Author: Shirley Mann


So it’s official!

I am a published author! Well, it’s on e books at the moment, the paperback version is coming out on 23rd Jan. The publishers emphasised this was a soft launch so I didn’t really get too excited but then everyone around me started to make a fuss and I suddenly thought: “No, this is a big deal!”

Then I heard I had had two five star reviews on Net Galley and I had to go for a walk up the hill to calm down! I was a nervous wreck, wondering what the hell I’d done, what if it sells lots, what if it only sells a few, what if people don’t like it? So many worries!

Then I went into a book shop and realised how many books there are out there vying for space and it occurred to me that my little ‘Lily’s War’ is really going to have to wave it’s tiny flag very high if it’s going to get noticed and do you know what..I’ve still got a book published in my name and that was more than I ever expected.

As a very good friend of mine ( also a published author) said: ‘Make sure you celebrate every step of the journey’. So, it’s Friday, it’s 6pm and I’m going to get the wine out. Well done me!


The suspense…oh, the suspense

Do you remember that feeling when you’d done your exam and you were waiting for your results? Well, I’ve just sent off book 2, hopefully to be called ‘Bobby’s War’ ( following ‘Lily’s War’ ..see what I did there? Talk about creating your own brand) to my lovely agent and I’m now waiting to see what she says. I check emails every hour and I look frantically at my phone with a worrying addiction.

I had to get book 2 written quite quickly because I needed to prove to myself that the 6 years spent writing ‘Lily’s War’ was not a one-off. I was also, between you and me, scared whether I could do another one. Lily was such a long-drawn out test of my fortitude, sanity and wine capacity that I was just not sure I could do a second. But, you know what, I loved it! Once someone told me I could write, there was no stopping me. I also found it was a great way to keep busy during the winter, which has now, brilliantly, left me free to enjoy the summer.

I’m using that time to swan around like a prospective best-selling author! I went to the Shuttleworth Collection in Bedfordshire and had great fun finding out ridiculously important things about war planes such as whether there were leather or cloth straps in the cockpit. Someone on our campsite, hearing of our plans for the day, suggested to Kevin that he would enjoy the museum but his wife might be bored! We soon put him right on that sexist assumption! Next week, I’m going to Tempsford where the Special Overseas Operatives ( spies to you and me) were flown from. I’ve just been to Hay Festival having wonderful fantasies that they might ask me to be a guest speaker before I’m on a zimmer frame. I know but you can but dream! We’ve been going to Hay for years and this year, I couldn’t help but get a little thrill of excitement that I, too, was going to be an author.

Someone who heard me talking at the Wirksworth Festival- a much bigger and more prestigious event than that little Hay Festival obvs- said they did like the way I didn’t take myself too seriously. Of course I don’t. I’m in my 60s, got chubby knees and was brought up in Liverpool. A serious attitude is something I’ve never been able to adopt very effectively. In fact, when I was on my BBC training course, my tutor put on my report “If Shirley bubbled as much behind the mic as she does in the BBC bar, she’d make an excellent presenter.” One of my proudest moments, that.


A dress for all panels

So, what have I learned from my first two panel appearances as a soon-to-be-published author?

Don’t wear a dress that is straight and above the knee, that’s what.

The first panel was at the trendy Pot Kettle Black in Manchester and as soon as I spotted the lofty, steel, boy-band stools, I knew I was in trouble.

At just a tad over 5ft, launching myself into the air onto a small half-circle is not an elegant manoeuvre. Then I had to shift to one side to be able to entwine my feet round the low bar, revealing the knees I inherited from my lovely, Hobbit dad.

It only took one glance along at my fellow panelists and at the audience in front of me to realise I was undoubtedly the oldest in the room. Being a ‘newly-discovered’ author at this stage of life qualifies me as the diversity element of the evening.

Anyway, it was great fun and I found I loved it although I did hear my mother’s voice saying ‘Sit down, Shirley, it isn’t your turn,’ but oh, for once, it really was.

Yolklore and Waterstones talk in Manchester
Wirksworth Book Festival with Tricia Durdey, being interviewed by Carol Taylor. I think I look better blurred!

Just two days later, I was in a much lower chair at the wonderful Wirksworth Book Festival with friend and fellow-author, Tricia Durdey -great book, The Green Table, but this time I was in front of people who knew me and that was scarier than any high stool, I can tell you.

But, both went well, I think and yes, Hay, I can fit you in next year… I’ve always wanted a long stemmed rose.

And who knows, maybe I’ll have sold some books by then and will be able to afford a dress that covers my knees.


First gigs!

So this week, I’m doing two panels in my new official role as an author apparent. I’m not sure I’m ready for this. I mean I don’t get published for another nine months so I feel a bit of a fraud really, but at least I have nine months from now to convince people I’m a brilliant writer before they find out any different!

