Barbara Copperthwaite



April 2018

Books That Changed My Life: Lizzie Page @lizziepagewrite @bookouture

Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, saga author Lizzie Page shares with me the books that have changed her life…

About Lizzie

Saga author Lizzie Page
Saga author Lizzie Page

I’ve always loved reading the adventures of women in the past so it seemed natural to me to write historical fiction. The War Nurses is the first in a trilogy inspired by some of the incredible women who served on the Western Front. I like to think its a ‘fierce-friendship-story’. I hope the series helps shine a light on the achievements and relationships of women in war, and that you find all the books entertaining and moving.


518A3SugsoLI grew up in the seventies. I was a working-class girl and my parents weren’t great readers. But the one thing many of us kids in the seventies read, was Enid Blyton. Every few weeks, I’d go up to WHSmith’s at the top of Southend high street and get my Enid Blyton books. Whereas my friends liked ‘Secret Seven’ and ‘Famous Five’, I preferred the lesser known ‘Five Finder outers’. This series about a group of rural posh kids who, when they weren’t discovering gypsy criminals with flashing black eyes were snaffling all the jam tarts, really spoke to the suburban seven-year-old me.

At that time, all the women I knew were called Pat, Linda, Susan or Maureen. I didn’t know a single Enid. And the title font on the cover of all her books was kind of curly, even obscure. Without fail, I asked the shop assistant for the latest Gnid Blyton books.

She never corrected me.


One-time Dad went away. I have no idea where he went. He was a market trader and his job should not have involved long periods of overnight travel. When he came back he gave me a present: It was a copy of ‘Peppermint Pig’ by Nina Bawden. The amazing thing was, it was signed to me! This was brilliant.

For the first time, I realised that there was, kind of, a human inside all books. And from that, came a tiny spark in my head, that one day, I could be that human too.

I still don’t know where Dad had gone or how he got it, but it was a lovely book!


Back then there was no Young Adult sections in the library or shops, so straight after you’d read the wonderful ‘When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit’ by Judith Kerr or the beautiful ‘Ballet Shoes’ by Noel Streatfield, you graduated onto Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’ and then did not pass go until you read ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by Virginia Andrews.

What a series! There were Flowers in the Attic, Petals in the Wind, Seeds of Yesterday, Incestual goings on in the Loft…etc etc. For the twelve-year olds at my all girl grammar school these best-selling books were the perfect accompaniment to Duran Duran and the perfect lead-in to ‘Lace’ by Shirley Conran and Jackie Collins Hollywood series.

Through these books, I learnt everything I didn’t really want to know.


At sixteen, I went to a sixth form college, and had an inspirational English teacher which was a revelation to me: And there were boys at College too which was great. (“Hello, Ralph!”). I studied Wuthering Heights for A-Level English and I adored every convoluted word of it. ‘Heathcliff, you are more myself than I am,’ I told my first boyfriend, Kevin, much to his bewilderment.

Wuthering Heights told me a lot about passion: (not the Shirley Conran goldfish kind of passion) the esoteric love that involved bashing your head against a tree. I was never that keen on the moors though. I like being indoors far too much. I also realised that Kate Bush was terrifically clever, and I liked her even more than I already did. (which was a lot).


I did a Politics degree at University and while I should have been immersed in Hobbes, Locke and JS Mill, two fiction books affected me far more than they ever did: ‘Brother of the more famous Jack’ by Barbara Trapido opened me up to a new landscape of scatty North London, lefty intellectuals. I was completely hooked by this world and immensely jealous. It was a far-cry from Southend.


The other book was ‘Hotel New Hampshire’ by John Irving. There was a bit in this book that said: “keep passing the open windows,” which boils down to ‘keep on, keeping on,’ or more simply, ‘don’t kill yourself’. What great advice! From that book onwards, I have always loved Irving’s accessible writing style, his characters, his plots and his humanity. He hits ALL the notes just right.


I graduated into a recession and some of my twenties and thirties were, as they are for a lot of people, grim times. When life turned out to offer less possibilities than I thought it would, it was the classics for me: ‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset Maugham, and ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert both helped me understand the human condition, (sometimes life sucks).

