Wirksworth author signs first book deal for women in wartime novels

Wirksworth author Shirley Mann has agreed a two-book publishing deal with Bonnier Books, starting with a debut novel inspired by her parents' wartime romance.
Wirksworth author Shirley Mann has agreed a two-book publishing deal with Bonnier Books, starting with a debut novel inspired by her parents' wartime romance.

A new author from Wirksworth has signed a publishing deal for a debut novel inspired by her parents’ Second World War romance.

Shirley Mann has agreed a two-book deal with Bonnier Books UK and its subdivision Zaffre with the first, Lily’s War, slated for release in 2020.

Shirley spent countless hours investigating technical details so she could faithfully recreate the 1940s on the page.

Shirley spent countless hours investigating technical details so she could faithfully recreate the 1940s on the page.

The plot is loosely based on the story of her mother who was part of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in Bomber Command and her father who was in the Eighth Army.

Shirley said: “I’d left it too late to ask my parents more questions but then I went around the country and talked to some wonderful WAAFs, who are all in their 80s and 90s now.

“They were delighted to let me fictionalise their amazing stories for a new audience. If Lily’s War can take readers into that 1940s world, then I’ll feel I’ve done justice to their legacies, and those of my parents.”

The novel centres on Lily, a young girl from Manchester who joins the WAAF and meets an unlikely group of strong women, all doing their bit for the war effort.

The book will be published as part of Zaffre’s Memory Lane Saga strand, focused on soul-stirring stories about women’s lives, which also includes works by bestselling authors such as Rosie Goodwin and Sheila Newberry.

Editor Claire Johnson-Creek said: “I’m so excited to be welcoming Shirley to Zaffre’s Memory Lane. She’s a brilliant new voice in the genre.

“From the moment I dipped into her unique, but equally heart-warming, tragic and uplifting story, I knew it would be an asset to our list.”

Shirley is a journalist who worked for the BBC for most of her career before starting her own media company producing films for organisations such as Natural England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Represented by the Kate Barker Literary Agency, she is now writing her second book which is about a female Air Transport Auxiliary pilot and will be published by Zaffre in 2021.