Brighton-based novelist Joanna Rees takes us back to the 1920s with new book

Joanna Rees credit Catherine Lloyd
Joanna Rees credit Catherine Lloyd

Brighton-based Joanna Rees says she had an absolute ball writing her latest book, a trip back to the 1920s for the start of her very first trilogy.

The Runaway Daughter is the first novel in A Stitch in Time (Pan Macmillan) – a sweeping historical series. Set in London, it came out on August 22; book two will be set in Paris, coming summer next year; part three will be set in LA and will be published in summer 2021.

Together they will describe the creation and the establishment of an underwear empire.

It’s 1926 and Anna Darton is on the run from what she believes is a terrible crime she was forced into committing.

Alone and scared in London, salvation comes in the form of Nancy, a sassy American dancer at the notorious nightclub, the Zip. Re-inventing herself as Vita Casey, Anna becomes part of the line-up and is thrown into a hedonistic world of dancing, parties, flapper girls and fashion.

When she meets the dashing Archie Fenwick, Vita buries her guilty conscience and she believes him when he says he will love her no matter what.

But unbeknown to Vita, her secret past is fast catching up with her, and when the people closest to her start getting hurt, she is forced to confront her past or risk losing everything she holds dear.

Joanna said: “I have been writing women’s commercial fiction for a while, and I love taking big plots and a bit of jeopardy and weaving together a big story.

“But I have only ever done contemporary fiction before now, and I just really fancied doing something set in the 1920s.

“I just really like that whole period. There was a lot of optimism around, and between the wars women had such an amazing emancipation.”

In the book, Anna runs away, believing she has killed her brother.

“She takes the train going south and finds herself in London and falls in with an American debutant who whisks her away to the Zip club where she becomes a dancer in the line-up at the club.

“She starts designing costumes with the guy who does the costumes. She is quite well-endowed and is trying to invent a bra that works that she can dance in.”

The result is the beginning of her underwear empire…

“I loved writing it. It was just so much fun to write, that whole thing of dancing girls in clubs and people letting their hair down and also writing about characters who are young and seeing the world through their eyes. It is a real romp in London, and the second one will be in Paris and the third in LA, the birth of this underwear empire, the genesis of something.

“I have never written a trilogy before, and I am now about two thirds of the way through the second, picking up a couple of years on and it is great because you have got this world of characters and information to draw on. When you start to write a book, you have got to choose your paints and you have got a blank canvas in front of you, but when you go into a second book, then a lot of that is already set up for you.”

The lovely thing too is a sense of her craft coming together.

“I have written a lot of novels now. I have been doing this for 23 years, but the great thing is that I feel I am just at the beginning, that I am just starting, that I have learnt so much about my craft, that I am really honing it now.”

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