But it was a very modern book that really changed me. ‘The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing’ by Melissa Banks was about love, work, family, romance and failure. Like me, the narrator was a young(ish) woman yearning for something she couldn’t find. Unlike me, she lived in New York. (I had always felt I should live in New York. If only my grandparents had kept straight on at Southampton, I would have been just like Melissa Banks). I revelled in her word play and sense of fun. It’s a cool book.


Susan Cain’s non-fiction text ‘Quiet’ has had a big impact on my understanding of myself. Although I initially read this because I was worried about my shy son, I soon realised every word in it applied equally to me. It’s a discussion of being an introvert and explores how society is geared towards extroverts. I now use being an introvert as an excuse to avoid doing things I don’t want to do. It’s bloody brilliant.


A few years ago, my husband and I were in New York. (I got there afterall!) We were browsing the second-hand book-shops of Greenwich Village, like the bohemians we were not, when by chance I picked out a book that I had never heard before. I picked it because it had the most beautiful cover. I read it non-stop on the flight home.

‘The Paris Wife’ by Paula Mclain is a fictionalised account of a real person – Hadley, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. It’s about fascinating people in a fascinating time. I think it’s also about those times when love is not enough. (Beware: it’s quite heart-breaking.)

I completely fell in love with this book. Written in memoir style, it completely brought the past to life for me. It opened me up to the power of historical fiction and it was a major reason that I started to write my own stories about incredible, inspirational, real-life women.


Parenting is hard for the introvert 😊 but one of my favourite times of the day is the bed-time story. Gnid Blyton wasn’t a great hit with my kids but ‘Pippi Longstocking’ by Astrid Lungren, ‘Claude’ by Alex T. Smith and ‘The Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio all were.

The books, I think, that have given us the most pleasure is the ‘Harry Potter’ series. I know it’s a cliché, but there is so much to love in these books: the good versus evil, the strong characters especially Hermione, the politics, the humour etc. etc.

For me, one of the things I love most about Harry Potter is the way JK Rowling deals with grief: My mother died many years ago and my father more recently, and the way the books explore that painful yearning to see those we have lost is exquisite. Only people who’ve been around death can see Thestrals – this poetically conveys the isolation we may have after a bereavement but also the potential for growth.

JK Rowling – or as I like to call her – GK Rowling – has given me and my family so much.

*** Thank you so much, Lizzie! I was a huge Five Find Outers fan, too. I used to save up my pennies (literally. The assistants at WHSmith must have dreaded me coming in, as I always paid in 1p and 2p pieces) and devour each book in the series. As for Kate Bush and Wuthering Heights – yes! It’s been fascinating to discover which books have changed your life and why. ***

Lizzie’s book, The War Nurses, is out today, 17 April!


1914 – Two young nurses pledge to help the war effort: Mairi, a wholesome idealist hoping to leave behind her past and Elsie, a glamorous single mother with a weakness for handsome soldiers. Despite their differences, the pair become firm friends.

At the emergency medical shelter where they’re based, Elsie and Mairi work around the clock to treat wounded soldiers. It’s heart-breaking work and they are at constant risk from shelling, fire and disease. But there are also happier times… parties, trips and letters. And maybe even the possibility of love with an attractive officer in their care…

But as the war continues and the stress of duty threatens to pull the two women apart, will Elsie and Mairi’s special nurses’ bond be strong enough to see them through?

A powerfully moving wartime saga – you won’t want to put it down!



‘Perfect’ #BookReview THREE THINGS ABOUT ELSIE @JoannaCannon @BoroughPress via @bcopperthwait

‘Transports you inside the characters, making you feel exactly what they are feeling’ 


There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?


Joanna Cannon is such a unique author. I was a huge fan of The Trouble With Goats And Sheep, her debut, which was told largely from the point of view of children. This time, the author spins her magic around a senior citizen.

On the surface of it, this book may seem almost like a cosy crime, but it is so much more than that. In its own humorous and touching way it is a study of humanity.

