Ashford wrote the novel at the age of nine, in 1890, in an exercise book. Full of spelling mistakes, each chapter was also written as a single paragraph. Many years later, in 1917 and aged 36, Ashford rediscovered her manuscript languishing in a drawer, and lent it to Margaret Mackenzie, a friend who was recovering from influenza. It passed through several other hands, before arriving with Frank Swinnerton, a novelist who was also a reader for the publishing house of Chatto and Windus. Largely due to Swinnerton's enthusiasm for this piece of juvenilia, the book was published almost exactly as it had been written. J. M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, agreed to write a preface.