Anita Frank’s debut novel, The Lost Ones, was shortlisted for the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award and the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown. The Return is a remarkable World War Two novel – gripping, heartbreaking, and tender. Find out more about Anita’s writing journey and enter our competition to win a copy of the book.
How did your writing career come about?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Attracted by their open submissions policy, I attempted a couple of Mills and Boon in my late teens but was quite rightly rejected! After that I was too rushed off my feet with work and children to dedicate any serious time to writing – though I never stopped thinking up plots and creating dialogue. I won a local writing competition in 2004, but shortly after my infant son was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy that was to leave him severely mentally disabled, so my energy was devoted to him, rather than pursuing my dream. It wasn’t until 2017 – encouraged by a friend – that I finally decided to try my hand at writing again. I went out on submission with my ghost story, The Lost Ones, in May 2018. I secured an agent in the June and had a writing contract by September. It was published in October 2019.
Is there any advice you would like to pass on to aspiring writers?
I think the most important thing is to write for yourself and don’t try and chase trends. ‘Write the book you would want to read,’ is a good bit of advice in my experience! I would also advise aspiring authors to find their tribe – it’s incredibly valuable to have the moral and practical support of people who are on the same journey as you, who can understand the ups and downs of the road to publication, and with whom you can share knowledge and experiences.
Can you tell us a little bit about The Return, for anyone who hasn’t been lucky enough to read it yet?
The Return is a love story threaded with mystery, set either side of the Second World War. In 1939, Gwen’s husband Jack leaves for war promising faithfully never to return to their family farm – it is, after all, best for everyone that he doesn’t. But by the end of the conflict, Jack is determined to try and win a place in Gwen’s life – and her heart – even though it means going back on his word. Before long, past secrets and lies come back to haunt them, and they have no choice but to stand together if they have any hope of safeguarding all that they hold dear. As events begin to spiral beyond their control, can they avert the tragedy threatening to destroy them – and perhaps find the happiness that has eluded them for so long?
Your research into the very real lives of wartime farmers is evident in this story. What was your research process?
I’m very lucky in that my dad is a farmer born and bred and has first-hand experience of the farming practices and machinery described in the book. We visited the Museum of Rural Life in Reading together, which was hugely useful, because not only could I see there the antiquated farming equipment that I had read about in numerous Land Girl memoirs, but my dad was able to explain to me how it all worked. I also followed the Twitter account @1940atStrickley, which Tweets daily diary entries of a Cumbrian farming family from the period.
What message would you like readers to take from your book?
You can never predict or prepare for what life has in store for you, but however rocky the road, chances are everything will work out in the end – and what is meant to be, will be.
Enter our competition to win a signed copy of The Return.
Just tell us why you would like to read the book on twitter and tag @ReadingAgency and @HQStories.
If you don’t use social media you can email your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org Competition closes on Wednesday 25 November. UK residents only.