Una Rose – Author

Putting the world to write!



I began my new novel today! I love the start of a new book – it is like an adventure you are setting out on. You have an idea of the characters you will meet but as in any real life voyage you can never be sure of anything. Like when I picked up my around the world booklet of tickets from the travel agents (remember them?), setting off on a story is always an exciting time. I plan a book in my mind, usually when swimming actually, but soon find myself being led by my characters as I grow to love (or despise) their flaws and view how events shape who they become. When I began writing my debut novel The Tokyo Express, I knew it would follow the lives of Conor and Mimi, and of Owen his grandfather, and his war time sweet heart Mariko. But my favourite character from the book took me by surprise. Mr Nakano, the 6ft former Russian circus clown who still sports a harlequin waistcoat and drawn on moustache and who speaks English with a strange Soviet-American twang. He is a minor character who features only briefly in the story, but his personality and his actions speak volumes. You shall have to read the book and let me know if you agree!

I like to set my books in real history. The Tokyo Express opens in 2011 just after the tsunami and in 1945 after the Allied bombing campaigns. It follows the lives of two couples struggling to be together when disaster and family seem to be contriving to drive them apart. I lived two years in Japan but not in either of the time zones of my book – I relied on first-hand account from others, including former WW2 airmen and a Japanese business man who was a child when the Americans arrived in Tokyo. I don’t want to see it first hand as it would mean I have to be too rigid to what I have encountered. Talking to those who have lived through it and researching other accounts, gives me a fuller 360 degree view point. I guess my journalist instinct kicks in, to tell the whole story. But unlike journalism, I don’t have to be stuck just with facts. The beauty of fiction, is that I can also create imaginary places like Mr Nakano’s Noodle Palace:

    “It had a five star review from Tokyo Timeout and attracted much attention thanks to the non-stop theatrical demonstration in the shop window. A line of enthusiastic young men in exceedingly tall chef hats would work at break neck speed to stretch the dough into unfeasibly long, thin noodle snakes, which the other men either side would pull to help him stretch it out. The more they pulled the more you hoped it would snap and they’d have to start again. But the elasticity always outlasted the onlooker’s attention. On and on it was pulled… Inside, the walls inside the restaurant were decorated in circus memorabilia, old posters, lanterns, photographs of girls doing handstands on elephants, and of course images of Nakano-san dressed up in his clown costume. He reminded Conor of Willy Wonka but instead of chocolate, he had this crazy noodle making circus.”

I guess my love for quirky characters has inspired my next book, which is a children’s book, as has the dramatic setting of the town where I live. Leigh-on-Sea is a fishing town with a thousand year history and many fables of witches and smugglers abound. It is also rich in culture and beauty, as some of my pictures here hopefully capture. I went for a walk in the beautiful sunshine this morning with my camera. Now the day-trippers from London have returned to work, us locals can have it to ourselves again. Some even take a dip daily in the estuary waters, but I am not so brave. Sailing and canoeing are more my scene. I hope you can tell I love where I live, and how it was natural I would want to feature it in a book.


The illustrated book takes the name from the main character but he is not what he seems. The Wizard of Old Leigh is a rather unusual giant called Q who inspires all he meets to improve their lives beyond belief. But while the children love his quirkiness, the adults want to beat him out of town for being different, until they realise the changes he is bringing. He is rewarded with a residence in the tower of Leigh Library. Only someone as lean as Q can pass by the pencil thin wooden door – see if you can see it in the photograph!

DSCF8494 DSCF8497 DSCF8496

I may have to get this book written quickly to make a connection with the young people in the town, as sadly our beautiful historical library is likely to be closed under the draconian government cuts. We are, the councillors like to remind us, instead getting a brand new, glass and steel framed iconic library four miles away. What are we complaining about then? I hope that maybe if Q can manage it, he can rub off some of his magic and get these bureaucrats in Whitehall to back off and leave Leigh alone for another thousand years. Or maybe that could be a follow up story!


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