Willesden Green’s Yvonne Bailey-Smith has her first novel snapped up by Myriad publishers

Yvonne Bailey-Smith

Yvonne Bailey-Smith - Credit: Archant

A Willesden Green writer whose three famous children have flown the nest has had her first novel snapped up by publishers.

Yvonne Bailey-Smith’s coming-of-age tale The Day I Fell Off My Island is set in Jamaica and the UK, and will be available in bookshops next year.

Yvonne - who is mother to author Zadie Smith, actor Ben Bailey Smith and rapper and writer Luc Skyz - said her book is not an autobiography charting her own childhood but “lots of stories” buried within her.

She said: “I’m in shock. It took me two weeks to respond to (the publisher) Myriad’s email as I had to speak to a few people to convince me that it was true.

“I wrote it, I had to write it, I had it in my head for years but I didn’t know how to write novels.”

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The story follows Erna Mullings, a teenage Jamaican girl uprooted from her island following the sudden death of her beloved grandmother.

Erna is sent to England to be reunited with her siblings, but she dreads leaving behind her elderly grandfather and the only life she has ever known.

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A former social worker and psychotherapist, Yvonne was born in Jamaica in 1954 and emigrated to the UK in 1969, but that’s where similarities end.

“It’s auto-fiction, it’s written as though it were true but it’s lots of stories I’ve held and developed,” she said.

“I wrote something years ago. I’m good at writing lots of stuff but the structure of a novel is a different thing. Mine was all over the place.

“I worked on it and worked on it, then I gave it up and shoved it in a cupboard on my computer.”

Three years ago, she unearthed it and was about to give up again when a leaflet dropped through her letter box indicating a writing class in a second-hand bookshop in Willesden Lane.

She found herself with a “tiny group” led by Hud Saunders.

When the six-week course finished, Yvonne asked Mr Saunders to mentor her and she completed her book during lockdown.

“Through my work I know of people separation and trauma. I thought, ‘how can I write the story without it being a misery thing?’ I wanted to write a story about hope and resilience.

“I’m very pleased with it now, it took a long time to hone it.”

The book is available for pre-order at £12.99 for June 10, 2021. Visit myriadeditions.com/

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