A COLLEGE lecturer who quit teaching to follow her dreams of becoming an author has penned her debut novel.

Rosemary Johnson, from Lamarsh, near Halstead, has written a "rollicking read" set partly in Essex and partly in communist Poland.

Wodka, or Tea with Milk is a hailed as a "roller-coaster human story about belonging".

Rosemary said: "I was 12 years old when I first discovered my passion for writing.

"An English teacher directed my class to write a novel, in pencil, in a lined exercise book, and I just went on from there.

"Years later, I myself was teaching, and writing in the evenings, getting short stories and flash fiction published online and in print magazines.

"When I retired, I wanted to get my teeth into something longer and so I wrote Wodka, or Tea with Milk."

The book takes readers back to the early 1980s when the Poles were excited at having a Polish Pope, John Paul II, and finding the courage to form the independent trade union Solidarność.

Rosemary said: "The main character, Marya Weiclawski, burst into my mind immediately, a forceful, angry young woman with a loud mouth.

"She whirled around in my head, for a long time, sometimes almost absent as I did other things and wrote other pieces, but always in the background.

"I read and I researched books and contemporary press articles, and, more than anything else, pored over photographs.

"I visited Poland, including the iconic Gdansk shipyards, and everywhere I saw Marya, along with her rapidly developing and deepening circle of friends and family."

Marya is second-generation British, the daughter of Polish refugees who fled during World War Two.

She returns to Poland, becomes involved in the shipyard strikes in Gdansk in 1980, and falls in love with shipyard worker Jan.

Does Marya belong in Poland (wodka) or in England (tea with milk)?

Rosemary worked as a college lecturer, teaching information technology, and builds and manages websites for the Association of Christian Writers and her local church.

She is now working on her second novel.

Wodka, or Tea with Milk (RRP £10.99) is published by the Conrad Press and can be ordered from Amazon and all good bookshops.