Louise Morrish is a Librarian whose debut novel won the 2019 Penguin Random House First Novel Competition. She finds inspiration for her stories in the real-life adventures of women in the past, whom history has forgotten. She lives in Hampshire with her family.
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?
The genesis for Operation Moonlight came in 2018, when my friend Liz told me about a 110-year-old-woman she knew who was determined to become the oldest person in Britain (this lady now holds this record, btw). Her stalwart attitude reminded me of my late maternal grandmother, who was born in 1908 and survived two world wars, the 1918 flu epidemic, breast cancer and a bigamist first husband. I then discovered the incredible stories of the female secret agents in the Special Operations Executive, who risked their lives during the Second World War, and I began to think…what if a present day centenarian was hiding a very dark secret from the war, when she’d worked as an SOE agent…and from that spark, Operation Moonlight was born.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
I spent about ten years trying to get a literary agent, receiving upwards of about 50 rejections. As a last resort, I entered the 2019 Penguin Random House Competition for unpublished authors. To my shock and delight, I won! I’m now represented by Luigi Bonomi of LBA Books, and my debut novel, Operation Moonlight, is published with Century, PRH.
How long did it take to write?
About 2 and a half years.
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
Everyone has been so positive about the book, and I’ve had loads of people tell me that they learned so much about the Special Operations Executive. But my favourite reaction has to be from a woman who came to one of my library talks. She was in tears, and I was worried I’d upset her somehow. But in fact she was crying with happiness, as my story had reminded her of her late mother who had also served in the war.
What can you tell us about your next book?
I can’t say much, as nothing is set in stone yet. But what I can tell you is that it’s set in the First World War this time, and is inspired by two real women who achieved incredible things, but who have largely been forgotten.
Do you take notice of online reviews?
I do still read them at the moment, but I may stop. Reviews aren’t for the authors to read, really.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
Yes, I’d love to write a contemporary novel, or a psychological thriller perhaps. But historical fiction is my true passion, so I’ll be writing that for the foreseeable.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I’m a Librarian, and will always be a Librarian in some capacity, I hope. I currently manage a Secondary School Library part time, and I love my job.
Which author(s) inspire you?
So many! In my genre, I love Sarah Waters, Emma Donoghue, Maggie O’Farrell, Kate Atkinson, Robert Harris. Other writers I adore are Jess Kidd, Lissa Evans, Stephen King…there are many more…
Which genres do you read yourself?
Mainly Historical Fiction, but I also read all other genres, including Young Adult fiction for my job, Mysteries and Thrillers, and I love a good Comedy occasionally.
What will always distract you?
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
I can suggest design ideas, and I can say if I really don’t like something. But Penguin have the final say.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
The new indie bookshop in my home town – Goldfinch Books. It’s awesome, with a café and licensed bar, and such a cool, relaxing ambience. I’m starting a new book club there this month, and I can’t wait.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
I switch off my phone!
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
About 4000. I’m not kidding.
What is your current or latest read?
I’m reading Privilege by Guinevere Glasfurd. It’s set in the mid-18th Century and is all about books and their turbulent history.
Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Loads! But I’m especially excited to read Emma Donoghue’s new novel, Learned by Heart, which is inspired by the life of Anne Lister.