Inspired by her mother’s World War One memories

Amberley author Rosie Simpson is inspired by her mother’s World War One memories for In Green Pastures, released by Austin Macauley Publishers, paperback £10.99; hardback £12.99; and eBook £3.50.

Rosie Simpson
Rosie Simpson

The book is available at [email protected] or by ordering it at bookshops.

Rosie said: “The idea for In Green Pastures grew from my mother’s recollections of spending a year during World War One in a country town in north Essex named Halstead.

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“She was a ten-year-old girl at the time and went to Halstead from Stratford, East London, with her mother and four siblings. Her mother, whose husband was at the front in France, was growing increasingly panicky about German bombing raids on the East End and strove to take her children away from London.

“But I didn’t want to write a children’s story, so I invented Florence, a grown-up, unmarried aunt who, for her own reasons made clear in the novel, wants to get out of London. In Green Pastures is essentially Florence’s story and tells of how she becomes an early member of the Women’s Land Army.

“The Women’s Land Army was founded in 1917 when England was about three weeks off running out of food. Farming was in crisis: not a reserved occupation; manpower at the front; horses requisitioned. England imported most food from the Empire and the US, but merchant shipping was being torpedoed by u-boats and ports were blockaded. That’s when they called in the women!

“The book tells too of her emotional journey towards gaining or regaining her own self-confidence and self-awareness through the important work she is doing and the people she interacts with along the way.

“In Green Pastures is ultimately a feel-good story – much needed and in demand during the Covid pandemic – and deals with positive human qualities. It’s essentially anti-war, pro-reconciliation – a stark contrast to the brutality of the war.

“I really believe my characters are lively and fully fleshed out and the story has pace, variety, humour where appropriate… and romance.

“Writing has always been important to me. I was, for many years, a writer for a number of business magazines and then a freelance who wrote many a feature for the West Sussex County Times.

“Indeed, I had my own column (Ros Writes) in the WSCT during the 1990s and wrote a series of features about local public attractions (gardens, churches, Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester Cathedral, Parham House, a zoo…) called Splendours of Sussex.”

Rosie later trained to teach English as a foreign language “which I did for about five years, thoroughly enjoying it.

“So language-based occupations have always been my thing, and the idea of writing fiction has been an ambition, albeit a distant one, for a long time.

“So I thought I’d better get on with it if it was ever going to happen. I attended several creative writing weekend courses at the wonderful West Dean College which helped me remould my writing style away from narrative features towards active story-telling.

“When I came to think seriously about writing a novel, my mother’s recollections of that year she spent in Halstead seemed like a good starting point.”