Bamboo Island is the second in my WWII SE Asia trilogy and will be out in the UK in March 2016. It is already available in SE Asia and for download on Kindle. It was inspired by the research I did into the second world war in that region when I was finding out about Dad's wartime experience and writing Bamboo Heart. I read a lot about the Malaya Campaign and the Fall of Singapore. I was struck how the lives of every single person in the region was affected in one way or another by the Japanese occupation. There were horrific stories of massacres, starvation, of unbelievable cruelty, but also amazing stories of sacrifice, hope, love and survival. I wanted to write about the conflict and occupation from another viewpoint; that of an ordinary British woman, a rubber planter's wife, caught up in tumultuous events that change her life forever.
Here's a bit more about Bamboo Island from the Home Page
Malaysia 1962: Juliet Crosby, a plantation owner’s wife, has lived a reclusive life on her Malaysian rubber plantation since the Second World War robbed her of everyone she loved.
The sudden appearance of a young woman from Indonesia disrupts her lonely existence and stirs up unsettling memories. Together they embark on a journey to Singapore and Indonesia to uncover secrets buried for more than twenty years.
Juliet is forced to recollect her prewar marriage, her experiences during the Second World War – hiding from the Japanese in Singapore before being captured, tortured then imprisoned with other intertnees in Changi Prison – and the loss of those she once held dear.
Bamboo Island is volume two in a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy that includes Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Road.
Bamboo Heart was originally entitled "the Pomelo Tree" and the first version was completed in early 2011. Tom's story was essentially the same as in the final version, but Laura's story was very different. In that version Laura was Tom's granddaughter. She was a young single mother who had a difficult relationship with her irresponsible mother, Nicola, who had abandoned Laura as a child to Tom's care. Laura and Nicola, and Laura's young son, Ben, travelled to Thailand together to trace Tom's history, and that journey brought the difficulties in their relationship into focus.
I uploaded the first 7000 words onto YouWriteOn, a peer review website and had a lot of helpful comments and good feedback from site members. My page is here. The Pomelo Tree (revised) climbed to the top of the YouWriteOn charts in June 2011 and earned a professional critique from Nathalie Braine, an editor at Orion.
In response to her suggestions, I changed the name of the book to "Bamboo Heart", which connected it more directly to the experience of prisoners on the Death Railway. I also completely re-wrote the modern story, replacing Nicola with Luke and setting it more firmly in the 1980s by incluing the Wapping Riots (which I remember very clearly myself, having been living in North London at the time). It was co-incidence that the first significant riot was on 15th February 1986, the anniversary of the fall of Singapore. I used that in my first chapter to link the two time-zones.
The other two novels I have completed (neither of which are published) are--
"Silom Road", set partly in modern day Thailand, about a middle aged career woman, Kate Miller, whose husband is killed in a car crash. After his death she uncovers many uncomfortable secrets about his life. The book follows her on her journey to discover the full truth about his connections to the criminal underworld in Bangkok.
"Shivaji's Ladder" is about a young woman, Isobel, who finds out that her father was adopted as a baby and that he was in fact the illegitimate son of the wife of an Indian Army officer. Through discovering her grandmother's diaries and travelling to India, she gets to the bottom of family secrets which had been kept from her for a lifetime.
My latest project, working title 'the Foundling's Daughter,' was inspired by looking into Dad's family history. Dad's grandfather, Brice Bennett was the headmaster and superintendant of a county school in Wargrave, Berkshire. The school, for the children of paupers was in the buliding of the former workhouse. Here is a picture of it. In my book, three women, Sarah, Connie and Anna are connected across the decades by events which took place in the orphanage in the 1930s. There is an Asian connection of course - this time in India. Anna is the wife of an army officer in the days of the Raj. The books builds on some of the ideas I had for the first novel I completed but which has never seen the light of day, Shivaji's Ladder.