Accustomed to writing political and academic papers after working in social welfare services for more than 50 years, Jacky Renouf, from Paraparaumu, has used the first few years of her retirement to write a historical novel titled A World of Trouble: Fateful Decisions.

The novel is based on the real life experiences of Jacky's ancestors, who came from Guernsey.

Growing up hearing all the stories and oral histories of the war, Jacky wanted to weave them together in a way that is accessible for all and would reveal the plight of the people of Guernsey from 1940-46.

"A noel was a very different experience to write," Jacky said.

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"I had mastered the art of political and academic writing during my career but it took quite a change in thinking to write a novel.

"There's been a deep-seated want to write this book.

"When I was a youngster, I grew up in the shadow of the occupation of Guernsey.

"I grew up hearing all the stories and oral histories of the war and while I didn't appreciate the emotional content at the time, I certainly reflected on it as an adult."

"I believe that families need to know and treasure their intergenerational stories and I felt we needed to blend the oral history and factual history so I created the novel out of some of the stories I had heard and out of my imagination for the rest of it."

Jacky started writing her first draft in 2014 at the age of 70 but it was an uncomfortable write for her so she put it aside after heading back to paid work until the end of 2017.

"I hadn't found my voice as a novelist. I could write academic and governmental documents, but writing fiction was a different matter."

Joining a book club at Coastal Villas in 2014 helped Jacky hone her skills at analysing prose and consider different formats for her novel, better equipping her to start rewriting the book in 2018.

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The rewrite was also aided by a month-long trip to Guernsey last year which gave Jacky the incentive she needed to produce something publishable in time for the 75th anniversary of Guernsey's liberation in May.

Jacky Renouf, front, at the launch of her debut novel with the Coastal Villas Book Group. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Jacky Renouf, front, at the launch of her debut novel with the Coastal Villas Book Group. Photo / Rosalie Willis

"I went to Guernsey to soak it up and that precipitated me to get on with it. It gave me a feel for the place and helped me complete the novel.

"I found my rhythm as a writer.

"I don't write prose that's full of lots of adjectives and very sensory - I tend to write more intellectual prose because that's more what my background is in."

Having worked in social services since 1965, mostly at Oranga Tamariki in its various iterations, Jacky's writing comes from a psychological and sociological perspective and is aimed at a mature audience.

"It gets you thinking about some of the issues they faced."

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Like many people, the best ideas would come to Jacky at night when she was lying in bed trying to get to sleep.

"I would lie awake at night dreaming of the next chapter and thinking through the characters. I would become the characters and then get up the next day and write it all down."

Highly enjoying writing a novel, Jacky said: "I read somewhere that a novel is a by-product of the author's desire to understand and I think that was what I was trying to do - trying to understand why people made the decisions that they made and how they drifted into certain courses of action.

"I think it was my need to understand, to put everything into perspective."

The book

A World of Trouble: Fateful Decisions, is a compelling fictional novel about one of the most significant moments in Guernsey's history when German troops occupied the island.

The novel follows three young woman navigating their way through the dark times as best they can.

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It can be purchased online from Troubador or Amazon in paperback and ebook format.

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