also much more intelligent, and hard-working, and great than she gives herself credit for. I think girls do beat themselves up a bit too much and are very hard on themselves Ė Lizzyís definitely like that.

Lee : You have a full time job as editor-at-large at HodderHeadline UK . Was it easy to write a novel, knowing all that you do about the publishing business? Or did you find it more difficult in some ways?

Harriet : It was hard, but it was also easy, because I know from my job that you have to trust your publishers and just get on with it. But Iíve been extremely lucky with my publishers, too. Itís been a lot of fun.

Lee : Lizzy is deeply attached to Keeper House and all the memories that go with it. It says a lot about her character in many different ways. And she lives in the city but loves coming home to the country. Do you feel there's a lot of (or any) of your own personality in this character?

Harriet : As above, yes, there is a bit of her in me. Lots, probably. I do become very attached to places, Iím very sentimental about them. So Iím like her in that way. But I would never cook Marmite pasta like she does, which is butter and Marmite (which is an English yeasty salty thing you spread on toast) and pasta.

Lee : What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time aside from reading or writing? Are you always on the go or do you try to take time out to do nothing but chill with family and friends?

Harriet : Iím quite a city girl, so I like meeting up with friends, eating out, talking, putting the world to rights over a glass of wine. Perhaps too much!

Lee : If someone asked you to describe yourself in 5 words, what would they be?

Harriet : Talkative. Loud. Hungover. Tall. Late!

Lee : Going back to the topic of family, are you part of a large one yourself? Do Holidays for you mean large family gatherings with a healthy dose of drama and lots of good food?

Harriet : Iím very close to my mum and dad and my sister, yes. And thereís always lots of food. Less big family gatherings like we used to have but now weíre grown up itís nice to have it smaller, anyway. Not too much drama either. Perhaps not enough...

Lee : Christmas Shopping - do you leave it till the last minute every year or are you more organized than Lizzy? I thought the beginning of the book was great fun when she explains how she feels about shopping at the last minute. I could certainly identify with it.

Harriet : Iím glad to hear itís not just me. I NEVER do my christmas shopping on time, and every year I promise myself itíll be different... god, I must learn the error of my ways.

Lee : What advice would you give aspiring writers today?

Harriet : Well, I would quote Dorothy Parker, which is the kind of thing I always long to do, but in this case itís relevant: ďThe writer's way is rough and lonely; and who would choose it while there are vacancies in more gracious professions, such as, say cleaning ferryboats? ď

Lee : How may fans contact you?

Harriet : They can contact me via my publicist, Lauren Robinson (

Lee : Harriet thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. I've really enjoyed reading GOING HOME and look forward to your next release!

Harriet : Lee, thank you so much. Iím so glad you enjoyed the book, itís a pleasure to answer your questions and I just hope they were what you wanted. Thanks a million. xx