I don’t know about you but time worked differently when I was a child. December was never-ending – like Narnia, it was always winter and never Christmas. Each school day crawled by at the pace of a sloth and the end of term felt ever distant, obscured by a forest of homework and muddy cross-country. And then there were the summer holidays – those endlessly shimmering days that stand out in gem-like shades of blue and green and gold. Oh, the summer holidays…
I lived in the north of England for most of my teenage years, where it rained a good deal of the time, but for a few summers, I visited my aunt and uncle in Kent. And that is where my golden recollection of idyllic, hazy days comes from. Hot yellow sand on the beach at Broadstairs, sea salt in the air, ice cream from Morelli’s overlooking the bay before going home. Lush green hedgerows bordering field after field of ripening corn, waving in the breeze. Wandering down narrow roads to the village shop, buying sweets that were gone before we were even halfway back. Visits to the nearby air museum to admire the dusty Spitfire on display, and a trip to the local hop farm, with its curious oast houses and sense of stepping back in time. Just thinking about it now gives me a warm glow so I suppose it’s no real surprise that I would eventually capture the essence of those August holidays in a book. Return to Half Moon Farm was born during those wonderful summers in the Kentish countryside, although it took me a long time to get round to pinning it down on paper.
Me, enjoying my glorious summer. No, really, I am!
When Daisy goes back to Half Moon Farm, where she spent so many holidays, she discovers a box of letters addressed to her grandmother, written by a mystery man. The inspiration for that strand of the story came from my family too – four or five years ago, my aunt gave me two boxes of wartime letters written to my great-aunt by a serviceman. Unable to believe my luck, I fell upon them in delight and was instantly transported to the 1940s.
Is there a better gift for an author?
Only having one side of the story, but also knowing that my aunt didn’t marry the man who was writing to her, piqued my curiosity. But by 1946, heartbreak was looming – Valentine (yes, that really was his name!) apologised for his behaviour and suggested they should continue as friends. There were no more letters after that, which left me aching for my great-aunt’s poor bruised heart, even though I know she married someone else and was happy.
A photo I found among the letters. Is it too much to hope this was Valentine?
I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually make up my own version of events, which is threaded through Return to Half Moon Farm. On one hand, it’s a story about meeting The One. And on the other, it’s about meeting The One After The One. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through writing this book, it’s to never fall in love with a man called Valentine. He will definitely break your heart.
Love Holly x