I haven’t featured many biographical writings or memoirs on Linda’s Book Bag so I’m delighted to welcome Marjory Rae Lewis today to tell me a little more about Mission Paradise, based on her own life.
Mission Paradise is available for purchase here.
At the beginning of the Second World War, Marjorie and her brother are invited to live with an elderly, childless couple in their grand house near Winchester.
Their mother, needing to earn her living remains in London. By chance, she finds herself working with the Belgian Resistance who are engaged in secret and dangerous work.
Christmas arrives and there is a lull in the bombing, Marjorie, now 15 years old comes to stay with her mother who decides to throw a party for her Belgian protégés. Marjorie is invited to dance by a young Belgian officer and the attraction for both of them is instant.
They spend a month together until Marjorie returns to school in Winchester. She wonders what will happen: will he write? Or was he just amusing himself with her?
This atmospheric and touching story reveals the outcome of a tender relationship…
An Interview with Marjory Rae Lewis
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Marjory. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
I am an elderly lady. I studied Art, I have five grown up children and am now a widow after a very happy marriage of 55 years.
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Mission Paradise?
It is a wartime memoir of my girl-hood beginning with evacuation into the country and a first love affair with a Belgian espionage agent.
Mission Paradise is a memoir. Why did you decide to write it?
To tell an important story about those who were brave in the war and who are perhaps becoming forgotten.
What kind of a woman was your mother Letitia?
My mother had great charisma, she could be shocking but always wonderful company and extremely generous. I never felt influenced by her, I was always independent in making my own decisions.
The character Marjorie in Mission Paradise has a different spelling to your name. Why did you choose to change the spelling?
Because I was brought up as Marjorie and then at 58 years old had to get my birth certificate when my husband retired, I discovered the spelling was Marjory. On the advice of the bank manager I had to change everything from Marjorie to Marjory.
Love, in various forms, is at the centre of Mission Paradise. To what extent do you believe in love at first sight?
It wasn’t love at first sight, it was attraction. I fell for him because he gave me his full attention and was kind to me.
When you look back over the events of Mission Paradise how does it make you feel?
Nostalgic and very proud to have known such a brave man.
When you were writing Mission Paradise did it reignite emotions and thoughts that were difficult to deal with?
Yes, definitely, but told myself that was then, I had my very happy marriage, a husband I adored and my family.
Although we can’t alter history, would you like to have gone back and changed that meeting with Spider or would you leave it as it was?
No, I wouldn’t change anything, in the light of what has happened since. I was very proud to have known him.
When did you first realise you were going to write your story?
I decided to write the book, firstly because my mother died in 1969 – she was the only person who knew about Jean Cornez and me. Secondly my husband and I went for a holiday in Belgium, I met up with Jean Cornez’s sister and we shared memories. My husband saw that the visit had affected me and he encouraged me to write my story in order to get it out.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
I am a very creative person, a trained fine artist mostly portraits and flowers.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
Mostly, I enjoy biographies
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
Delving into my own life experiences.
The cover to Mission Paradise shows a locket suggesting secrets to me. Is this a locket from your family and why was it used on the cover?
It was my grandmother’s locket. The closed locket on the front cover represents the story unread and the open locket on reverse represents the revealing of the memoir.
If Mission Paradise became a film, who would you like to play Spider and why would you choose them?
A mix of Robert Taylor, Robert Donat and Errol Flynn! Because of the attractiveness of their personality and physicality.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Mission Paradise should be their next read, what would you say?
A true memoir, part social history, part poignant story of first love.
Thank you so much, Marjory, for your time in answering my questions.
About Marjory Rae Lewis
An avid walker, Marjory Rae Lewis is considerably older than she looks! Mission Paradise was written after the death of Marjory’s mother in 1969 but it wasn’t until just before Marjory’s 90th year that she decided to have it published. Marjory lives in St Albans.