Written in the Stars... Or in Essex as the case may be! It’s writer Avijeet Das who says: ‘There’s a story within all of us that we want to tell one day.’ For these six master storytellers, inspiration arrived amid the dunes, fields and bustling streets of Essex. Settle in as they share how their pens came to meet the page...

Lizzie PageLizzie Page (Image: Photography by Petra)

Introducing Lizzie Page, author of The Orphanage

Southend-based Samantha Lierens writes historical fiction under the pseudonym Lizzie Page. In the popular Shilling Grange Orphanage series, she explores the lives of women and children in post-war Suffolk. ‘I’ve always loved reading and writing,’ Lizzie shares. ‘Once I realised being a writer was an actual job that became my goal. My husband, three children and dog all regularly conspire to stop me writing, which is why it helps to have somewhere to go to find peace. Luckily for me, Essex isn’t short of inspirational places.’

The Orphanage by Lizzie PageThe Orphanage by Lizzie Page (Image: Courtesy of Lizzie Page)

When not frequenting her favourite coffee shops, Saltwater for their raspberry flapjacks or Stop the World for breakfast, Lizzie can be found enjoying almost daily strolls along the seafront behind Chalkwell Station. ‘One day it’s mud with strange channels of water and the next, the tide is lapping against the wall and beyond the stretch of sea you can spot land on the other side,’ she says. ‘It’s a reminder that nothing is out of reach.’ Lizzie also adores visiting Southend Pier, featuring it in at least two of her books. ‘It’s got an incredible history, especially during war times,’ Lizzie says. Her WWI novel, ‘The War Nurses,’ mentions a visit to the Park Inn Hotel – which was requisitioned as a hospital - and in ‘An Orphan Song’ she writes about a child who runs away to the pier because it's a place of happy memories

Lizzie Page adores visiting Southend Pier because of its incredible history. Lizzie Page adores visiting Southend Pier because of its incredible history. (Image: Getty)

‘I also love Stow Maries near Maldon,’ she explains. ‘The WWI airfield is a brilliant tourist attraction with authentic tea rooms. The joy of writing historical fiction is you get to visit amazing places and call it research. Their Women in War exhibition has hugely helped my writing, which is why I couldn’t resist including the airfield in ‘The Forgotten Girls.’

However, it’s not just Essex locations that have influenced Lizzie, but people, too. One muse is Jane Taylor, author of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I’m looking forward to seeing the statue of Jane and her sister in Colchester High Street,’ she adds. ‘In the Shilling Grange series, I reference her a lot and even feature a ‘Jane Taylor Appreciation Society’ that many locals attend and [spoiler] the main character Clara eventually takes over.’


Julie HaworthJulie Haworth (Image: Tiffany Haworth)

Meet Julie Haworth, author of Always by Your Side

From her home in Chelmsford, Julie Haworth writes uplifting stories about friendship and community, bursting with romance and charm. Her debut novel ‘Always by Your Side’ won the 2023 RNA’s Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel award. ‘It was a pinch-worthy moment, realising my lifelong dream of getting published had come true,’ Julie admits. ‘Books have always been a huge part of my life, but I honestly felt as though becoming an author was an unachievable goal rather than a real possibility.

Always By Your Side by Julie HaworthAlways By Your Side by Julie Haworth (Image: Courtesy of Julie Haworth)

‘In 2020, I visited a local book festival organised by Lizzie Chantree and that was the first time I felt that creative writing was something I could try. A month later, we were thrown into lockdown, and I had more time to dedicate to writing. Creating Rose and Jake’s story was pure escapism and a lifeline. It was nice inventing something positive during such a tough year.’ Easily distracted, Julie shuts herself away to do most of her work. ‘I’m not great at writing in coffee shops, no matter how much I wish I was,’ she says. ‘I take a break every day though to go for a walk. My favourite spots are Central Park and Hylands Estate.

The fictional village of Blossom Heath depicted in Julie Haworth's 'Always by Your Side' was inspired by Essex villages like Stock and Danbury. The fictional village of Blossom Heath depicted in Julie Haworth's 'Always by Your Side' was inspired by Essex villages like Stock and Danbury. (Image: Getty)

‘There’s so much I love about living in Essex. We’re lucky to have such gorgeous countryside around us and some stunning villages. My book is set in the fictional village of Blossom Heath and was inspired by the greens and duck ponds of Stock, Danbury and Writtle. I also love the hustle and bustle of city life in Chelmsford, as there’s always something to see and do.

