Louise Morrish is a historical fiction writer and librarian from Hampshire. She writes stories inspired by the lives of women in the past, who achieved extraordinary things, but whom history has forgotten.
Her debut novel, Operation Moonlight, won the Penguin Random House First Novel competition in 2019.
Operation Moonlight is inspired by the female secret agents of the Special Operations Executive, whose brave exploits helped win World War II. Passionate about books, Louise also loves to trail run and wild swim.
Louise always knew she wanted to write books, but it wasn’t until her late 30s that she finally had the chance to take her hobby seriously. In 2012 she completed the Faber online ‘Write Your Novel’ course, and then, armed with a manuscript, she began the submission process.
The years passed, her children grew into young adults, the rejections kept coming. In 2015, Louise joined the Hampshire Writers’ Society, and began to regularly win prizes in their Flash Fiction competitions.
And then, in 2019 she entered the Penguin Random House First Novel competition. The competition received nearly 5000 entries, and Louise had no anticipation of winning, but she hoped that someone in the publishing industry might see some potential in her writing, and offer her agent representation. Instead, to her shock and delight she won first prize, receiving a publishing deal with Century and Luigi Bonomi as a literary agent, an absolute dream come true.
Louise has always been interested in women’s history, particularly stories of real women who did extraordinary things in the past, but whom history has forgotten. Betty, the heroine in Operation Moonlight, is a reclusive centenarian hiding secrets from her past. She has good reason to keep her memories locked away; in the Second World War she was recruited into the clandestine Special Operations Executive, and sent into Occupied France on a deadly mission. As her story unfolds, the tragic events of that time return to haunt her.
The character of Betty was inspired by Louise’s late maternal grandmother, also called Betty, a woman whose past was obscure, mysterious and intriguing. Slight of build and sharp of mind, Louise’s intrepid, enduring, resourceful five foot nothing gran began her long life amidst poverty and hardship. Born illegitimately in the north of England in 1908, she survived two world wars, the 1918 influenza epidemic, breast cancer, and a bigamist first husband. In her twenties, Louise’s gran lived in France for a time. She never revealed what she did during her stay there, and this mystery inspired the central espionage storyline of Louise’s novel.
Right (below on mobile): Women of the SOE – Noor Inayat Khan and Violette Szabo
Below: Louise’s grandmother, Betty.
Louise loves immersing herself in research when writing her novels. For Operation Moonlight, she visited many of the places where the SOE agents trained, such as Wanborough Manor, Beaulieu, and Arisaig in Scotland, and she also learned some of the tactics and self-defence the agents were taught.
She even parachuted out of a plane, despite her paralysing fear of heights!