This month, Pinnernews spoke with Wendy Holden, a Pinner-born journalist and author who has written more than 40 books.
Wendy grew up in Cecil Park and Paines Lane, Pinner, and attended Reddiford School, where her love for writing began.
She explained: “I was always an avid reader, and my father instilled that in me from a young age. I entered all sorts of competitions at Reddiford, and one was to write a play.”
The play was called The Queen’s Birthday Cake and was about a disgruntled staff member at Buckingham Palace who switched the flour in the Queen’s cake for cement.
Despite being just six at the time, Wendy won the competition and Reddiford ended up putting on the play as a school production.
This was just the start for Wendy, who pledged to become a writer one day and work for The Telegraph, her parents’ preferred newspaper.
Despite passing the exams for the University of Oxford, Wendy decided to earn her journalism qualification before starting an apprenticeship at The Middlesex Chronicle.
Fast forward a few years, and Wendy was headhunted by The Telegraph aged just 24, where she worked for 10 years.
She said: “When I joined, I was one of only three women in an office of about 50 male reporters.”
Wendy soon became a foreign and war correspondent, and was the longest-serving reporter in Baghdad during the 1991 Iraq War.
Despite her love for journalism, she eventually left The Telegraph, due in part to post-traumatic stress disorder.
She explained; “War had shaped so much of my life for so long. My dad had fought in the Second World War and had seen the effects it had on ordinary people. I wanted to look for the humanity in the inhumanity of it all.”
Wendy then started writing non-fiction biographies and novels, several of which were influenced by war.
In 2013, Wendy came across an obituary of a woman whose baby was murdered after she gave birth in Auschwitz. Wondering if any other babies had survived similar circumstances, her journalistic instincts kicked in and she started to dig deeper.
After finding three babies who had survived, she wrote the international bestseller, Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance and Hope, in 2015.
Wendy also wrote the autobiography of Susan Travers, the only woman in the French Foreign Legion, and another about Marthe Cohn, a French Jewish spy who went behind enemy lines. She has penned several celebrity biographies, working closely with Goldie Hawn, Barbara Sinatra, Patricia Gucci and Deana Martin.
In 2020, she worked with Captain Sir Tom Moore, a Second World War veteran who planned to walk 100 lengths of his garden to mark his 100th birthday and ended up raising more than £32million for NHS Charities Together. Wendy was so moved by his campaign that she wrote him a letter.
When it came to deciding who should write his memoir, Sir Tom whipped out Wendy’s letter and the choice was made.
Wendy moved in with the former British Army captain during lockdown and wrote his incredible story, which became a number-one bestseller, and a further book of his life lessons.
Wendy said: “I absolutely fell in love with him. He was just what the country needed. He was so overwhelmed with the response he got. When he was told he had thousands of followers on social media, he looked over his shoulder and asked where they all were. Sadly, he died soon after, but he called me from his hospital bed to say goodbye.”
Wendy has written more than 40 books in total.
She said: “I will never stop writing and I will never stop reading. For me, it is a form of meditation.”
Wendy has recently finished writing another high-profile celebrity memoir and is now writing a new Second World War novel about a young man in Auschwitz, which will be published early next year.
Wendy will be hosting a talk about her book, Born Survivors, with one of the surviving babies, 78-year-old Eva Clarke, at St Albans Cathedral on Thursday, February 1. To find out more, head to www.stalbanscathedral.org/event/born-survivors or www.wendyholden.com
Photo credit: Wendy Holden and Captain Sir Tom Moore