'Whenever I’m not busy writing or running my copywriting business, I can be found exploring and shopping, though nothing quite beats enjoying a cup of coffee, of which I drink ridiculous amounts, and hanging out with my two rescue cats. In fact, my second book, ‘New Beginnings at the Cosy Cat Café,’ which is out in July, was inspired by some of the county’s cat cafés, which are starting to become really popular.’


Lizzie ChantreeLizzie Chantree (Image: Graeme Holiday)

Say hello to Lizzie Chantree, author of The Little Ice Cream Shop by The Sea

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree lives with her family on the Essex Coast. She discovered her love of fiction when her children were little and now spends her time writing about women who are far stronger than they realise. ‘I attended creative writing groups when I was younger but didn’t become an author until later,’ says Lizzie. ‘After starting my business at 19, I changed career when my second child fell ill. Today, she proudly tells everyone she was the catalyst for getting me writing. I was 40 when I published my first book as I hid my manuscript in a cupboard for five years while my daughter recovered, and now I’m writing my fourteenth novel. It shows it’s never too late to follow your dreams.’

The Little Ice Cream Shop by The Sea by Lizzie ChantreeThe Little Ice Cream Shop by The Sea by Lizzie Chantree (Image: Courtesy of Lizzie Chantree)

Lizzie can often be found writing in cafes. ‘I felt very isolated at the start of my writing career, but the local reading and writing communities are huge and incredibly welcoming. Now I regularly enjoy chats with other customers about their day. One time, I was in a cafe along Southend’s seafront and a woman was crying. A young server was comforting her and as she left, I asked the server if her friend was ok and she said she’s never met the woman before, but that she was fine now. The interaction inspired my two-book series about the kindness of strangers, ‘The Little Ice Cream Shop by The Sea and The Little Cupcake Shop by The Sea.’

Lizzie also enjoys visiting RHS and National Trust properties. ‘Hyde Hall has stunning views across the fields and lakes, and serves delicious tea and cake, both of which are writing staples for me,’ she says. ‘It’s fun exploring the majestic greenhouse atop the hill and the carefully designed gardens. ‘We’re fortunate to have so many green spaces and miles of beaches in Essex to frequent. When I have a relaxing view in front of me, I can happily sit with a notepad and pen, writing chapter after chapter.’


Lorna CookLorna Cook (Image: Steve Cook)

Hear from Lorna Cook, author of The Forgotten Village

Lorna Cook writes historical fiction novels bursting with romance, intrigue and secrets, and pens contemporary romance and women’s fiction under the alias Elle Cook. Residing in coastal Essex with her husband and two daughters, Lorna’s storytelling success has reached far beyond our region’s borders. Her debut novel ‘The Forgotten Village,’ sold over 150,000 copies, was a Kindle Number One bestseller and spent four months in the Kindle Top 100. It won Katie Fforde’s Romantic Novel of the Year in the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards and the Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

The Forgotten Village by Lorna CookThe Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook (Image: Courtesy of Lorna Cook)

‘My first job was in journalism, so in one form or another, I’ve been writing solidly since I was 21,’ Lorna says. ‘I never thought I’d write a novel, but one day I discovered a newspaper article about Tyneham, a village in Dorset that was requisitioned by the army in WWII. The villagers were forced to leave and told their homes would be returned after the war, yet still today Tyneham remains under MOD ownership.’ Captivated by this hidden piece of history, Lorna wanted to learn more but couldn’t find any information. This led her to write a story about it and publish her first novel.

Lorna enjoys walking her dogs into Old Leigh to view the old boats.Lorna enjoys walking her dogs into Old Leigh to view the old boats. (Image: Getty)

‘I mostly write at home,’ she shares. ‘My office window has a gorgeous view of the sea and boats coming and going, so it’s the ideal place to write. I often walk my dogs into old Leigh where the cockle boat The Endeavour, one ship that rescued troops from the D-Day evacuations, is moored. This snapshot of history amid beautiful scenery always fills the creative well before my working day begins.

