When it comes to Christmasses, this one has to top the bill for former Gazette journalist Johanna Bell.

That's because her debut book came out yesterday and it's already being stocked in one of the biggest superstores in the country, Asda.

The Bobby Girls is set in 1914 and tells the story of the first women police officers.

While their men fight in France, at home in Britain women are finally seizing the opportunity to make a difference.

Maggie and her new friends Annie, Irene and Sarah come from very different backgrounds, but they've got one thing in common, they've all signed up for the Women Police Volunteers.

Hiding her involvement with the WPV from her tyrannous father, when she bumps into an old acquaintance with a big chip on his shoulder, the dangers of her new life become all too clear

As Maggie and the girls work together to find their feet on the beat, will their friendship get her through the darkest of times?

"I'd always loved the idea of writing a book," Johanna says, "and had lots of ideas but never the time to do anything with them, with the job and especially now I have a child.

"Then a friend of mine said her agent was looking for more writers and I went to have a chat with her and we got on really well."

Not long after publishing house Hodder and Stoughton got in touch with her agent and then Johanna to see if she'd be interested in writing a new series of books about the first women police officers.

Described as a gritty, uplifting new saga series perfect for fans of Dilly Court, Daisy Styles and Call the Midwife, Johanna's first book follows a career working on local and national newspapers.

"I've always wanted to be a journalist," she tells me, "ever since I was at school and one of my teachers used to show us the News and then asked us to write our own story about it.

"I just really loved it but I suspect it also helped that she told me I was really good at it. After that it's all I wanted to do."

After getting some work experience at the BBC working with Fergal Keane and then at Private Eye, from which Johanna has still got her reference from Ian Hislop, Johanna arrived in Essex when she got a job with the Chelmsford Weekly News, then the Maldon and Burnham Standard and finally the Gazette.

Going freelance ten years ago, she started writing features for national newspapers like the Sun and the Telegraph as well as magazines such as Chat and Grazia.

With her debut attracting huge interest, Johanna has already started work on the follow-up Bobby Girl Secrets, and is hopeful for another deal with the publisher to continue the series.

"I really enjoyed researching and writing it," she reveals, "and to get it in Asda is a massive big deal, especially for a debut book."

The Bobby Girls is out now available in all good bookshops and on-line.