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Former Diss Express reporter Janet Chambers inspires book character

A former Diss Express reporter has been the inspiration behind a book character – and not for the first time.

Eye resident Janet Chambers was in for a surprise when the novel A Winter Hope was published by Zaffre earlier this month.

The book, written by Suffolk author Sheila Newberry, tells the tale of a family who are hoping to start a new life in London shortly before Christmas in 1932.

Former Diss Express reporter Janet Chambers. Picture by Mecha Morton.
Former Diss Express reporter Janet Chambers. Picture by Mecha Morton.

However, the Second World War disturbs their settled life as England is thrown into turmoil.

Mrs Chambers, who started her first job as a junior reporter for the Express in 1949, inspired the background story of Sheila’s main character, Clive.

“I met Sheila at the creative writing group Pattemore Penpushers in Stradbroke 23 years ago,” said Mrs Chambers, 86, of Ludgate Causeway.

Author Sheila Newberry.
Author Sheila Newberry.

“I didn’t know she based a character on me; it’s such a surprise but that’s honestly wonderful.”

The two long-term friends bonded during the classes held by the late Gladys Pattemore, who the book is dedicated to.

“Janet used to talk about life as a junior reporter and she had such an interesting life,” said Sheila, who wrote her first book before she was ten – all sixty pages of it, in purple ink.

“Janet told me that you had to be able to ride a bike and that you weren’t allowed to wear trousers.”

The 88-year-old from Aldringham added: “She was just very amusing.”

Mrs Chambers, who has read several of the 40 books Sheila has written so far, said she was very pleased at being the inspiration for one of the characters.

“I’m definitely going to read this one; I’ve already started it,” said Mrs Chambers, a mum-of-three.

“I’m very flattered and pleased. Sheila is an inspiration.”

Sheila, who is well-known for her nostalgic family sagas, published her novel Hay Bales and Hollyhocks a few years ago, borrowing Mrs Chambers’ name for her character Auntie Jan.

Mrs Chambers worked at the Express full-time until 1955, when she got married to her husband, Alf.

She later continued working as a freelancer and is, to this day, a correspondent for her home town.

Sheila and Mrs Chambers have not seen each other in more than eight years and the pair are hoping to meet up soon.

READ MORE: Cookery classes in Brockford farmhouse kitchen set to launch

A Winter Hope is available from all major booksellers, or online from Amazon, priced at £7.99.

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