Upon returning to England, Noel arranged rented
accommodation and a paid companion for her widowed mother. She
then retreated to her hostel at 11 Cromwell Rd to begin her new
career as a novelist, undeterred by the fact that her spelling,
grammar and punctuation were, to say the least, shaky.
Initially, she was frequently distracted by old friends telephoning
her, and inviting her out to lunch and to matinées. Unable
to convince them that she was working, Noel came up with a unique
solution to the problem: she would simply stay in bed in the morning,
writing by hand. She could not go out to lunch if she was still
in her pyjamas, and her friends eventually took the hint, and
stopped inviting her out during the day. This writing habit was
to last the rest of Noel's life.
For her novel, The Whicharts, Noel drew directly on her
disillusionment with the theatre. Noel had no idea how to approach
a publisher, but fortunately her friend, Daphne Ionides, was able
to help. Daphne passed the typescript on to an acquaintance, the
writer Roland Pertwee, who, after reading it, sent it to his own
Heinemann accepted the book, and offered Noel a fifty pound advance.
The Whicharts came out in September 1931, to generally
John Galsworthy, a celebrated novelist and dramatist, invited
her to join the PEN club, waiving the normal rule that members
must have published at least three books.
The Whicharts was followed by other successful books,
which were reviewed positively. In particular, reviewers were
unanimous in praising her knowledge of the theatre ... and also
her presentation of children.
By 1936, Noel had earned enough money to move out of her hostel,
and into a flat in Hertford Court, Shepherd's Market.
Due to the influence of Daphne Ionides, Noel joined the voluntary
Child Care Committee for the poverty stricken area of Deptford.
The purpose of the committee was to persuade parents to have recommended
medical and dental treatments carried out on their children. Noel
also became involved in public speaking, to plead the cause of
After It Pays to be Good, Noel wrote a play - Wisdom
Teeth - which was produced in March 1936. It is possible
she was considering moving - or at least extending - her career
from novelist to dramatist. But then early in 1936, Mabel Carey,
the new children's editor at J. M. Dent and Sons, invited Noel
to visit her. Like the reviewers, Mabel had been impressed by
Noel's portrayal of children, and she wanted her to write a children's
book about the theatre.