WHEN Julie Newman was a Brownie the only badge she ever got was one for writing.

I suggest she must have got a few more badges than that while she was there.

"I probably did," she smiles, "but writing is the only one I ever wanted."

Years later Julie, who lies in Feering, made another wish, to have her first book published before the age of 50, and two months before that milestone she signed her first publishing contract.

"I've always loved it," she continues. "When I was younger I kept diaries and journals, and then after I had my children friends just kept on telling me to take the plunge and give it a go properly."

Her initial plunge didn't just involve writing a book, it also led to the setting up of a publishing company, Poppy Publishing.

"I was volunteering at my children's school," Julie adds, "and one of the teacher's and I started talking about doing a book together. I would write it and she would do the illustrations."

The result was Poppy and the Garden Monster, which came out in 2008.

She says: "I really enjoyed doing it and I had a lot of fun reading it to schoolchildren in class but I wanted to set myself another a challenge, to write a full length novel."

So she did.

Beware the Cuckoo is the story of two school friends with a shared past that harbours secrets and untruths.

Karen has a seemingly perfect life, an adoring husband, two wonderful children and a beautiful home, she also has a secret. Sandra, on the other hand, once had a perfect life but it's rapidly unravelling. To get it back on track she needs to reclaim what is rightfully hers. As the past meets the present, truths are revealed and both women understand the true cost of betrayal.

"It's a flashback novel which starts with a funeral when the two old school friends meet up again," Julie tells me. "It was a little tricky, making sure I got all the timings right but I compiled a proper timeline of when the events in the book were supposed to happen and that helped a lot.

"I started writing it about 18 months before I signed the contract, which meant all the publisher needed to do was the final edits."

Originally from London, Julie grew up in Benfleet going to King John School and then on to Southend Technical College.

Despite her love for writing, she had plenty of different jobs including working in her mum's business making umbrellas.

"It was called JLS Umbrellas in Rayleigh," she says. "Then I met my husband and we had moved up here to Feering. The children are all grown up now, so there's a lot more time for the writing. I'm already well into my second books which I'm hoping will be out next year."

Beware the Cuckoo was released yesterday, May 18, on Urbane Publications, and will be available in all good bookshops.

To follow Julie's writing adventures go to www.julienewmanauthor.com