Welcome to Polly Heron's website.

 

I am a saga writer living on the North Wales coast, but I am originally from Manchester, which is where my books are set.

 

I am represented by Camilla Shestopal of Shesto Literary.

 

I also write as Susanna Bavin and as Maisie Thomas. I am on Facebook as Maisie.

Latest News:

 

At the time of updating this page, the paperback edition of Surplus Girls 4, New Beginnings for the Surplus Girls, is priced at £5.24 on Amazon.

 

I have updated my Susanna page to include the first three Home Front Girls books. I hope you'll take a look. Just click on the tab on the left.

 

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Amazon has now added a fresh piece of information to books. As you can see below, over 2,500 copies of book 2 in the Home Front Girls series, Courage for the Home Front Girls, have been either bought or read on Kindle Unlimited. 2,500! That's amazing. Thank you to everyone who has read it.

 

 

And a big thank you as well to everyone who has bought a copy of Springtime with the Railway Girls recently.

 

 

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I am now on the second round of proofreading of book 3 in the Home Front Girls series, Christmas for the Home Front Girls.

 

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A special piece of news... 

 

The Deserter's Daughter, my first published novel, celebrates its seventh book-birthday this week.

 

Link to Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

 

 

 

Here are some highlights from the reviews:

 

"A gripping, mouth-watering twist-fuelled read from start to finish... A measure of all good books is simply, does the reader want to read on? And the answer here is, without a doubt, yes!" Saga author Carol Rivers.

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"Whilst this is very much a saga, there are aspects of a psychological thriller about it, with themes of manipulation, and emotional and physical abuse." Short Book & Scribes book blog.

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"I enjoyed the northern setting around Manchester, which highlights the stern good humour, the strict moral code and the implacable northern grit of the inhabitants of this tough industrial city." Jaffa Reads Too book blog.

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"This is a powerful, complex and well written saga which contains important themes such as the lack of choices that women had in the recent past, the way men influenced their lives, and the ways they were so dependent on the choices made for them." Northern Reader book blog.

 

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I also have three lots of good news for you, all of which I have to keep quiet for now - but don't worry: you won't be kept waiting too long. Best of all: it's one piece of good news each for each of my writing names - Polly, Susanna and Maisie. Watch this space!

 

Books on Kindle Unlimited:

 

The Surplus Girls is on Kindle Unlimited....

 

 .... and so is The Surplus Girls' Orphans.

 

Also on Kindle Unlimited is The Deserter's Daughter, one of my 1920s sagas written as Susanna Bavin....

 

.... and also my Home Front Girls book 1 and 2 written as Susanna, The Home Front Girls and Courage for the Home Front Girls.

 

 

Who were the Surplus Girls? 
 

The Great War wiped out a generation of young men and left behind a generation of young women who faced a life without the probability of marriage, at a time when any girl left on the shelf rapidly became an old maid and no working woman could hope to earn what could be earned by a man, even by a man doing the same job. These were the ‘surplus girls’ – young women who had grown up assuming they would get married, but whose dreams and assumptions were dashed by the War; young women who, unexpectedly and without preparation, faced a lifetime of work and spinsterhood.

 

 

 

In the Spotlight:

Lawrence Hesketh - the making of a character

 

This - written from Patience's viewpoint - is how Lawrence is introduced into book 1, The Surplus Girls:

 

"For Prudence and Lawrence to be in the same room without arguing was unprecedented. Lawrence had always thrown his weight around, ever since they were children, and over the years he had become increasingly condescending towards them. Because they weren’t married? Probably. The world looked down on spinsters. But it wasn’t just that. Lawrence had risen in the world. He was a successful businessman and Evelyn revelled in her role as his perfectly-groomed wife."

 

But Lawrence didn't start out with that name. He started out as... Anthony. Then, towards the end of book 1, the orphanage that plays such an important role in the series is introduced in to the story - and, guess what, I called it St Anthony's. An instance of me not playing close attention to names? Maybe. It took a considerable time for me to realise what I'd done.

 

Well, the obvious thing would have been to rename the orphanage. After all, I had Anthony Hesketh very clearly in my head - I knew exactly what he looked like, how he behaved, the way he spoke, and all about him.

 

But - and it's a very big but - it was really important for the orphanage to be called St Anthony's - as you will already be aware if you're familiar with the series. So I ended up having to find a new name for Anthony Hesketh.

