In conversation with... Rosemary Noble

It’s always fun to welcome an old friend to the blog and Rosemary and I go back to my Chindi Authors days. I loved her book, Sadie’s War, which is partly set in Lincolnshire so I knew she had a connection to the county, but wasn’t quite sure what it was.

My connections to rural Lincolnshire can be traced back 500 years. However, I spent most of my childhood in Cleethorpes, a seaside town built as the railways reached the coast and a popular destination for the mill towns of Yorkshire.

Grimsby, once the largest fishing port in the world, joins on to Cleethorpes and three of my great grandfathers were trawlermen, as was my Swedish grandfather. My other grandfather was a fish merchant. The North Sea, vast skies and Lincolnshire’s rolling hills are in my blood.

After I qualified, I returned to Lincolnshire and my first job was as area schools’ librarian for North Lincolnshire. I loved visiting the tiny village schools on the Lincolnshire Heights, where on a good day, you can catch a glimpse of Lincoln cathedral, over thirty miles south. I lived at that time in Barton where the Humber Bridge spans the river. Back then, we had to catch a ferry which contributed to its sense of isolation.

My book, Endless Skies, is largely set in the North Lincolnshire village of Winteringham and the old RAF base at Hemswell, so very much in this area. But your book, Sadie’s War, has a more urban landscape – for the British parts of it at least. Was that an easy choice for you?

Yes, because my book is about the mother of RAF pilots. Sadie’s private torture is to wait for news while she observes, as a WVS volunteer, what is happening around her as the Germans target her town.

I had already used my town as a setting in a previous book, Ranter’s Wharf, during the nineteenth century. I liked the idea of showing it in a different period and I have used it again briefly in my new book, The Bluebird Brooch, due later this year. It’s allowed me to research the history of the war in the context of my own upbringing.

I am lucky that my aunts in their nineties still had stories to tell. Sadie’s Wars, although based on my husband’s family is an homage to my own family too. I wrote for the aunts who still live with their memories and for my cousin, Tony, an RAF rear gunner, cut down at eighteen, and who is still missed. Reading his last letter was heart breaking. In the face of appalling danger, all his concerns were for his mother and young sister. It still brings tears to my eyes.

As you know I loved Sadie’s War and one of the main reasons was the way you depicted Sadie’s personal struggles. What can readers expect from The Bluebird Brooch?

That is a difficult question as I approach structural edits. The story is set in modern times but with an historical family mystery. My heroine, Laura Grey, is a young woman who has been let down by her long-term boyfriend. After inheriting a cache of treasures including a brooch, she sets out to discover the mystery behind them and in doing so finds herself. The secondary character is Peggy, the grandmother whom Laura had never met, or so she thought. Peggy has her own secrets and regrets.

Having lost my mother a year ago, I wanted to write a book about the relationships along the female line, grandmothers, mothers, daughters. I credit my mother with having introduced me to reading and libraries, but she was not supportive when I left home at eighteen for library school. I think she regretted her missed opportunities and could never really be happy that I had them instead. It set up an unspoken tension between us which I only came to terms with when I cared for her in her final years.

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