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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!