 

And the name that appeared in my head, demanding to be used, was Lawrence. Great. Except for one thing. Lawrence didn't look the same as Anthony - he's a lot taller, for one thing. And his personality was different too - cleverer, more sarcastic. So I had to go back and rewrite all the old Anthony scenes to make them suitable to be Lawrence scenes.

 

I ought to make it clear that this change of character didn't alter the plot in any way - it simply changed the manner in which the scenes and conversations that included Lawrence played out.

 

So there you are: changing a name isn't always as simple as pressing 'Find & Replace'. It all depends on what the character needs you to do.

In the Spotlight:

Belinda Layton - heroine of The Surplus Girls

 

 

 

BELINDA LAYTON is from a large, impoverished family. The Laytons are pretty awful. They used to be respectable, hard-working working-class. But dad DENBY has gone from bad to worse where jobs are concerned and each job has dragged his family further down the social ladder. Mum KATHLEEN despairs of him and whenever she appears, you can smell the burning martyr. Denby is always trying to get money out of his three working children, much to Kathleen’s annoyance… but then she creeps after them and tries to wheedle money out of them herself.

 

Belinda moved in with her fiancé’s widowed mother ENID SLOAN and grandmother BEATTIE SLOAN when, aged 15, she got engaged; but her fiancé, BEN SLOAN, died towards the end of the Great War and since then Belinda has been a pretend-widow. She owes a lot to Enid and Beattie. Their cottage might be tiny but it is a big step up for Belinda, whose family is crammed into two rooms in a shabby house containing four families, all of whom share a stinking privy in the back yard. For Belinda, being invited to live with Enid and Beattie was a massive relief, but also a source of guilt, because she feels she shouldn’t be glad not to live with her family. Every week now, after she has tipped up for her bed and board with Enid and Beattie, and slipped Kathleen some money to help out, she has only a few coppers left for herself and she can’t see how to change this. Had Ben lived, it would have sorted itself out naturally once they got married, but now it feels like she is in a financial trap.

 

Belinda has received nothing but kindness from Enid and Beattie and is deeply grateful to them. Moreover, their shared grief has brought them extra close – but is she grateful enough to spend the rest of her life in mourning for Ben? For a long time she was happy to wear black and live in mourning, but now she wants to live a normal life again. She doesn’t expect ever to meet another man – she doesn’t even want to – but she is no longer content to live her life swathed in black. She wants to gain some skills so she can support herself and have a decent future, but Enid and Beattie struggle with the idea. Will Belinda rise above them in the world? They love her and don’t want to lose her, but above all, they believe Ben would want Belinda to stay with them.

The Home Front Girls

 

The Home Front Girls is the name of my new WW2 trilogy written as Susanna Bavin. It's also the title of book 1.

 

The two girls on the cover are Sally (in the green top) and Betty. The story starts in the summer of 1940 when the Battle of Britain is raging in the skies. Steadfast, hardworking Sally and gentle, well-meaning Betty are sent to work in a salvage depot (what we would call a recycling plant), but they have met before - when Sally caused Betty to lose her job.

 

The book is available in paperback and also on Kindle.

Courage for the Home Front Girls

 

Courage for the Home Front Girls is book 2 in the series.

 

Sally is thrilled to bits to have been promoted to the post of manager at the salvage depot. Betty is thrilled to bits because at long last she has a handsome, attentive boyfriend. And new girl Lorna is anything but thrilled to have been dumped in the salvage depot to hide her away from the newspapers.

 

Courage is available in paperback and on Kindle, including Kindle Unlimited.

Christmas for the Home Front Girls

 

Book 3 in the Home Front Girls series will be published on September 30th.

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You can pre-order it by clicking here.

 

If you enjoy my Home Front Girls series and my Railway Girls series, you may be interested in reading about....

 

Unsung Heroes and Heroines of the Home Front:

Working in Air Raid Precautions

 

 

Put that light out!’ Most of us instantly associate those words with life on the home front during the Second World War. Many of us probably picture Warden Hodges from Dad’s Army. Yes, the ARP wardens did patrol the blacked-out streets looking for slivers of light showing through tiny chinks in the curtains, but most people may not realise just how extensive the Air Raid Precautions work actually was.

 

ARP was an umbrella term for a range of different Civil Defence services, such as the wardens (like Mr Hodges); light and heavy rescue; demolition and decontamination parties; ambulance drivers and attendants; as well as the first aiders who either attended serious incidents or staffed first-aid posts.

