Sunday, July 12, 2009


The heroine of the book I'm writing at the moment first appeared in The Bride's Baby (which you can download free here as Sylvie's punk assistant who had a bit of attitude and a background she didn't talk about.

She immediately appealed to me as a heroine in her own right -- secrets, mystery, attitude, who could resist?

I had a couple of ideas but then the Escape Around the World mini series came up. I'd always wanted to write a story set in Botswana and suddenly everything fell into place with a celebrity wedding going off the rails and Josie -- now a partner in the business -- needing to prove herself to the "Establishment".

I decided to move Josie's story on a few years, basically so that she wouldn't be quite such a challenge to the cover artists. Purple spiked up hair, goth makeup, punk grunge clothes and those Doc Martens...

(You'll have to imagine the sound of teeth being sucked here.)

I had a really lovely time playing with 1940s chic -- and I may yet use all that research -- but while the images piled up, the story stalled.

The clothes got in the way and after weeks of struggling, it suddenly hit me why I was having so much trouble actually writing the story.

This wasn't my Josie.

This woman calling herself Josie Fowler was an elegant (if still different), confident woman who'd found her place in the world and -- after three years as a partner had clearly been accepted by all those people who had raised their eyebrows to the roof when Sylvie rescued her from a hotel scullery and gave her a job.

My Josie still had to make that journey and that was what I should be writing about. Finally, the penny had dropped. I was thinking like the marketing department, trying to make it easy for them instead of standing up for my heroine.

Not my job.

Fiction should challenge not conform. And when I started to think about my Josie, the real Josie, a name emerged from the cluttered attic that is my brain.

Zandra Rhodes.

Punk, successful, outrageous and glamorous and overnight, the Katherine Hepburn look vanished at a click of the mouse.

This is the back of a ZR vintage dress from the 80's -- a partnership gift from Sylvie to her protege.

Josie is back, but, because marketing -- whose job is to make sure that nothing on the cover will scare away readers with images that might challenge their idea of what a heroine should look like -- will turn her into the Stepford Wife on the cover of the book, I wanted you to see her the way I see her.

Well nearly.

She's not as beautiful as the hair model. "Striking" is the word, Gideon McGrath, uses when he first sees her. A total contrast to the celebrity bride and her stunning bridesmaids.

My only problem now, is which of these fabulous Zandra Rhodes bags that I found online would you put with that fabulous dress?

Enquiring minds want to know and while I haven't got a new book out until later in the year, there's a signed copy of a book from my backlist for great "bag" stories.

Leave a comment telling me which one you'd choose, and share your "best bag" story.

I'll pick a winner next weekend.


Manisha Deora said...

Hi Liz
Am lad to be the first person to post here.
I like the smaller bag with leaves on it. Its kind of cute and handy and goes out well with the black dress above.

My bag stories is the one that I posted on eharlequin a few weeks ago.
That's about an old boyfriend who knew that I like bags that while he was window shopping, he saw a small black bag and bought it. He engraved my name and inserted in on the bag and presented it to me.
I truly appreciated the gesture

Kate Hardy said...

Fab post, Liz. And too true - try to make your heroine something she's not, and she'll stop talking to you.

Love the idea of a heroine with 1940s style. I have a ton of stuff from my flaky vintage clothes dealer, so do yell if you need any of it.

I agree with Manisha: the second bag jumped out at me (though I saw the design as feathers rather than leaves).

Bag story: ah, that'd be me and my Radleys. I love the signature 'picture' bags, and I have a very small collection of them. (Five. Well, seven if you count the evening purse and the laptop bag. But it's not as bad as having a Jimmy Choo habit.)

Anyway, I was in John Lewis with husband and kids when daughter bats her big blue eyes at him. 'Can I have a Radley bag, please, Daddy?' Normally he goes to mush and says yes. This time, he said, 'At those prices? You must be joking!' Bottom lip wobbles, then she goes into strop mode. 'It's not fair - Mummy's got FOUR!' Husband swivels round slowly and eyes me. 'I knew about three of them.' Oops. Busted...

(I did eventually buy her a little Radley bag, for her seventh birthday - it's one of the evening purse types and she loves it.)

Jill said...

I confess I actually hate shopping for handbags. I like both the ones there though. I have a small second hand green alligatorish thing which I like b/c it goes with nothing and everything. I need to buy something bigger so I can fit a paperback in it, but I'm resisting.
I know I've said it before on this blog, but I just wanted to say I love unusual heroines.
Nothing ruins a book faster for me than a cookie-cutter heroine. I feel like I need to shout it from rooftops so I can encourage more authors to write quirky interesting ones ;-)

Lacey Devlin said...

