‘Stuck at her gran’s house all summer with nothing to do, fifteen-year-old Rosie goes searching through some old junk and comes across a mysterious suitcase. It’s full of vintage-style clothes, but when Rosie tries them on she finds herself suddenly flung back into the same house in war-torn London. With no idea of how she got there or how she can get back, she is soon caught up in a whirl of rationing, factory work, and dances, but comes crashing back to reality when she realises that if she can’t find her way home, she may never be born at all …’
1. I know you write contemporary women’s fiction under the name Alison Rose. What inspired you to move into writing for young adults?
I was studying for a degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and had one more module to take. Fellow students recommended Steve Voake’s class on Writing for Young People. It was great fun, and I wrote the first draft of Rosie Goes to War there.
2. There are some brilliant books involving time travel. What are your favourites?
My favourite – and one that inspired me to write my own books – is The Green Bronze Mirror by Lynne Ellison. She wrote it when she was just fourteen, and I first read it at about the same age. It was republished in 2010 and I was delighted to be able to buy it and read it again. I loved Susanna Kearsley’s Mariana, which is set in a village in Wiltshire close to where I live. I really enjoy Jodi Taylor’s St Mary’s Chronicles, and for a different twist on time travel I’d recommend Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series – where the main character’s father is a renegade ‘Chronoguard’ and is being pursued by the authorities through time.
3. When you decided to write a time slip adventure, why did you choose to send Rosie back to the 1940s in particular?
My daughter was in her teens at the time and I had a ‘conversation’ with her about how lucky she was to be a teenager in the 21st century, comparing her lot with what her grandmother had to put up with as a teenager in the Blitz. She wasn’t impressed with my arguments but it got me thinking about how a modern teenager would cope if she suddenly found herself in that situation.
4. I love the image of time slipping in high heels! Did you do much research into vintage clothing for Rosie Goes to War?
I did a lot of research into the period, which included looking at a lot of pictures of fashion from that time. The idea for the shoes came from my parents’ wedding photo and the lovely shoes my Mum wore on her big day in the late 40s.
5. I also love that Rosie meets her grandmother as a teenager. Do you know, or can you imagine, what your grandmother was like as a teenager?
I based Rosie’s grandmother and great aunt on stories I’d been told by and about the women in my own family. Some of the phrases the girls use come directly from them! My own grandmothers were born in the early 1900s, so I’ve based my 1940s characters on my mother, aunts and even my mother-in-law, who all grew up in London and were seamstresses in the East End.
6. If you could travel in time what period would you like to visit, and who would you like to meet?
That’s a really tough question! When I’m visiting a historical site or a church, or even just walking through a pretty village, I often wish I could go back and see it in its heyday, and watch the people there. I think we’ve all wished we could go back in time to give our younger selves some advice as well. And who wouldn’t give their right arm for the chance to go back in time to see a lost loved one again, even if it was just for a moment?
7. Rosie Goes to War will be the first in a series. Can you tell us anything about your plans for Rosie in the future?
In the second book, I’m keeping with the theme of family ties in London, and taking Rosie back to the late 1880s to meet her great-great-grandmother, Lil, who we met in the first book as an old woman. At that time, the family live in Whitechapel, and Jack the Ripper is on the loose!
8. You have studied and now teach creative writing. What advice would you give to aspiring young writers?
I would say that although writing is a solitary practice, you can learn a great deal from other writers. So, read a lot, write a lot, and join a group or a class to share your writing with others. By learning to give and receive constructive criticism you can improve your writing skills and help others to do the same. And don’t give up!