We are really happy to announce the publication of Lily’s War by Derbyshire debut novelist Shirley Mann. It is always wonderful to hear of success for writers in our region, and especially when we have been part of their writer’s journey.
Lily’s War is a Second World War saga about a young girl from Manchester who joins the WAAFs (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), and meets a group of strong women, all doing their bit for the war effort. The e-book will be published at the end of October (2019) and the paperback will be available from 23rd January. Lily’s War is the first of a two-book deal that Shirley signed with Bonnier Zaffre.
Shirley is one of our Writing School East Midlands alumni and a Writers’ Conference regular (she even met her agent, Kate Barker, at our conference), and furthermore, Shirley is in her 60s – proving that age is no barrier to finding success as a writer.
We talked to her about the process of writing the novel.
“I decided to write Lily’s War as a tribute to my parents whose wartime romance had always fascinated me. My father died 30 years ago but when my mother was in the last years of her life, I started the novel to try to rediscover the woman who was being beaten by age and infirmity.
Because I had left it too late to ask my mother enough questions, I travelled the country talking to WAAFs -by then in their late 80s and 90s- and with their kind permission, I fictionalised many of their factual incidents, which I hope gives the book an authenticity and an insight into what it was like to live in those extraordinary times. I also visited various army centres and talked to experts there to find out about the Eighth Army, and I read as many books as I could that gave both personal accounts as well as factual information I could use. I visited the wonderful East Kirkby RAF station which is a reconstruction of the wartime base. It allowed me to visualise the role my mother would have taken during the war as a wireless operator and gave me a flavour of 1940s life in the services. I also spent an enlightening day at Cranwell and have been to many RAF museums and libraries.
The book took six years to write, mainly because I was paranoid about getting the facts right, for example, I took two days to try to find out whether they had ginger biscuits in 1942 before realising I could change the reference to garibaldi biscuits instead -the joy of fiction!
Vera Morgan, one of the WAAFs I interviewed kindly read Lily’s War for me to check it for authenticity and she came back with the following comment, which made all my efforts worthwhile:
‘I really did enjoy it, it took me back all those years and while it may be fiction, all those things could have happened and the story read true to me, I really didn’t want to put it down.”
You can pre-order the book now at Waterstones, or pop into your local book shop!