I say give her both!

Can you tell I'm a woman of many bags?

It's almost an addiction and I have to put my hand over my eyes when I walk past a store (dangerous I know) so that I don't actually go in because that's when the problems really start. I'm sure they'll find me in a store sniffing bags, clutching them to me and refusing to let them go, when I'm old and grey and a little more batty than I am now :)

Liz Fielding said...

Let the bag ladies unite!

Leaves, feathers ... I thought some kind of plant life.

I love them both, but especially the Art Deco elegance of the second bag and have to admit that I actually went to eBay to see if I could find one of her bags for sale. There weren't. I can't imagine anyone ever parting with one of these or the others I found when I was having fun ... er, researching, Zandra Rhodes.

I do love well made bags (not quite into all these buckles and straps that are so popular these days). I did yearn for the Lulu Guiness bag that Daisy, the heroine of The Best Man & the Bridesmaid owned. But I think I may have hit a strand of yearning that will require serious nourishing.

Liz Fielding said...

What a great boyfriend, Manisha. I do love a man who understands what will make a girl go weak at the knees!

Liz Fielding said...

Sniffing bags, Lacey! Oh, that's really bad! But there is nothing like the smell of a new leather bag. I keep all mine in their little drawstrings bags. Thought I'd be elegant the other day and carry a cream clutch, but it would barely take my purse and phone, let alone all the other essentials so I stayed with the green canvas sack I bought in Italy.

Love Italian markets for bags and tablecloths. :)

Liz Fielding said...

Kate, I'm beginning to live with my heroine now ... thinking about her all the time. It's as if she raised her eyebrows at me and said, "Where the heck have you been?"

Liz Fielding said...

Oh, and the dress is purple. Josie wears black and she wears purple...

robynl said...

I choose the first bag to go along with the dress.

I love bags/purses and at one time had a bag that went with each pair of shoes I owned. Just lately I have bought 3 news purses- a sleek copper colored one with ruffles, a light blue go-with-denim purse with long handles that are twisted like a rope and a little red number.
I have evening bags that I've never used or used just once.
Hubby comes to me one day and hands me a shopping bag and inside was this brown/black leather purse. He saw it and decided I'd love it especially because it was leather and two toned so it could be used with different outfits. I couldn't believe my eyes and that he had done that(quite unusual for him at the time). He is squatting and pointing out the details and the benefits of this purse and what the store clerk had said about it.

Liz Fielding said...

Oh, good grief. A bag for every pair of shoes. I have so many shoes ... most of them black. My favourite are a pair of little flat black suede shoes with a diagonal cross over bar that are so comfortable!

And what a great husband to find a bag that he thought you would really like. Don't you just love them when they do something like that?

Snookie said...

Stay with your gut Liz, I love everything I've ever read of yours!

I like the bag with the purple swirls, but that's cause I like bigger bags...

Don't really have any bag stories except to say I have a lots of big ones that I can shove just about anything into :)

Snookie said...

I probably should have said roomier not bigger on the bag. I too thought the second bag had a feather design, but now that I've gone back to look at it again, I can see plant-like patterns :) I still go with the first roomier bag with the purple swirls!

Michele L. said...

Hello Liz,

Wow! Beautiful dress! The handbags you found are really elegant! I love vintage clothing. My initial reaction is the second bag. I love the design and I think it would be a lovely accessory for the dress.

I remember a long time ago having a evening bag crisis. My fiancee, now my husband, was taking me to T.J. Peppercorns in Chicago for dinner. It is a fancy restaurant. (I don't think it is there anymore.) Anyway, I bought a white floor length gown that went over one shoulder and under the other arm. I couldn't decide what purse to take with me. My mom said that I needed to buy a new one because the ones I had didn't go with the gown. So, I found a really nice one, with silver beads that dangled down from the bag.

Well, of course, I got something out of my bag, and my finger or ring caught one of the strands of beads and it ripped off and went all over the floor! I was pretty much embarassed and people looked at me from the nearby tables wondering what the little plink, plink sound was. I was only 20 at the time and rather shy. I also wore my white rabbit fur coat since it was winter that night. Just my luck, the coat shed and got all over Al's van seat.

We had a great time and this was my first roasted duck meal I ever ate. They are famous for this and it was absolutely delicious!

Liz Fielding said...

Hi Snookie

I tend to go for roomier, too. My everyday bag, a smallish classic Italian black shoulder bag really isn't big enough.

I had a second trawl on the internet looking for bags like these, yesterday -- I love them both. No luck.

Liz Fielding said...

