Author Interview: Liza Nash Taylor



JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

LNT- Hi Jeanie! Thanks for having me to The Books Delight. I live in an old farmhouse in  rural Keswick, Virginia, which is about 20 miles east of Charlottesville. The 1830s house and the town of Keswick are settings in both of my historical novels.

Fun is relative in these days of 2020, isn’t it? These days I go for long walks in the countryside and look for hawks. I also knit toy animals, then I knit clothes for them. Also, I knit lace scarves with beads, the more complicated the pattern the better. I also love gardening and playing Elmer Fudd, trying to keep away the rabbits and deer (But I don’t carry a rifle...). Pre-Covid, serious fun was traveling and shopping-while-traveling, preferably somewhere in Europe or the UK.

A perfect day- waking up on the first morning of a month-long stay in an apartment in Paris. Coffee on the balcony, followed by an omelet at Ladurée on the Rue Royale. Then a day of walking through Paris, with a visit to one of my favorite museums (I used the Musée Nissim de Camondo as a setting on ETIQUETTE FOR RUNAWAYS) with lunch on the Left Bank at Café de Flore and then some shopping on Boulevard St. Germain followed by a walk home through the Tuileries. Champagne on the terrace at cocktail time, then dinner at a café or bistro, ending with a decadent pistachio soufflé with dark chocolate sauce. And my perfect day would end with reading a really good book in bed until I fall asleep.

JMR-What is your favorite time period? Why? Have you traveled to sites that evoke the period, make you feel closer to it?

LNT- Growing up, when I went through my period of longing to be an Abandoned English Orphan like Sara Crewe from A Little Princess or Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden (both by Frances Hodgson Burnett) I wanted to live in a garret in Victorian England. I still love England and Scotland and feel immediately at home there. I was really fortunate to have a fellowship in 2018 that allowed me to spend an entire month at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland with four other writers.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical female? Why? If you could ask her one question, what would it be?

LNT- I was interested in Josephine Baker before I started writing ETIQUETTE FOR RUNAWAYS and once I started reading about her I became fascinated. Originally, my character Janie was going to be Josephine, so I read three or four biographies. After she debuted in Paris Josephine stayed, because she didn’t experience the racism she encountered in the U.S. She became a French citizen and bought a chateau. There, she raised twelve adopted children of all ethnicities. She called them her “rainbow tribe.” She worked for the French resistance in WWII. If I had a chance to speak to her, I might ask how she maintained her drive and determination.

JMR-You have a very interesting story about how you came to be a writer, can you share it with our readers?

LNT- Well, I got a late start, to say the least. By the time my youngest went to high school I had stopped working full time. I decided to go back to school and study literature, for fun. That turned into pursuing a degree in English. Since I had decided that I would only take classes that I found interesting, in my third semester, in 2013, I decided against a course in Literature of the Restoration, because it sounded horribly dull. The only other option that fulfilled my requirement was called The Writing of Fiction. We had to start a novel. Two weeks into the class I was walking and scrolling my feed for class notes when I tripped off the asphalt and broke my right ankle. (When your mother tells you not to text and walk, listen.) I was stuck at home for eight weeks during which I began ETIQUETTE FOR RUNAWAYS and that was it, I was hooked.

That being said, It didn’t take me long to realize that being a good writer is not related to being a good reader. So I figured I’d better catch up fast. I applied for low-residency MFA programs in writing, and I finished the program at Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2018, when I was 58.

JMR-Tell us about your new book, Etiquette for Runaways.

LNT- Following her expulsion from Mary Baldwin College, nineteen-year-old May Marshall is determined to spend the dogs days of the summer of 1924 in self-imposed exile at the family farm in Keswick, Virginia. What she doesn’t know, when she arrives home, heartbroken and ashamed, is that while she’s been gone her father, Henry, has turned the family orchard business and market into a lucrative moonshining operation.

   With nothing to lose, May joins the effort, hoping to save enough money to leave and start over, though she has no plans. Following a tangle with a corrupt local sheriff, her father will be arrested and May will go on the run.

            May arrives in Prohibition-era New York, determined to reinvent herself and succeed on her own terms. From a start at a rooming house and a job in the laundry of the New York Biltmore Hotel she finds her way in the city, training to design theater costumes, as her mother did, and tasting the nightlife of speakeasies and nightclubs. The lines between right and wrong begin to blur. An opportunity comes her way, to go to Paris as costumer for a new theater troupe, and May jumps at the chance.

            In Paris, May’s run of luck comes to a screeching halt, while her friends find success. She’s forced to face the truth about a family secret, and about herself. A friend pulls her back from the brink of addiction, and she has to reconcile her choices and attempt to make amends.

JMR- What or who was your inspiration for main character, May Marshall?

LNT- In the dirt around our property I often find interesting old bottles, ironwork, and bits of pottery. While gardening around the building that is Delphina’s cottage in the story I found a broken piece of a porcelain doll’s face. I wondered whose doll it had been, and what that little girl’s life had been like here, a hundred or more years ago. Being the sort of person who likes to look for signs, I used that shard as a starting point, and it seemed a natural progression to begin this story here, at Keswick Farm. Another influence was a novel written in 1722. Just a few days before I walked off the asphalt I had finished reading Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders. What I liked most about Moll was that she survived by her wits and she made a lot of mistakes. Defoe’s Moll was an early badass, and, aside from the bit where she marries her brother, her character inspired me in imagining May Marshall.

JMR- May plays a part in your second novel, In all Good Faith, coming out next year. Tell us about it.

LNT- My second novel comes out August 10, 2021, also from Blackstone Publishing. This novel is what’s called in the publishing industry a stand-alone sequel, which means that you could read it without having read my first book and it should make sense. May is a central character once again and some of the characters from ETIQUETTE FOR RUNAWAYS make another appearance. As before, the novel is partially set in Virginia, at my home, Keswick Farm.

I knew I wanted to continue May’s story, so I began there, six years later, at the bottom of The Great Depression. I kept running into research I found fascinating, yet didn’t fit with May’s storyline. I began to have these flashes of another character, and she wanted to be in the story too. I know that sounds “woo-woo” and when I’ve heard other authors talk about this happening—a character popping into their heads, fully-formed—I’d be like, “yeah, whatever,” and roll my eyes. But it does happen. This girl would not go away. So I gave her a name, which is a mashup of two of Charles Dickens’ characters, Amy Dorrit from Little Dorrit and Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist. Once I named Dorrit Sykes, her character began to bloom and her story fit neatly into all of that research I couldn’t find a place for. So there are two point-of-view characters, May and Dorrit, and the plot is a dual narrative, telling parallel stories of questioning faith in times of adversity and two women’s resourcefulness and unlikely success during the Great Depression.

JMR-Your home, Keswick Farm is also in your books, what role does it play?

LNT- The house, to me, is almost a character in both novels. In ETIQUETTE FOR RUNAWAYS it represents everything that May wants to escape from and rise above. It’s the source of her pain and shame. In IN ALL GOOD FAITH the house the center of the family, and it represents loyalty and pride and survival.

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

LNT: I love my Instagram and one of my hobbies is planning my feed. @lizanashtaylor

My author Facebook page is Liza Nash Taylor.

And my website is

JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

LNT-What else are you working on?

And my answer would be this: I’m about 100 pages in on a third historical novel set in the early 1950s in Virginia and Paris. Also, I’m working on a children’s picture/early reader book featuring some of my knitted creatures.

Thank you for having me, Jeanie!

JMR- You're very Welcome, Liza. Thank you for stopping by. Your books sound wonderful. Readers, I know you'll want to check out Liza's books, so I've included a link. 


Popular Posts