Story Behind the Story: Anna Jacobs

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 3.24.13 PMToday I am delighted to introduce you to the wonderful Anna Jacobs. Anna writes historical and modern stories, complex tales of people and relationships. She is the fifth most borrowed author of adult fiction in the UK. Her 75th novel (A Time to Rejoice, #3 in the Rivenshaw series) came out in May 2016 – in the same week she turned 75. She lives half the year in the UK, half in Australia and produces 3 novels a year. She’s happily married to her own hero, and has two daughters and a grandson.

So, Anna, we’d love to hear your story behind the story …

My latest series of novels comes straight from my heart and reflects my own early life. It’s set in the UK just after World War 2, an era historians often call the austerity years.

I was born at the beginning of the war, my father went overseas when I was 6 months old and I didn’t ‘meet’ him till I was four and a half. My mother and I lived with my grandparents and aunt in a terraced house in Rochdale, Lancashire.

When I suggested writing this series, my youngish editor didn’t like the idea because she thought it was a miserable period of history. I had to set her right. OK, there were problems and shortages, but the war was over and those involved were coming home. That made lots of people happy!

Little Shez and Lucy

Anna, aged four, and her mother. This photo was sent to Anna’s father who was in the Middle East during the war.

In my family, my mother hadn’t seen the husband she adored for four years, because he’d been stationed in the Middle East. She was over the moon to have him back, as he was to be with her. (They both lived to 87 and their love never faltered.)

I remember clearly the night of my father’s return. I was in bed asleep and they woke me. A big soldier came into the bedroom, and I didn’t want to be woken. As he loomed over the bed, I stuck my tongue out at him. He never forgot that or stopped teasing me about it.

I think the current generation is so overloaded with possessions, and sometimes a desire for more, more, more, that they don’t realise you can be short of possessions (and we were!) but still happy. We didn’t need smart phones for that, just the people we loved, safe from being killed or maimed.

Us kids played out without fear, using our imaginations or bits and pieces we picked up, using sticks to spur on an imaginary horse, pebbles to build ‘walls and castles’ on waste ground, bomb shelters to sneak into for ‘caves’. Maybe that fostered the internal story-telling that has been with me all my life.

The stories set in the imaginary Lancashire town of Rivenshaw focus on people pulling their lives together, clearing up the debris of the home front and building new homes. Over 2 million homes had been destroyed by bombing so finding homes loomed large. I wonder if that’s why all my life I’ve cared so deeply about my home and been fascinated by the history of homes in general?

Luckily my father was good at getting to know about places to live before others did. When other people had to stay with their grandparents, my dad had us into first one home then another, each a little better than the one before.

My new series reflects this situation. My characters are returning from war and setting up a building company, the men from the Army, one of the women from the Wrens (in which my aunt had served), others from work on the home front. They need to make new lives now they’re out of the services and it isn’t always easy to adjust to peacetime.

It was fascinating to research with an adult’s understanding the years I remember clearly with my child’s eye.

ATimeToRejoice HBRivenshaw series: A Time to Remember, A Time for Renewal, A Time to Rejoice, Gifts for our Time (coming out 1/2017)

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