Hi Michelle

Thanks so much for sharing that story. If you ever read one of my books with the hero skidding on beads you'll know where the inspiration came from :)

You clearly had a lovely evening, even if some bits were things that caused your 20 year old self embarrassment. I bet those are the things you talk and laugh about when you're reliving that first date, though.

Anonymous said...

I think the bag with the purple swirls on it would look the best.
My bag story is that I have a twin sister and one Christmas we gave each other the same present-the same bag only in a different color. We had no idea that would happen since she lives in San Diego, CA and I live in Phoenix, AZ Oh well, weird and unexplainable things like that have happended all my life (as a twin).

Caroline said...

Oh both bags are wonderful! Let her have them both. After all a girl can never have enough bags. Besides they are pieces of art in their own way, Zandra Rhodes has designed some lovely clothes and bags over the years. On a similar-sort-of-wave length Vivien Westwood has designed some great "punky" clothes. Your heroine may like to have a look at her stuff! Take care. Caroline

Liz Fielding said...

Joye, that is an amazing story, but clearly demonstrates that twins do have some very powerful bonds. And similar tastes! :)

Liz Fielding said...

Caroline, obviously you're a woman after my own heart. Vivien Westwood is such a great idea. Any excuse to go surfing for great fashion!

mulberry said...

Hmm, what a challenge! Both bags are gorgeous and would look perfect with that stunning dress. I'm very boring matchy matchy so the second bag has more "goes-with" factor for me, because it looks very 1920's to me and so does the dress. That's what I would choose. But I can't help but feel your heroine would go for the purple wave design, 'cos she's probably not the matching-up-everything type.

Handbags- gotta love em. If only because it's the one indulgence that isn't in the least bit fattening, and will still look great even if my weight fluctuates.

Liz Fielding said...

Hi Mulberry

I agree that there's a matching art deco look about the dress and second bag and I think it's probably the one I'd choose. But when I saw the first one, I fell instantly in love with it.

Love your take on bags being the one indulgence that isn't fattening and you can never grow out of. A great one just lasts forever if you take care of it. If you divide the time they last by the cost, well, darn it, they're cheap! (Kate are you taking notes here for your dh?)

Liz Fielding said...

There have been so many great comments here that I'll be giving away more than one book from my backlist. Make sure you come back on Monday!

EllenToo said...

If I had to choose on of the bags I'd choose the one with the feathers on it but I carry a backpack type bag. I like to keep my hands free and make it hard for anybody to grab and run. I don't really have a bag story.

Lesley said...

I have to say I love the bag with the purple swirls. There's something about that one that just jumps out at me when I think if your heroine looking for a bag that both looks good and is slighty more practical for purse and phone and makeup...
I have no specific bag stories, just love 'em! I'm always looking for a new 'bargain' bag. But I always have the problem if I find a gorgeous small bag, I'll purchase it and then realise I can't fit anything in! Then I'll get a larger one and ending putting EVERYTHING in that that might be useful on the off chance sometime in the future. Then I'm stuck with a really heavy bag that I can't fit anything crucial in!

Jacqueline Grimes said...

Hi Liz

I must admit I do like the second smaller bag, it just looks like the right one for that dress.

My bag story is about the time one of my daughters bought me a kipling bag, and not being to offay with names or labels, when anyone commented on my bag and how nice it was, I would smile proudly and say..Thank you, yes it is a Rudyard Kipling wondered why they then looked at me funny.

Susan Rix said...

Ooh, this is a toughie, Liz. I personally prefer the first bag, but I also love the second. it being greedy to ask if Josie could have both? xx

sheandeen said...

The woman you describe as your Josie would carry the first bag. The second bag is a tad bit too restrained and elegant for her.

Your Josie has that wild streak that would pair up a gorgeous vintage dress with the first bag just because she can.

Alas I have no lovely bag stories of my own to share.

But I can't wait to read all about Josie and hers.

Mavis Smyth said...

Hey Lız......I'm ın Turkey at the moment - could defınıtely pıck a bag up here for your heroıne.....but I'll choose the one wıth the swırl desıgn - personally I would be tempted to buy her a bıgger bag - but I guess ıf she's goıng out (wıth her hero) - she'll use the swırl bag!!!!


Lois said...

Well, first of all, I'm a boring person, so I have no bag stories. LOL I have basically four bags to my name, and I use the same one over and over again. Although, I guess I have a mini-story, and it's a nerd story. The one I use over and over again, I got when we checked out this outlet mall in Princeton a few years back. And while we were there waiting for the stores to open, I was just looking around, thinking, wow, Einstein-country. Maybe he walked where we were at that moment. Then, of course, later we drove by his house. (Hey, I said it was a nerdy/geeky story! LOL)

My choice is the first one with the swirls. I think I prefer it because the other one has the feathers or whatnot, but the eye (well, my eye, anyway LOL) keeps noticing that one, seeing it way more than the other. :)


Susan Shay said...

