A woman’s struggle to find happiness and independence in 1920’s society.
When Willa’s handsome sailor-husband Tommy sets off on an exotic round-the-world tour with the Royal Navy she is left behind in a small Edinburgh flat with a baby and a controlling mother-in-law. Her only escape is through reading books and it is at the local library that she meets Richard Fitzwilliam, whose friendship gradually begins to open up new horizons. A new life is being offered to her. But can she take it when Tommy’s steady progress around the world will eventually bring him home?
(pub. Allison & Busby 2007)
“A reputation like Joan Lingard’s needs no enhancement, but After You’ve Gone will do the job all the same. Newcomers to her work will doubtless be seduced by the simplicity and directness she’s acquired in a career that spans 14 books for adults and more than 40 for children.”
I was born in Edinburgh, in the very heart of it’s old town, the Royal Mile, but when I was two years’ old I went to live in Belfast and stayed there until I was 18. It was there that I grew up, went to school, made my first friends, learned to read and write. Inevitably, then, Belfast and Northern Ireland have had a strong influence on my writing.
I started to write when I was eleven years old. I was an avid reader and could never get enough to read. My local children’s library was small, the size of a shed or a garage, and I was soon able to read through what they had on offer. I always asked for books for birthdays and Christmas. One day, having just finished a book, I closed it and said to my mother straightaway, ‘I’ve got nothing to read!’ She got rather fed up hearing that so she turned to me and said, “Why don’t you go and write a book of your own?”. This proved to be a turning point in my life. I thought, “Why not? Why shouldn’t I write a book?”.
I found lined, foolscap paper, filled my fountain pen with green ink – I thought green a suitably ‘artistic’ colour for a writer – and began to write my first novel. It told the tale of a girl called Gail who, when she was staying with her granny in Cornwall, went exploring and stumbled across smugglers lurking in caves. It smacked a bit of Enid Blyton, I think! Also, I had never been to Cornwall and everything I knew about it was through books. I then copied the story out neatly into a notebook, made a jacket, which I illustrated, wrote a blurb, and on the back of the book cover printed, “BOOKS BY JOAN LINGARD”, with numbers 1 – 24 down the side, with my first title “Gail”, opposite no, 1. Not a very inspiring title. At the foot I put: “Published by Lingard & Company”.
I was launched! From then on I wanted to be a writer, especially a novelist, and nothing else.
In 1963 I published my first adult novel, Liam’s Daughter. Another five adult novels followed, mostly with Edinburgh backgrounds – I had come back to live in Edinburgh by then. And then, in 1970, I wrote my first children’s book, The Twelfth Day of July, the beginning of the quintet about Catholic Kevin and Protestant Sadie caught up in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. These books have never been out of print. Next year – 2010 – will mark their fortieth anniversary! My schooldays in Belfast also inspired The File on Fraulein Berg.
Over the years I have written a number of books set in Edinburgh such as The Kiss for adults and What To Do About Holly for children. Holly is also set partly in the Cairngorms, where we have a cottage. I am fortunate, too, to spend part of the winter in Spain, which has resulted in Tell the Moon to Come Out and Encarnita’s Journey.
I am married with three daughters and five grandchildren. Martin, my husband, is an architect and he has both Canadian and British citizenship. He was born in Riga, Latvia, and had to flee with his family in 1944 when the Russians invaded their country. They spent four years in camps in Germany and then emigrated to Canada. I have written about their experiences in Tug of War and Dreams of Love and Modest Glory.
My parents and grandparents, too, have inspired books. My father, who was in the Royal Navy, went on a year-long, round-the-world cruise with the British Fleet in 1924 and kept a diary, which gave me the base for After You’ve Gone. And his parents kept a pub in Stoke Newington in London in the early part of the 20th century, which started me writing about Elfie and The Pig and Whistle. That became The Eleventh Orphan.