IT'S SAGA SATURDAY!! Please welcome award-winning saga author, Shirley Mann...


So lovely to have you here, Shirley! I am looking forward to learning more about you and your books - also, huge congratulations on your RNA award :) Let's kick things off with my questions...

1.)                What genre do you typically read? Why?

Hello Rachel, thank you so much for inviting me to take part in your Q and A. I don’t have a favourite genre and I think that’s the point for me. I’ve always loved books and I read all types- well, maybe not much crime for some reason- but I sometimes make life very difficult for myself especially as I read before I go to sleep. If the book is hard-going then I can be asleep in two paragraphs! I belong to a book group and, believe me, they don’t make it easy sometimes but they’re often the books we discuss the most. Since I’ve become an author, I love to look at how other writers approach their story and to be honest, I’ve probably become a little less tolerant of books that don’t grab me. My favourite type of book is one I don’t want to put down but it has to be intelligently written. Oh, and I do like to be taken somewhere, either in time or place, I like to learn something but one thing I do get ratty with is when there isn’t a proper ending. I get to the last paragraph and go: “And….?” That does irritate me.

2.)                Share a favourite childhood memory.

I feel so lucky to be able to say there are so many! I think I remember childhood like a ‘Cider with Rosie’ scenario and I suspect, like all of us, I block out the boring days when it poured with rain and there was nothing to do, bearing in mind there was no internet, no Netflix and no mobile phones. But with so many stories in my head, I did spend hours making my sister play out endless ‘adventures’ in which we were always the heroines, naturally! However, I think the trips I loved the most were when my dad got us up at some unearthly hour and bundled us into the car in our pjs for a day out in North Wales. My mum would have packed a cardboard box with a picnic, and we would stop somewhere en route to nip into the public loos to get dressed and do our teeth before we had some cold toast and marmalade. Then he’d have us up some mountain or other, moaning and groaning all the way until we got to the top and saw the view knowing it was a downhill romp to lunch. My mum, very sensibly, had a Sunday newspaper and a flask of coffee in the car. I always looked back enviously at her but my dad was as excited as a little boy so we couldn’t disappoint him.

3.)                Do you have any shameless addictions? ie. Tea, Books, Shoes, Clothes?

Maybe you should ask my husband about that one. I certainly don’t want any conversations in the morning until I’ve had my cup of tea and I get very grumpy in the afternoons about 3.30 without another one. But yes, books are obviously a bit of a compulsion and I’ve always got a couple on the go, the problem is that with deadlines to keep, I always feel I should be reading a book that’s connected with the current project so sometimes, I do long to just switch off and read a real page-turner- maybe after the next deadline- I do keep saying that though!

4.)                What do you think is the biggest challenge of writing a new book?

Leaving the old one behind. It’s so hard to move on when you’ve been immersed in a book for a year and it takes me a while to fall in love with my new characters, but I’m always amazed at how they start to emerge as real people in my head and I really would love to have a party and invite them all, even Marion in ‘Lily’s War,’ although she’d probably turn her nose up at the nibbles I’d prepare.  

5.)                Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages a day?

Shhh, don’t tell my publisher but no. I have a sort of monthly target but I’m in my late 60s, this was never supposed to be a new career and as someone who is meant to be ‘retired’ ( HAH!) I am ridiculously busy! The other problem is that I’m a journalist and we are notoriously good at getting to that precipice just before a deadline. I flap about and waste time until there is no more time left, then suddenly I’m remarkably focused!

6.)                What are your thoughts on writing a book series?

I didn’t start out to write a series and in actual fact, each book is a stand-alone novel but there are just links between them all. I just wanted to see whether I could write one novel. It was in the last three years of my mum’s life that the thought occurred to me that I wanted to give it a go. I just took one step at a time to be honest- could I write a novel, could I find an agent, would anyone publish me? Then, once I started to race around the country to find elderly servicewomen who were generous enough to share their stories with me, I felt a huge responsibility to preserve their legacy. There’s so much written about men during the war, but the women I met were just inspirational and every one of them tried to tell me that they did nothing special. I had to disagree and thought there would be a great number of other people of future generations who would agree with me.  Having met Air Transport Auxiliary pilot, Mary Ellis, there was no longer any choice, I had to write a second novel to tell the story of those amazing women. And then there were the Land Army women and their experiences and so it goes on…It just shows that when you come up with a bright idea, you need to be really, really careful.

BLURB & BUY LINK FOR 'Bobby's War':

On the ground, the crowd of men stood with their mouths agape, watching the wings soar into the air, the tail kept impressively steady and the small plane with a woman at the controls disappearing into the May sunshine

It’s 1942 and Bobby Hollis has joined the Air Transport Auxiliary in a team known as the ‘glamour girls’ – amazing women who pilot aircraft all around the country.

Bobby always wanted to escape life on the family farm and the ATA seemed like the perfect opportunity for her. But there’s always something standing in her way. Like a demanding father, who wants to marry her off to a rich man. And the family secrets that threaten to engulf everything.

As Bobby navigates her way through life, and love, she has to learn that controlling a huge, four-engined bomber might just be easier than controlling her own life . . .



Shirley is a journalist who has spent her life juggling various careers in writing, broadcasting and lecturing, none of which had a regular contract, salary or pension. She started working as a reporter for a local newspaper in Chester, then went through a panoply of equally unknown publications until she started work for the BBC, where she moved through radio to television as a reporter, presenter and producer. She then set up her own media company with lecturing as a sideline, producing short films for environmental organisations. 

The fact that she is now, apparently, an author, has taken her by complete surprise, particularly as the first book, ‘Lily’s War’, took six years to write and would have been consigned to a drawer if it had not been for a foot operation that forced her to sit and be bored for weeks, reaching back into that drawer for something to do. Her compulsive need to talk to strangers led to a random chat with an agent at a writers’ conference and somehow, as a result of that, she got a four-book deal with Zaffre at Bonnier Books. Her first two books, ‘Lily’s War’ about a WAAF in Bomber Command and ‘Bobby’s War’ about an ATA pilot have now been published. Her third book, ‘Hannah’s War’ is about a Land Army girl is out in October as an e book and in paperback early next year and the fourth is based around the internment camp for women in the Isle of Man and will be published the year after. 

She lives with her husband in a gorgeous market town on the edge of the Derbyshire Peak District, heading off regularly with her camper van and her bike. She has two grown up daughters, one of whom failed to listen to her mother and works in television and the other works in the environmental sector. 

Connect with Shirley:


Facebook: Shirley Mann Author

Twitter: @shirleymann07

Instagram: @shirleymann2600

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