It depends on the size of the bags. I love the one with purple in it, but if it's very large it'll overpower the dress. Your dress is the "star", the purse is just the shine. LOL
Purse story: when my mom died (suddenly) in 1991, she had an expensive purse that all my sisters and my sil REALLY wanted. (They lived in town w/Mom, I lived an hour and a half away.) I had no idea they were "discussing" who would take it, and I needed a black purse to take with me to market, so I waltzed into the house, scooped the purse and left before any of them realized it was gone. Thankfully, I was in the next state when they found out what I'd done. LOL!
BTW: I still have the bag.
Susan Shay

Liz Fielding said...

Susan, I love that "the bag is just the shine"! Totally agree. Both bags are just clutches -- the purple one may even be smaller than the other, difficult to tell without anything to measure it by.

And LOL on your waltzing off with the prized bag. Did they ever forgive you? :)

Liz Fielding said...

Lois, but that's amazing. Walking in the footsteps of the great man! Wow.

Liz Fielding said...

Hi Mavis

Do they do cheap knock off bags in Turkey the way they do in Italy? I love market shopping for bags for the dd when I'm visiting friends south of Rome. :)

Liz Fielding said...

I think you're right, Sheandean. And it goes with her hair, too!

Sue, I think she should have both. Maybe her partner Sylvie would have bought the second one to go with the dress. Such a lady, Sylvie (except when you put her close to Tom McLean!)

JV said...

I love bag #1! Too cute!

My own bag story is more like a bag history. I've always carried a large purse. DH always quips that I carry everything I own around with me, kind of like a turtle. I was still doing this when DD was born, and in addition, I was carryig DD and a diaper bag as well. Before long, I started feeling a kind of burning and numb sensation below my shoulder blade corresponding to the shoulder on which I carried my purse.

I may be stubborn and a creature of habit, but I'm not a complete idiot. While DD was small and while I was still hauling around either a diaper bag or a ton of toys and strollers and accessories for her (read: for years), I pared things back and carried much smaller purses or sometimes just fanny packs.

As soon as she became more self-contained, however, I gradually started adding more to my purse again until it got so heavy that grown men, when asked to hand it to me, would groan and ask me if I were carrying the kitchen sink in it. Just can't help myself.

So, one year a dear friend got my an ergonomic purse for Christmas that distributes the weight better. (See how well she knows me? She didn't try to convert me back to a smaller purse!) I was surprised how much better this "sling" style purse felt to carry. So, though it isn't as beautiful as some of the bags I have on my closet shelf now, the ergonomic bag is my bag of choice. (I guess as we age, we get a bit more practical.)

JV said...

I should have also said that my ergonomic bag has lots of compartments for the sake of organization, and I love a bag with compartments!

I also love the idea of a quirky heroine!

Jessiecue said...

I absolutely love the the bag with the purple swirls but I happen to think the one with the leaves would go better with the dress.

I would have to say that my favorite bag story is that my cousin Tracy and I have the absolute same taste in bags. So we have decided to take turns buying bags now and just swapping them out. They way we can afford more. It works out great.

elove said...

Hi Liz - great post. Love peeking inside author's heads!

I just adore the second bag, the one with the leaves. It's very cute.

I have small children, so have been carrying around a huge bag that would hold nappies (diapers, where you're from!), bottle, change of clothes etc, etc, so on and so on. Every mother knows what I mean. My wallet was squeezed into the last available corner.

Recently, I started to work again, and have been delighted to leave the nappy bag with my mother for a day a week, and kick up my heels!

I have discovered a new and rather rabid obsession with clutch purses, like yours here, and particularly ones with the clip clasp, you know, the one that you twist? *ADORE*

So now (and this has been only over the last few moths - egad!), I have a gorgeous assortment of little clutches I can toss my small wallet into, plus my phone, lippie, and gum and go! Day and night. My latest one is tres cute and bright red.

The problem is, I have all of these new, bright clutches. I need scarves to match... Uh oh.

Teehee. Thanks, Liz!

Liz Fielding said...

JV, I'm try to keep my purse light, but what with the phone, all those special points cards from the stores in my wallet (I actually take all those out when I'm going on holiday!), the diary, the notebook and the essential camera for those things that spark ideas, little clutches just don't work for me.

I've seen the ergonomic bags, though and I think next time I'm travelling I'm going to have me one of those.

Liz Fielding said...

Jessiecue, that is the best idea! It has just about everything. Blue sky thinking? Smart and you get double the bags!