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Guest Author

Author:Interview with Leigh Verrill-Rhys

Author of Wait a Lonely Lifetime

1. Wait a Lonely Lifetime is a memorable title. Was there a particular inspiration for it?

Wait a Lonely Lifetime does have a particular inspiration. On the way to work, I used to have to walk about ½ a mile to meet my rideshare co-worker. One day, I started humming a tune and singing some of the words. I only knew the words for the chorus but eventually, I worked through the whole song and realized I was singing I Will by Paul McCartney. Part of the chorus was the line “Will I wait a lonely lifetime? If you ask me to I will.” A similar line is used in a song by Steven Bishop, Looking for the Right One, “But my heart says don't say no. Somewhere in this lonely city is the woman for me. But will I wait another lifetime to keep on Looking for the right one.”

The Steven Bishop song was playing on the Juke Box when I was on a date with my husband and has always meant a lot to me, but I took the line from McCartney’s I Will as the title for my debut novel. I cleared this with my publisher to be sure I could use it without breaching any copyrights. A title can’t be copyrighted, but song lyrics can. As long as you don’t use more than two lines, you’re within the law.

2. The settings in your story, both San Francisco and Florence resonate with the reader creating a wonderful sense of place. What is your personal connection with these settings?

I spent most of my childhood and early adulthood in San Francisco. Setting Wait a Lonely Lifetime in my home was a natural choice, even though I hadn’t lived there for a long time. Florence (Firenze) was  pure coincidence and a gift. My sisters and I decided to join up for a tour of Italy in 2008. We took a poll between us of the cities we wanted to visit. Florence was my choice – a co-worker had just returned from the city and raved so, I wanted to see for myself. From the moment of arrival at the Piazza della Stazione, I was in love. I took notes about everything I saw and a lot of those are included in the novel – unusual things and ordinary things that tourists don’t often notice. I knew from the beginning of my stay in Firenze I was going to write about this city. I still have my map and am always plaguing my husband about living there.

3. You chose to dedicate the book to your father, Captain Thomas Anthony Verrill, Sr. US Army. Did his life experiences give you insight for your characterization of Eric D.D. Wasserman?

I dedicated the book to my father because I have always been proud of him, and he was always proud of his military service. While in Italy, we often saw American military personnel at the hotels, on leave, and it was one of these soldiers who inspired my character, Eric D. D. Wasserman. However, Double D is a composite of a lot of men I have admired in life, one of whom was my father, others were my brothers-in-law who also served in the military. I’m partial to the Army because of my father and one of my sisters, but one of my brothers-in-law was in the Air Force.  He married my sister who was in the Army – and there is another romantic story  I want to tell!

4. Tell us a little bit about the process of getting your book published. Was it a long journey?

Long Journey? No! It was probably one of the shortest journeys any writer in my acquaintance has ever taken. I began writing the story, which actually evolved from a short story I had written years before but never finished, a few months after returning from my trip to Italy.

I write in longhand using a fountain pen and had filled two notebooks before I started to transcribe the novel on my laptop. I had had some positive feedback from an agent in London for another novel and was preparing the typescript for her when I decided to join Romance Writers of America – the RWA was a lot more welcoming than its English equivalent, Romance Novelists Association.  I had entered my first completed novel in the RWA’s Golden Heart contest and decided to attend the 2010 conference which coincided with my husband’s lecture tour in Pennsylvania. I had already received my PRO status and researched the editors and agents.

I pitched Wait a Lonely Lifetime and two other novels to Lia Brown of Avalon Books. She asked to see the first three chapters of Wait. At that time, the book was in final draft without an ending. I polished them to gleaming and sent them to her in August of that year. While I was waiting, I polished the rest and wrote the final chapter, just in case. Good thing!

Lia asked to see the full novel a few weeks later, and I promised it to her by October. Before the end of December, I received the email saying that Avalon wanted to acquire the book. Under full command of my emotions, I went to the kitchen, pulled a bottle of champagne from the fridge and asked my husband, “Is this the best champagne we have?” He knew what I was telling him!

5. My favorite scene in your novel is the revealing of the painting. As the author, do you have a favorite scene?

My absolute favorite scene in novel is when the youngest daughter, Enid is left at the door of the flat by her father because he won’t take her for the weekend without her older sister, Eva, who has gone to her first school dance. Enid pushes the door closed and says “Now I’ll be home when Eva gets back from the dance.” That makes me cry and cheer at the same time.

6. What are you working on now?

I have a lot of manuscripts and new stories I’m working on. Last Christmas, I started a serial novel, Nights Before, with the first installment, ‘Twas the Night Before New Year. The stories take place in my home state, Maine. I have just published the fourth installment, ‘Twas the Night Before Labor Day and am currently working on the fifth, ‘Twas the Night Before Veterans Day. My inspiration for this was a call from Avon for seasonal novellas. Once I got started with the story of Jocelyn Tavers, junior editor and abandoned girlfriend, I was hooked on finding her the right guy, a process of elimination. Jocelyn has a lot of heartache in her life between her father’s disappearance and her mother’s death, losing her job and being dumped. Nights Before is a romantic comedy, and I don’t know which of the three candidates for Right Guy will finally win.

I have also just finished the draft of a novel set in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival, titled This Can’t Be Love and am preparing Dance by the Light of the Moon, set in Cardiff, Chicago and Phoenix, for publication. And, I have an historical novel, working title, Courting Miss Marcher, set in the 1870s in my home town in Maine with references to Wyoming.

I keep myself out of trouble.

Book: Wait a Lonely Lifetime
by Leigh Verrill-Rhys
Avalon Books
2012

This is sweet romance to make one believe in love at first sight and second chances - to believe that a missed opportunity, a turn down the wrong path in life can be made right. The author draws us in with letters written by a divorced woman of two years to a soldier she met fifteen year ago at a party. We see the soldier receive the letters, and we have hope for their lost love.

Leigh Verrill-Rhys draws us in with the almost poetic quality to her writing, feeding us tidbits, yet never revealing too much at once. An angry, manipulative ex-husband using his children as emotional weapons against the female protagonist Sylviana adds conflict and tension, and counterbalances the uprightness and honor of the male protagonist, army Captain Eric D.D. Wasserman.

The contrast between civilian life and career military life is shown with the use of military terms. Eric lives in a different world than Sylviana, one of duty and exemplary conduct. His love for Sylviana must follow that path.  

With ease we are transported to Florence, Italy to see in our mind the Ponte Vecchio for a brief romantic interlude. It is clear the author writes what she knows. She skillfully moves us between San Francisco and Florence, all with capable hands.  And we delight to learn that Sylviana Bethan Innocenti, a quiet mother of two girls, has an irrepressible and lively spirit.

The story, while a romance between two lonely people, doesn’t ignore the realities of family involvement and how one successfully remarries with children from a previous marriage. The difficulties of this are by no means romanticized. We enjoy the romance, but we take great delight as Sylviana’s children come to feel safe in their new family unit.

Wait a Lonely Lifetime, about family, home and lifelong love, is a book to be treasured.