‘I’m also head over heels for Audley End. It’s a wonderful time capsule of a way of life that we’ll never see again. It’s inspiring to read the stories of past inhabitants. I went on a guided tour recently and heard how the house once hosted the Polish Special Operations Executive, who bravely trained to be parachuted back into their occupied homeland to fight from behind enemy lines. As a historical author, the house and its history are complete catnip.’

Emma RobinsonEmma Robinson (Image: Vanity Studios)

Pull up a seat with Emma Robinson, author of Please Take My Baby

Emma Robinson is a USA Today Bestseller with a passion for stories which explore the power of family and friendship in difficult circumstances. Her recent works focus on emotional themes, forming heartbreaking, life-affirming tales. ‘Since before I can remember, I’ve been addicted to stories and wanted to write a book of my own,’ Emma shares. ‘After travelling in my 20s, I became an English teacher, often writing stories and poems, but it wasn’t until I turned 40 that I challenged myself to finish a novel. Three years later, ‘The Undercover Mother’ was my debut.’

Please Take My Baby by Emma RobinsonPlease Take My Baby by Emma Robinson (Image: Courtesy of Emma Robinson)

Presently, Emma lives in Fobbing with her husband, children and small black dog. ‘It’s rumoured it was here where Charles Dickens was inspired by the marshes to write the opening scenes in Great Expectations and it was one of the main villages connected with the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381,’ she says. ‘I love looking out across the marshes from my writing room and being inspired by the history of the area. As a child, we spent many happy Saturdays at One Tree Hill in Stanford-Le-Hope and I still enjoy walking the dog up and down the hills while my brain figures out plot twists for my characters.

Finchingfield is a quaint and charming location. Emma particularly enjoys visiting the stunning Shore Hall.Finchingfield is a quaint and charming location. Emma particularly enjoys visiting the stunning Shore Hall. (Image: Getty)

‘Recently, I’ve discovered Finchingfield’s stunning Shore Hall and was honoured to be asked to teach a creative writing workshop there in May. Essex is amazingly varied. I’ve made it my mission to visit as many cafes and bookshops in the county as I can. It’s a genuine pleasure to see how different the urban and natural landscapes are from one end of the region to the other.

‘We also have some wonderful, historic pubs and I love nothing more at the end of a long day of hot keyboard writing family drama than to pop in our friendly local, The White Lion, with my husband for a gin and tonic!’


Carrie Elks Carrie Elks (Image: Castle Rock Headshots)

Gather round for Carrie Elks, author of Strictly Business

Carrie Elks’ first book ‘Fix You,’ a contemporary romance with a sizzling edge, has been translated into eight languages and even made a surprise appearance on Brazil’s Big Brother, where it thankfully wasn’t voted out! Together with her husband, two lovely children and a larger-than-life black pug, Plato, she lives in Rayleigh. ‘I started writing stories as a child,’ Carrie recalls. ‘Back in the 70s and 80s books were precious and trips to the library seldom, so when I finished my allotted weekly four books, I’d make up yarns featuring the characters I’d read about to keep myself amused. It was only later that I discovered I was practically writing fanfiction.

Fix You, the first book by Carrie ElksFix You, the first book by Carrie Elks (Image: Courtesy of Carrie Elks)

‘Then in 2012, I started posting stories online and was contacted by an agent who was interested in my work. Two years later, my first book was published, and interestingly came out in Brazil before it did in the UK.’ Holed up in her office that overlooks the street, Carrie likes to ensure she’s always got something to look at as she’s writing.

‘When I’m on a deadline, I like to take myself away for a few days for a writing retreat,’ she says. ‘I recently went to Creeksea Place Barns in Burnham, which was fabulous. If you’re looking for a self-catering stay with the best cafe in the world, I highly recommend it.’ She also enjoys exploring the coastline on foot. ‘My husband and I love walking,’ she remarks. ‘A couple of years ago we bought the book ‘50 Walks on the Essex Coast’ by Peter Caton and we’re aiming to tick off every single one before 2025!’

When she isn’t reading, writing or walking, Carrie can be found baking, drinking the occasional glass of wine or chatting on social media.