When I was writing my new novel, Yours Cheerfully, because it is a sequel (to my debut Dear Mrs Bird) and I know my characters and where they are in their lives, I assumed that they would fit into whatever I wanted to write about. I had created them, I knew them inside out. Naturally, I’d know exactly what they would do next.
However, as I began researching and planning the story which would meet them again in late 1941, I realised I was wrong. It turned out that they were the people deciding whether or not my ideas were going to work, even if they didn’t actually exist in real life.
Emmy and Bunty – my heroines and the centre of my fictional world – had to care about the story as much as I did. I started looking at different ideas and met a group of women who told me about their experiences in World War Two. One of them – Joan – mentioned that her earliest memory was as a four year old playing in a factory where her mother worked. Joan said there was no choice if you couldn’t get childcare.
I knew right away that this is what I wanted to write about. More importantly, I knew that Emmy and Bunty would care about it as well. I turned to research, and began to discover just how hard it was for female war workers in 1941 to get nursery support. They may have been urgently needed for the war effort, but nothing was set up to help them if they had kids.
I began to work on the story. It came together slowly, but no one stood in my way. The people who live in my head came with me as I wrote. Now, I hope readers will like what we came up with. Even before my real live editors and publishers saw it, this novel was very much a team effort.
AJ Pearce’s first novel Dear Mrs Bird was a Sunday Times bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Debut of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards as well as the Royal Society of Literature Sir Christopher Bland Prize and the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown for the best historical debut in 2019. She lives in the south of England.