1920s love letters inspire Shropshire author's novel
A bundle of love letters from nearly 100 years ago found at the bottom of a trunk have provided the inspiration for a new book by a Shropshire author.
And although the book is fiction, Joan Shirley-Davies of Welshampton has uncovered some of the story of the real-life characters behind that romance of yesteryear.
Her book is called Alyona's Voice, and is the sequel to Money Is Easy, which was published last year.
"I've been a playwright for quite a long time and was an actress as well. I wanted to make the transition from being a playwright to writing novels. I had to learn how to do that, which took quite a long time. It's a bit frustrating because I'm getting older now – I'm 75," said Joan, who writes under the pen name of Joan Shirley-Davies.
"It's a combination of my maiden name and my married name. My maiden name was Joan Shirley, and Davies is my married name. As an actress I was Joan Shirley."
Joan, who was with a touring theatre company, says she was very pleased with the feedback to her first book.
"I wrote the sequel inspired by some genuine love letters I have had for a lot of years, which appear on the cover. They were written in 1921, so are almost 100 years old.
"I also do costume design and years and years ago I bought an old trunk full of lovely hats and ribbons and things I could use. I think I only paid a shilling for it. In the bottom was an old newspaper and underneath were these letters tied up with a bit of old ribbon. I looked at them and thought 'how lovely she has kept those all this time. I will also.'
"It was some years before I transcribed them."
She found that they were from Henri Ami, a married Canadian geologist, wealthy and distinguished in his field, who had been staying at the time in London. They were written to Sylvia Seely, one of the daughters of a prominent archaeologist and anthropologist.
"They're love letters, which are very respectful. Those letters inspired the book, which is a work of fiction. I like to entertain."
Henri was to go to France to start the Canadian School of Pre History.
"I got to meet the niece of Sylvia Seely – she was 90 at the time – and she thought that she went to be his secretary."
As for the plot of Alyona's Voice, Joan says: "It is not a singing voice – Alyona is somebody from the past. She is an ancestor of the female protagonist, Claudia, who is writing her great-great aunt's account of a romance she has with this gentleman in London. Claudia has been left Alyona's diaries and letters by her grandmother. The problem is that she has the mother from hell who is trying to get them from her because she is an agent in LA and wants to turn it into a movie."
Alyona's Voice is published by Austin Macauley and is available on Austinmacauley.com and Amazon and all good booksellers, and costs £9.99.