JW; Thank you so much for being a guest on my Blog Loise, I adored Operation Moonlight!
JW; I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And where did the idea of Operation Moonlight come from?
LM; I have always wanted to be an author, but when I was growing up this was not a career option for people like me at all! I read ALL the time, and wrote stuff in private, but didn’t show anyone or tell anyone of my secret dream, for years and years.
The idea for Operation Moonlight came from three different ‘sparks’: the first was when a friend told me about a 110-year-old woman she knew who was determined to become the oldest person in the world (she’s the oldest in Britain at this moment in time). The second was when my mum told me about a social club called The Coffin Club (you can make your own coffin and reminisce and make friends at the clubs, all over the world); and the third was when I stumbled across the story of a female secret agent in WW2 who had died all alone in 2010 and no one knew about her secret past. I put all three things together, and Betty emerged!
JW; How much research did you have to do for Operation Moonlight, did you get to visit any of the places mentioned in the book?
LM; Research is why I write historical fiction – I absolutely love it! I read more than 200 books on the war etc, and I visited a lot of the places in my novel. I was born and brought up in Guildford, and my family own a narrowboat on the River Wey, so all that was relatively easy. I also visited Wanborough Manor and Beaulieu, and Arisaig up in NW Scotland. But the worst experience was jumping out of a plane! I knew I had to do a parachute jump in order to write Elisabeth’s chapter authentically. But I have a paralysing fear of heights, and I almost passed out from terror. But I survived!
JW; How important to you was it to raise awareness of women’s roles during WW2 and how that impacted their lives?
LM; One of the main reasons I wrote Operation Moonlight was because I strongly believe that the women who helped win the war should be properly remembered. I hope I’ve honoured the female SOE agents in my novel. My writing is always inspired by real women who did extraordinary things in the past, but whose stories have vanished into obscurity.
JW; Who would you like to see playing the parts of Elisabeth & the older Betty, and also Tali and Jo, when Operation Moonlight is turned into a Movie? (It SO needs to be!)
LM; I’d love Operation Moonlight to be made into a film. Maybe Judi Dench or Maggie Smith for Betty? I haven’t got a clue about any of the other characters, though, as I don’t watch much telly or many films…sorry!
JW; As a child growing up, were you an avid reader or was television your thing? Do you have a favourite childhood book or television programme?
LM; I read A LOT. But back in the 80s, there wasn’t the huge range of children’s books and young adult fiction that there is now, so I read a lot of stuff I maybe wasn’t quite ready for…and I also watched a lot of weird telly. Looking back, the children’s programmes that were shown were bonkers! I loved Monkey Magic, which was this utterly mad Japanese series about a human god called Monkey who lived on a cloud and had weird adventures with a bald female monk and another chap called Piggy who wore skulls around his neck. It was as strange as that sounds!
My favourite book as a child was probably Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I was a complete tomboy growing up (still am, actually), and I totally related to Jo March and her boyish ambitions.
JW; What is your favourite book or books that you have read so far in 2022, and why?
LM; So many! Loads of debuts this year have blown me away: No Country for Girls by Emma Styles, The Seawomen by Chloe Timms, The Hollow Sea by Annie Kirby, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook, Haven by Emma Donoghue, Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller, The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell, V2 by Robert Harris
JW; Do you have a favourite author or favourite book of all time?
LM; I love Sarah Waters. She is the queen of historical fiction in my opinion. But I can’t pick a favourite book of all time, there are too many that I’ve loved.
JW; If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?
LM; What a brilliant question! I think I’d quite like to be transported back to 1666, to witness the days leading up to the Great Fire of London and the plague (from a safe vantage point). Not because I want to see our capital city burnt to the ground, but because I want to know what life was like back then, what it actually looked, sounded, smelled and tasted like. I’d love to talk to people on the street, sit in Parliament, walk along the Thames and find out how life was really lived back then.
JW; When you’re writing do you like silence or do you listen to music?
LM; A bit of both. I can’t have talking while I’m writing, so songs with lyrics are out. But I do listen to instrumental music that matches the mood of what I’m trying to write. For the book I’m currently writing, I’m listening to a lot of music from the Edwardian period, orchestral stuff, and also music from films like They Shall Not Grow Old.
JW; If you could invite four people to dinner, living or dead, who would you invite and why?
LM; Another brilliant question! Sylvia Pankhurst (because she has a cameo role in my next project, and her views on women’s suffrage and socialism would be really interesting to hear); Victoria Wood (because she was a genius, and made me laugh all the time); Ernest Shackleton (because I would question him in detail about how he survived such gruelling conditions in the South Pole, and what kept him going); a First World War soldier who actually fought in 1914 (because I want to know what it was really like then).
JW; If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
LM; The Antarctic, to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps. Before it’s too late.
JW; Do you have a hidden talent?
LM; I love these questions! I’m a ninja speller.
JW; Can you share a shelfie with us?
JW; Are you currently writing another book, and when will it be released?
LM; I am writing another book, but I can’t tell you much about it yet as nothing has been finalised. What I can say is that it’s inspired by two real-life women who achieved extraordinary things over a hundred years ago, but who have been largely forgotten about.
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You can read my review of Operation Moonlight HERE