The author’s eloquence is unusual, original, and so perfect for the moment she is attempting to capture. She transports – and by that I don’t simply mean the feeling that you are… TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

Flowers For The Dead and a Guinness World Record – strange but true! #writerslife

I feel as though part of my book has come to life and stepped from the page

Recently, a Guinness World Record holder got in touch with me about Flowers For The Dead. Why? Well, believe it or not, there’s a link between the two that may surprise you…

When I was creating the character of Adam, from Flowers For The Dead, I knew he had to be a complex person – how else would I stand a chance of making people understand why he did the terrible things he did? After all, there aren’t many serial killers you can empathise with. His journey from innocent child to a stalker who kills the women he loves is the backbone of the book, but in addition to his history, I also gave him a number of hobbies to illustrate not only his intelligence but also that constant, driven insecurity has given him, courtesy of his parents’ judgements.

He forced himself to stay in control with his exercises, with his hobbies, even with his matching clothes and neat and tidy bedroom. They helped him keep a lid on his anger so that he could think clearly. That meticulous mind, so good at seeing how to fix problems with clocks and computers, so patient at sowing seeds in his garden then waiting for them to grow, oh, so slowly, was working on the problem of his mother all the time now.

I imagined him working out on his own all the time, always pushing himself to the limit after being laughed at by his father for being weak – and I decided burpees would be one of his favourite exercises. They’re hard work, as you go from standing, down into a push up, jump your feet back below your shoulders, and stand again. Out of curiosity, I wondered how many it was possible to do, and looked up the World Record.

The amount was staggering – 10,105 burpees in 24 hours! The man who had done it was an American called Cameron Dorn, who had found a very different inspiration from Adam – he wanted to raise funds for disadvantaged children. What a stunning achievement (particularly as I’d be hard pushed to manage one!). I was so impressed that I just HAD to mention it in Flowers For The Dead.

The push-up burpees are Adam’s favourite, as even when he is away from home they are easy to fit into his routine and keep him strong. Last year, whilst bored because he had no one to love, he had read about a burpee world record set by a man named Cameron Dorn, who had performed ten thousand one hundred and five burpees in twenty-four hours. Out of curiosity, Adam had broken it, achieving ten more. He had not bothered telling anyone, of course, it had been enough for him to know that he had the mental and physical strength to do it. His father would have been so proud.

Recently, a friend of Cameron’s read Flowers For The Dead and was amazed to see him mentioned. Cameron got in touch to let me know how cool he thought it was – and also that he’d raised over £17,000 for those children. Incredible! He now has a signed copy of Flowers For The Dead on his book shelf. As for me, I feel as though part of my book has come to life and stepped from the page – it was an amazing and rather surreal feeling to chat with Cameron.

If you’d like to know more about Cameron and his amazing achievement, click here.

Books endings, and new beginnings #amwriting #amediting #writerslife #rescuedogs

I’ve finished my new book! Yippee!
A belated Happy Easter to you all! What have you been up to? I hope you had a wonderful time, relaxing with loved ones and perhaps finding time to read a good book or two?
Apologies for the lateness, but once you hear why, I’m sure you’ll understand… I’ve finished my new book! Yippee!
I’ve sent it to my editor and am now waiting nervously to hear back from her. This is always the worst part of the writing process, because there is always The Fear squatting in the back of my mind that she’ll hate it (hence my new, oft repeated mantra ‘please like it, please like it!’). Argh! So please keep everything crossed for me that it will be good news, and she’ll reply back with only minimal changes. This, of course, is where a good editor is vital and can make all the difference to a book – and I’m so lucky that my editor and I have such a brilliant relationship. I trust her totally, and her suggestions always push my work that little bit further, improving all the way.
While I’m waiting to hear back, I’ve enjoyed a couple of days off getting to know my new dog, Buddy. He was rescued from a kill station in Gran Canaria by a fabulous Facebook group called Foreign Furries, which I’d really recommend to anyone. Despite being a stray before, he’s settling into his new home really well and, although he and Scamp mainly ignore each other, there are some wonderful moments of play, too. It’s hard to believe he’s only been with us for a week!
While all of us were out for a walk over Easter, an idea popped into my head. One that is refusing to budge…I’ve made some notes…I’ve got an idea for the opening chapter, which I’ve had to write down before I forget it…I’ve started writing again. What’s that saying about there being no rest for the wicked?!

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