The first is this one

It’s on in Manchester when I’m joining a prestigious panel of writers ( yep, I’m the new girl…and the oldest!) as part of a celebration of International Women’s Day when I will be talking about the wonderful WAAFs I talked to for ‘Lily’s War’ and, OK, it’s possible I may mention the book.

The second is as part of a panel with the wonderful Tricia Durdey ( The Green Table) chaired by Carol Taylor, at the Wirksworth Book Festival

I’ve roped the family in because it’s a birthday weekend. I’ve just warned them…no heckling!

So, do come and say hello if you’re in the vicinity of either of them.

And wish me luck!


Shirley Mann-published author-apparently

So, the toe in the water of getting an agent ( the wonderful Kate Barker) very quickly led on the exciting but terrifying offer of a two-book deal from Bonnier Zaffre publishers. The first one, ‘Lily’s War’ will be published in January 2020 and the second one, “Bobby’s War’ will follow a year later.

This has thrown me into a new world where I stumble over the words when people ask what I do for a living. I sort of mumble a conglomeration of the words ‘journalist’ and ‘author’ and no one is any the wiser- let alone me.

Anyway, I have nine months before the first book- about a WAAF in Bomber Command and a soldier in the 8th Army – reaches the book shelves, so I’m going live off the assumption that the unsuspecting public will love it. I’ve got 9 months before anyone reads it and anyone knows any different so I’m going to make the most of it!

I’ve just finished the first draft of the second one, about an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot and I’m ridiculously excited about this new career.

I’m thrilled to have been taken on by Bonnier Zaffre- they publish Wilbur Smith and Lynda La Plante for heaven’s sake! I’m going to be part of their Memory Lane branding with authors such as Rosie Goodwin and Sheila Newberry. I feel famous already!

So, I’ll keep you posted, hopefully more regularly than I’ve been doing recently but come on, I’ve been frantically scribbling…a proper author’s got deadlines, don’t you know!


A leap towards publishing my first novel?


So, I’m feeling a little dizzy. I have had some lovely feedback and advice from a publisher and I now have an agent. I can’t tell you how exciting this is. It is as if I’ve been given validation as a writer. When I made that leap from factual, journalistic writing into fiction with a  Second World War novel, I found it terrifying. I was without my safety blanket of facts. The way I got round that was to go to meet wonderful WAAFs who shared their amazing stories with me. I used real stories that I tracked down in museums, libraries and on the net and hey presto, I had a narrative with credible scenarios.

I have a long way to go and certainly a huge amount to learn but suddenly, I feel that being published is an actual possibility.

I am looking forward to getting it right and am reading advice, listening to my very experienced agent and reading other novelists who have sussed it out already. You may have to share my journey with me. I don’t want to do it alone…..


An inspiring story from the Mary Rose Museum

So, we’ve just finished our latest film for the Heritage Lottery Fund – the inspiring story of navy parachutist, Neil Clements, who was horrifically injured when his parachute failed to open. He had to re-learn how to speak and walk but is now a volunteer at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth.

So many of these Changing Lives films for the HLF leave us breathless in our admiration of what people have achieved and all we have to do is tell their story in a way that will inspire people. It was an amazing filming experience- firstly to meet Neil and hear how he had spent 22 years fighting his way back from a coma to secondly being able to film at the incredible Mary Rose Museum where we saw the evidence of how history had lain undisturbed for 500 years under the mud.

There were challenges in that the Museum’s lighting is subdued to allow the old wood and artifacts to be protected but helped by the lovely staff at the Mary Rose, we were able to come up with a lovely film. But judge for yourself.



My secret life. Am I really an author?

So, I confess, I’m an author. Well, a sort of unpublished author but I’m determinedly optimistic.

I’ve spent four years writing a novel very loosely based on my parents’ war careers. A parallel story of a WAAF and a Desert Rat, to say I created problems for myself, would be an understatement- it took two days to find out whether they had ginger biscuits in 1942.

I am a journalist and I work better with deadlines, so to have an unending timescale to complete my opus was not a good move but hey, it’s done. I’ve been sending it off to agents and publishers and have had, I’m pleased to say, some really nice, encouraging responses. One, in particular, has shown a recent interest. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

But then, I went to Writers East Midlands conference. I emerged from the snow-buried hills of Derbyshire to Nottingham city centre like a mole, blinded in the daylight. It was a mix of inspiration and terrifying dedication. One author made films, did digital interactivity and did podcasts to launch his books. I’m technically reasonably savvy but that may be beyond me.

I’ve dined out for four years on the kudos of writing a novel. Now, I’m revelling in the fact that people are actually responding to my tentative first three chapters but to move onto the point of being published, that’s a whole new challenge and one I hope I’m lucky enough to tackle.