Romantic Novelists' Association

Dark Highland Skies By Lizzie Lamb

15 November 2023

Today, we speak with author Lizzie Lamb, who has also just won Indie Champion of the Year at the RNA Industry Awards.

Cover of Dark Highland Skies by Lizzie LambWhat was the inspiration behind your book? What prompted you to tell this story? I’ve always been interested in astrology and treasure the Observer Book of Astronomy which I was presented with for good exam results in (ahem) 1964. I would have loved my own telescope, but funds wouldn’t run to that, so I had an old pair of binoculars through which I observed the stars. To me, it was a no brainer to feature an astrophysicist as the heroine. I like my heroines to be educated and capable of making their own way in the world. However, for the purposes of the story I gave her a secret, one which she’d kept for over twenty years, and which has blighted her happiness.

Secondly, as a bit of a peacenik I’ve always considered that society ignores the needs of soldiers and doesn’t give them the support they need when they leave the army. This prompted me to include an Afghan veteran suffering from PTSD in my novel. Like the heroine, he must come to terms with past trauma. As one reviewer put it: Dark Highland Skies is a slow burning love story between two people with painful pasts who just might be each other’s salvation.

How did you decide on the names for your characters and the setting for your book? I’ve visited Scotland many times and one of my favourite spots is the Morar in Lochaber. There is little light pollution there and it was easy to imagine my heroine staying in a bothy on the silver sands and observing the stars. She was born in 1986, the last time Halley’s Comet was last seen; so, I called her Halley. The hero is the son of the local laird and comes from a military family. He had to have a more traditional name, so I called him Hector (from a line in the marching tune The British Grenadiers). He’s known as Tor, for short. Readers have declared him one of my finest heroes.

How long did the book take to write? How much re-writing do you normally do? As an indie author I dictate the pace of my writing. I had a full time, demanding career (teaching) back in the day but now I work at a pace which suits my  lifestyle. It takes me about eighteen months from initial planning on paper to publishing the novel on Amazon. I edit as I go along, starting each morning reading what I’ve written the day before, editing it and then pushing on. That means when the novel’s finished there is generally little to change.

What is your writing day like? I’m an early riser so I’m usually at the pc (or planning sheet) by eight o’clock. I write for about a couple of hours, let it stew, go away and do something else and then return to refine/edit/change etc over the course of the day. Then I move on with the next chapter or carrying out further research. Some days I don’t write at all.

Without giving too much away, what was the hardest part of the book to write? I don’t find writing hard; my mind is teeming with ideas. Too many, sometimes! However, what I do struggle with is proofreading. I simply can’t see my mistakes and, as an indie author, I must get it as good as I can before handing over to a proofreader to carry out the final edits. This can be very expensive process.

What kind of research did you do before beginning the book? I researched the role of modern day female astrophysicists and discovered that many have been overlooked and their discoveries claimed by their male counterparts. Halley’s mother, also an astrophysicist, has suffered from sexism and been overlooked in favour of her male colleagues. She has encouraged Halley to be no man’s fool. I also read up on British military history and recent campaigns, especially the Afghan wars and the effect of PTSD has on returning soldiers. I found war photographer Don McCullin’s autobiography Unreasonable Behaviour provided a harrowing, but invaluable insight into the long-term trauma soldiers suffer.

Where did your research for the book take you? I spend most of the summer touring Scotland in our caravan; writing, making notes, and taking photos to use when I return home to start plotting my next novel. I draw inspiration from the places I visit, especially Wester Ross. For Dark Highland Skies My research also took me to the Tate in London and an exhibition of Don McCullin’s iconic war photographs. The hushed tones of the visitors as they looked round the harrowing black and white images summed it up for me and fed what I was going to write.


About the Author

Author Lizzie Lamba, white curly hair, dark flowered top, pictured in a conservatoryHi, I’m Lizzie and I like writing about the ‘moment’ when the hero and the heroine fall in love. That, and trying to track down the all-elusive hero-in-a-kilt, is what gets me in front of the computer each morning. Since 2012 I’ve published seven novels: Tall, Dark and Kilted, Boot Camp Bride, Scotch on the Rocks, Girl in the Castle, Take Me, I’m Yours Harper’s Highland Fling and  latest novel, Dark Highland Skies.  I’ve loved writing it. I organise the Leicester Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and present workshops on indie publishing to new writers. My feel good/uplit novels would be very happy to sit alongside Jilly Cooper, Jenny Colgan, Jill Mansell and Carole Matthews on your bookshelf.

I love writing because it’s given me the chance to celebrate everything I love about my homeland – Scotland, and to share those feelings with my readers. When I’m not writing, I spend summer with my husband touring Scotland in our caravan researching my next novel and avoiding the midges.

Slainte Mhath.

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