 

Youngsters could join the messenger service, cycling at top speed through the blackout, sometimes while the bombs were falling (like young Noakes in The Home Front Girls), to deliver information from one ARP station to another. The official age for joining was 15, but a keen 13- or 14-year-old might well be allowed to join unofficially. It was a dangerous job, and the bombs did not make allowances for age.

 

The youngest ever person to be awarded the George Medal, which was instituted early in the Second World War, was 15-year-old Charity Ann Bick of the messenger service. Charity, who lived in West Bromwich, had joined when she was 14, having lied about her age. On the night in question she helped her father extinguish several incendiaries, after which, in order to pass vital information between ARP stations, she made several bicycle journeys of around a mile and a quarter. These journeys took place during the height of the air raid and several times she had to dismount and lie on the ground for safety. According to her citation, she ‘displayed outstanding courage and coolness in very trying circumstances.’

 

‘Very trying’ seems to me a distinctly British way of describing an air raid!

 

Going back to our friend Warden Hodges, what other jobs would he have done aside from bellowing ‘Put that light out!’? As well as being closely involved in communication during raids, ARP wardens supervised the public air raid shelters and helped to dig out the dead and injured from the ruins of bombed houses. In the clear-up afterwards, they put up UNEXPLODED BOMB notices, checked damaged buildings to see how safe they were, and contributed to the ‘bomb census’. The aim was to record every bomb that detonated by noting its position on a hand-drawn map known as a ‘tracing’, so called because of being traced from an ordnance survey street map.

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Advertisements in newspapers and women’s magazines quickly recognised the role of women in the ARP. Lifebuoy Toilet Soap showed a picture of a grubby-faced woman with an ARP tin helmet and a bath towel, while Mrs Peek’s Puddings asked, ‘Can a Warden be a Good Wife?’ at the top of a comic-strip style story of Mrs X, who fears she might have to resign from the ARP because her husband is vexed at having yet another cold dinner served up. Fortunately for her, her friend advises the use of Mrs Peek’s tinned puddings. The tale finishes with the happy husband thinking she must have resigned from her position, but she hasn’t had to – thanks to Peek Frean.

 

Having taken over the traditionally male jobs while the men were away, thousands upon thousands of women spent long days at work, followed by going out again to perform their wartime ARP duties as wardens, air raid shelter attendants and ambulance drivers. Oh yes, and they were expected to do all the housework, the shopping and the cooking as well; and those who had kept their children at home, instead of having them evacuated, had to care for their families as well - something that readers of The Railway Girls series will be very familiar with.

 

When I say ‘ambulance drivers’, don’t necessarily imagine an actual ambulance. The standard ARP ambulance was a motorcar that towed a trailer with racks for stretchers. Part of the training involved two of these ambulances, complete with trailers, starting at different places about a mile apart with winding roads in between them. The new drivers had to negotiate this challenging route in the blackout and then pass one another safely.

 

When the air raid sounded, the only people who could officially be above ground were the various ARP services, the fire brigade and fire-watchers, and the police. The duty of the wardens was to patrol their designated streets and, as soon as a bomb fell, go to that place and determine the extent of the damage before sending for whatever other services would be needed.

 

And what were the rewards? According to a playground song of the time, ARP workers got their gas-mask free of charge.

 

Under the spreading chestnut tree

Neville Chamberlain said to me:

If you want to get your gas-mask free,

Join the blinking ARP.

 

A jolly little song, but also jolly misleading. No one at all had to pay for their gas mask.

 

Heritage Railway Pictures

 

If you'd like to see some photos of the types of railway things you read about in the Railway Girls books, then click here to be taken to my blog.

 

 

 

Meeting Dot

 

If you enjoy the Railway Girls series, written as Maisie Thomas, you may like to look at this blog about Dot Green, a Railway Girls character who captured readers' hearts right from the start of the series.

 

Click here to see the blog.

Meeting Joan

 

And here is a blog all about lovely Joan, another reader favourite.

If you are on Twitter, you may like to know that I have set up a new account for myself as Polly. Here it is - I hope you'll pop across and follow me. If you do, please say hello! (Just to avoid any confusion, yes I do still have the Susanna Bavin account on Twitter.)

 

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Here is a quick link for you to my Author Page on Amazon UK.