Friday, February 12, 2016

Getting To Know Us with Leigh Verrill-Rhys

Yes, we all have bios on this website, but there is so much MORE to know about our Classic and Cozy bloggers.  So the 2nd Friday of each month is dedicated to getting to know us better.  This month I'd like to introduce you to Leigh Verrill-Rhys (also writing as: Lily Dewaruile).

Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is?
Not at all. Like so many of my colleagues and friends, I am compelled to write. At a very early age, I began to tell stories – some true, some imaginary. My first written story, at the age of ten, was about a giant. I still wonder what happened to that manuscript. 

I followed that with more story-telling and play-acting until I went to college, at first as an art student but discovered my visual ideas were best presented in words. 

At college, I had visions of great literary works but when I began writing again after many years of raising a family, my impulse to write returned full force. I was living in Wales by then, married with three sons. Because of my interest in writing, I helped to develop the first women’s publishing cooperative in Wales, Honno, which is still going strong. Becoming an editor of others’ writing triggered my creative nerve and I found time to write late at night. 

Wanting to be a great American writer plagued me. At one point, I considered burning all the manuscripts and giving up any idea of writing.

When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create your classic and cozy characters?
In 2005, I attended the 80th birthday of a friend and someone asked my husband what he did for a living. He answered this straightforward question and the inquirer turned to me. I began my answer with “I’ve always wanted to be a writer.”

I decided at that moment that would be the last time I ever said that. I re-read all the manuscripts (by now, stacked in boxes that stood four feet high!) and chose the one I wanted to complete. That led to my first completed novel, Traitor’s Daughter, and sending a query to an agent in London, who liked it well enough to request the full manuscript.

After that, I joined Romance Writers of America—though I was living in Britain at the time, the Romance Novelists Association was not open to new, unpublished members and had a low quota for new members they would accept. I was able to attend my first RWA conference as a PRO member, pitch a proposal to an editor and send the first 50 pages of a novel I had begun a few months before.
Within three months, the editor sent me an email saying “Avalon would like to acquire your novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, for publication in 2012.” I ran downstairs, into the kitchen and pulled out the best bottle of champagne I could find and held it out to my husband, asking “Is this the best we have?” He knew what I was talking about.

Do you have a set writing schedule?
I work a day job that takes up about 9 hours of my day but I set myself down at my laptop for at least 3 to 4 hours a day. I also write while traveling to work. I wrote the first draft of This Can’t Be Love on the streetcar—with some inspiration from my fellow commuters.

Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you?
About six months ago I had some time on my hands waiting for my husband to finish work and visited the Salvation Army store across the street. Mine eyes beheld … a roll-top desk. Not a moment’s hesitation prevented me from offering my credit card to the organization. I am at my beautiful desk every day

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I am a quilt-maker, a gardener, a photographer, a reader, a collector of information

I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.)  What was your favorite book as a child?
I adored Pippi Longstocking. Although Astrid Lindgren wrote eleven stories/chapter books beginning in 1945 with the final two stories written between 1979 and 2000, I have considered myself a Pippi-phile all my life

Do you re-read books?  If so, which one have you re-read the most?
I have a good memory for books, plots, characters but these are books I would choose to reread: Daniel Deronda, Middlemarch, Romola, The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede, Silas Marner — all by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Victorian writer and contemporary of Charles Dickens et al and my personal primary inspiration.

But there is more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life?
Selling everything I owned to finance a trip back to Wales, after my first visit, to take a Welsh language course and renew my acquaintance with the Welshman who had stolen my heart.

If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges? 
I have sung a few solos in front of audiences but my favorite is the mournful ode, Morfa Rhuddlan, in commemoration of the death of Caradog and all his warriors in a battle with Offa in 796AD

What book(s) to you have coming out or what are you working on?
I am working on two novels at the moment. One is an historical novel set in Maine five years after the end of the American Civil War. The other is the first book in a series set in Wales near the turn of the 9th Century, three years after the death of Rhodri the Great in 878AD.

Last question…movie rights…who’ll play your current main characters when Hollywood comes knocking on your door? 
I have only considered the actor for one character and that is Angelo Gitano in my novel, Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls. He is the father of the hero of the book, David. The actor I can see playing the part of Angelo is Tony Plana.

Catch more of Leigh the 4th Tuesday of every month here on the Classic and Cozy Blog.   

For a complete list of Leigh’s books click on over to her website and

And be sure and check out her blog or


  1. I love this series of interviews. Thanks, Jean, for moderating it. I often wish I could sit down with my fellow Avalon writers to talk books. This is the next best thing.

    Leigh, loved learning more about you. We have more in common than I realized. Both of your WIPs sound fascinating. Keep us posted about them.

  2. Great to get to know more about you. I would be very interested in hearing you sing that memorial dirge. Bet you would captivate the judges. Lol

  3. You are a true adventurer! Love the bit about selling everything to go to Wales. Sounds like a plan! :)

  4. Jean, thank you so much for these great questions. And thank you Sandy, Kathye and Sofie for commenting!

  5. Hi Leigh--
    What a romantic you are--selling everything to return to your Welshman. I enjoyed reading about you and I enjoy your books, too. Look forward to reading your upcoming works.