Julia Jones was born in Woodbridge, Suffolk and spent much of her childhood on board Peter Duck, the yacht that had been built for Arthur Ransome. Julia's bunk was created from the space where Ransome had planned to store his typewriter. It was the perfect reading spot though Julia could never quite decide whether she wanted to be capable, swashbuckling Captain Nancy Blackett or imaginative Able-Seaman Titty. She was however perfectly certain that she wanted to be the heroine of every pony book ever written and so was delighted when her parents moved to the family farm in Essex and she was allowed to own a particularly slow and stubborn wall-eyed pony on whom she dreamed about jumping five barred gates and returning home smothered in red rosettes.
The pony dream proved resilient. It lasted until she had married a farmer, acquired a succession of speedier and more co-operative horses and ridden in a point-to -point race. Meanwhile she had read English at Bristol University and when babies began displacing the horses, Julia realised that books were the common factor in all her enthusiasms. She opened a bookshop in the Essex village of Ingatestone and spent many happy hours with her children reading their way through the profits.
Bookselling developed into small scale local publishing (seven titles, four of them in association with Age Concern Essex). It was particularly exciting to rediscover Margery Allingham's autobiographical The Oaken Heart an account of the early years of the Second World War in Essex. Julia re-issued this under her Sarsen Publishing imprint in 1988. This was the beginning of a close friendship with Margery's sister Joyce Allingham who was still living in the village of Tolleshunt D'Arcy. Joyce gave Julia complete freedom to rummage through the Allingham family papers as she researched Margery's life for the biography published in 1991. Later, when Joyce realised she was nearing the end of her own life, she gave Julia all her father, Herbert Allingham's papers.
Julia meanwhile had met Francis and added two more children to her collection. She began working part time as a OFSTED lay inspector and increasingly full-time as a community organiser for the the WEA. Joyce Allingham died in 2001 and left Julia a legacy which she used, together with a grant from the Higher Education Funding Council to catalogue Herbert Allingham's mass of papers and research his working life. Herbert Allingham wrote mass-market fiction and by the time Julia had finally dotted the last footnote in her PhD thesis Family Fictions in 2006 she realised that she too wanted to be a story-teller.
Golden Duck began by re-publishing Julia's 1991 biography of Margery Allingham in a new edition The Adventures of Margery Allingham. This was followed by a new edition of Philip Allingham's Cheapjack and Margery Allingham's The Oaken Heart (again!). The Allingham Fab Four was completed by the publication of Fifty Years in the Fiction Factory, her account of Herbert Allingham's working life.
Julia's Strong Winds trilogy -- The Salt-Stained Book, A Ravelled Flag and Ghosting Home -- will soon extend itself to the Strong Winds series with the publication of The Lion of Sole Bay in October 2013.
Meanwhile five grandchildren have somehow appeared on the scene ...