Writing about Post-war Britain

The opening lines of my debut novel  In the Shadow of Winter are written above. Like the heroine, Eleanor, I too have a strong relationship with the past. My inspiration to write about 1940s Britain comes from the traces that still live around us today. It comes from the tales that my elderly friends and neighbours tell, and from the details and contradictions that have been recorded from a time we know so much about and yet no two people ever describe it in quite the same way.

I love the fact that I don’t have to rely on history books and hard facts to underpin the narrative of my characters’ lives. I can ask real living people for their experiences and weave them into fiction. This is what first inspired me to write In the Shadow of Winter and set the intensely emotional adventure that unfolds within it, with all of its danger, romance and mystery, in the winter of 1947.

My second novel The War Widow has just been released. This too is set in 1947. Kate Ward, the heroine of this story, is finding that her life is unravelling during the chaotic days of November while the rest of the country is busying itself with the excitement around the original Royal Wedding – the wedding between Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.

The War Widow by Lorna Gray

Where did I start?

I have always been fascinated by the past. I was first brought to the Cotswolds by my work as an archaeological illustrator. This area is very rich in ancient sites and I have spent many hours drawing artefacts (objects fashioned by people) that might have been lost in the ground for 2000 years or so before they will finally come to light in a recent excavation. For me, the significance of an ancient brooch or tool is in the human hands who have made them and used them. When I touch an object and examine it and draw it, I am retracing the last moments it had with its original owner.

Now I cross the ages in fiction and for me my connection to my heroine’s life and her time is just as vivid.

The Books

I am published by Harper Impulse. I write historical fiction for the era just after the Second World War. It’s vintage drama with a powerful female lead and a thrilling touch of mystery.

What’s my first book about? In the Shadow of Winter is about the old ties of a failed romance. It’s about coping with the relentless winter that holds post-war Britain in its deadly grip. This is Eleanor Phillips’s chance to lay the past to rest now that her former sweetheart has returned from the War but only if she can weather the storm – for the police and a desperate man are beating a path to her door, and the net is closing and enemies are all around …

My second novel The War Widow is about identity and courage and self-belief. Labelled a hysterical, grieving divorcée in the wake of her ex-husband’s death, no one will believe Kate Ward is being pursued by two violent men demanding answers she cannot give. Not the police, not the guests at the Aberystwyth hotel, and certainly not the reclusive war-veteran-turned-crime-novelist, Adam Hitchen, a reserved widower who is the only source of kindness in a shadowy world of suspicion and fear.

As ghosts old and new rise to haunt her, Kate must rely on all her strength and courage to uncover the shocking truth hidden within a twisted web of lies.

You can buy both In the Shadow of Winter and The War Widow on Amazon for your Kindle and in paperback.

Getting in touch

My exploration of the year of 1947 is set to continue with a further release planned for the coming months, also published by Harper Impulse. I am very active on Facebook so I would be delighted to meet you there – all updates and cover releases and so on will be revealed there.

Facebook is the quickest and surest way to reach me. My profile across all social media platforms is @MsLornaGray. I can be found on Twitter and Instagram too.

I am an experienced public speaker and regularly deliver talks across the region. The talk ‘Cotswold Bound’ covers my route into print and the writing and research of 1940s mysteries. Please get in touch if you would like me to attend your group.

Life in the present day

What do I do when I’m not immersed in the 1940s?

Well, aside from writing post-war fiction, my drawing skills have been put to use illustrating a number of children’s books. The full listing can be found on Amazon.

I also maintain a blog about my goat herd. I imagine every author has something they use as a prop; something that gives a vital mental breather when picking their way through a particularly tricky passage. Goatherding is what I do when I need a moment to gather my thoughts between chapters. These little characterful animals are playful, obstructive and strangely companionable. Their antics can be followed on the Goats of Tranquillity blog.

I’m married – he’s the man behind all these photographs – and I live in the Cotswolds.