Fifty years after winning 25p in a poetry competition at
primary school, Rawcliffe writer Liz Gilbey has just had her
first novel published - a story which first had great
success as a magazine serial.
The Water Is Wide (Robert Hale hb £18.99) is a family story
which combines pop music and painting, West End musicals and
the waterways, and is about a wide range of people pursuing
their hopes and ambitions.
But Liz did not start her professional writing career as an
author - back home in Leicestershire she spent over 30 years
as a newspaper journalist, specialising in a range of
features from women's page to horse sport, and more than 15
years as a showbiz editor and drama critic working across
the country as a freelance for regional newspapers and the
theatre press - she even spent time as a professional judge
for national theatre awards.
So she drew on all this experience for the novel.
"Writers are always advised to write what they know, so I
made use of my theatre background - and growing up close to
the lovely little Ashby Canal, which appears in the book as
Bleakhall Canal," she explained.
"Writing the magazine serial was great fun, and it seemed to
strike a chord in the hearts of so many readers, it was
natural to give the story another life as a proper novel -
and fortunately Hales agreed with me! In fact on the very
day I signed my publishing contract I received an email
query all the way from New Zealand from a reader wanting to
know if her favourite story was going to be a book; so I've
considered that a lucky omen!"
Moving into fiction after a long working career in
journalism was the idea of her great friend Peter O'Donnell,
creator of action heroine Modesty Blaise, as well as lso
being prize winning romantic novelist 'Madeleine Brent.'
"Peter always used to say I had the knack for writing
fiction. He had been a hero of mine from teenage, and in the
last few years became a great friend and mentor.
"He always encouraged me to write stories, and when my short
stories, series and serials became successful I always told
him that if one of them ever became a novel, I would
dedicate it to him. So that is what has happened with The
Water Is Wide. Unfortunately Peter died, aged 90, on Spring
Bank Holiday Monday, two days before I was able to present
him with his own copy of the book and he could see that
dedication to him in the front.
"He was like an honorary dad to me, and I will always miss
him - but I'd like to think I can provide just a fraction of
the pleasure for readers Peter did."
Now living in Yorkshire - "my daughter had the good sense to
marry a Yorkshireman" - Liz keeps writing. Projects in hand
include two serials being written now (which should also
become novels in the course of time) many short
stories, with the next thing to be published a short story
series about the life of a city cinema, called At The
Trocadero, to appear in The People's Friend magazine from
August 21. Like the original Showaddywaddy hit song of the
Seventies with which it shares a title, it was also inspired
by childhood memories of Leicester cinema the Trocadero,
which burnt down in the Sixties - the site is now a petrol
station, but the name remains.
And several other of her most popular short stories also
appear on friend Hull Sue Binns' East Riding and animal
charity magazine website
One of Liz's great interests in dog rescue, for not only
does she help and dog walk at Jerry Green Dog Rescue's
sanctuary in Gilberdyke, she also has two Jerry Green
rescued dogs herself, Shetland sheepdogs Jack and Rex.
"Rex always likes to sit on my feet when I am writing at the
keyboard. And dog walking is a great activity to be doing
when plotting stories. Jerry Green rescues and rehomes so
many dogs with sad stories, they always need as much support
as anyone can give. There is too much animal neglect and
cruelty about, especially these days. Dogs really are man's
best friend, even if many people don't deserve their
devotion or are responsible enough animal owners in
There is also another local connection she never expected to
"I have been a member of the Dorothy L Sayers Society for
over twenty years, and it is a little known fact that
Dorothy - famous as creator of Golden Age detective Lord
Peter Wimsey - started her working career as a teacher in
Hull. I never expected when I joined the Society to ever be
living within shopping distance of Hull! By a strange
coincidence she lived in the very same street (though not at
the same time, sadly) as the actor who was to
famously portray her character on TV and radio, Ian
Carmichael - she lodged in Westbourne Avenue."
"Very little is known about Dorothy's time in Hull, as she
hated being a school teacher, and soon moved into the
publishing and advertising industries, working on the famous
Colman's Mustard Club adverts and the Guinness Is Good For
You toucan campaign before establishing herself as a writer
by creating the world famous Lord Peter Wimsey."
"I have long been interested in the Golden Age of detective
fiction, and write regularly for CADS (Crime And Dective
Story magazine) - it's an ambition to have a thriller I have
written published, too. But one book at a time!"