I was born in Wakefield and grew up in the village of Ackworth during the 1960s and 70s. From my bedroom window, I looked out to the Pennine Hills, which rose brooding and glowering in the distance. I loved to walk there, whenever my dad would take us out for an afternoon in the car. There is a sense of freedom for me when I am out in the countryside that I find it hard to live without. Lucky enough to attend Wakefield Girls’ High School, I would study in the library, always choosing a seat as close as possible to the Barbara Hepworth sculptures on display there.
Yorkshire seemed to be a place full of kindness and generosity, despite the unrest and de-industrialisation going on around us. To this day, strong memories persist of changing times. Dirty buildings slowly being power-washed clean, factories and mines closing, to be replaced by tech jobs and cultural rejuvenation. Most of all, my mind sometimes focuses on living in Leeds during the reign of the Yorkshire Ripper and later visiting my parents with young children during the bitterness of the miner’s strike. All this left an indelible mark on my imagination that comes out in the gothic, darker side of my writing.
From an early age, I was attracted to performing, not least when my mother enrolled me into a children’s dance school at the age of three. By the age of twelve, I was determined to become an actor. Unfortunately, that ambition was derailed by love! A move to Norfolk in 1981, followed by the advent of a family made sure that I was amply occupied. I began to write when my children were small. Afternoon naps were a much encouraged tiny window in which I tried to write short stories and articles, which occasionally got published.
Ever a later starter, I joined the magnificent Open University in my late twenties. After seven long years, partitioning my day between working full-time, two children and study, I finally managed to get my degree in History and Art History. The day that truly changed my life was my graduation ceremony at Ely Cathedral. As the Chancellor shook my hand and gave me my certificate, he said ‘I hope that this experience will have changed your life for the better.’ As I walked down the side aisle to find my seat again, I realised that it hadn’t done that. But if I could achieve this against such difficult odds, surely I could go further.
A year later, I left my job in computing and went to London to train as a professional actor, twenty years after I had originally dreamed of doing so. It’s never too late!! Since then, I’ve been proud to call myself a working actor. For two decades, I’ve been maintaining a portfolio career that spans acting, medical roleplay, promoting, directing and running my own theatre company, Broad Horizons. My husband also works in the theatre, so there’s never a dull moment in our household.
We moved out of Norwich to a cottage in a small village in North Norfolk in the late 1990s, and I love the beautiful, vast skies and watery landscapes that surround us. It feels wonderfully remote, even though the nearest town is only a few miles away. I can’t imagine living anywhere better than this.
There was one final ambition which I had yet to fulfil. Thankfully, the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich runs one of the most prestigious creative writing programmes in the country. I was very grateful that they invited me onto their MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) in 2017. I graduated from the course in 2019, and my debut novel was shortlisted for the Little, Brown UEA writer’s prize that autumn.
That novel was “Under Violent Skies”. It was published in September 2020 by one of the UK’s leading indie publishers, Joffe Books. I so proud to be invited to join Jasper and his team. Their support and care over my novels is a true joy. I know that both Sara and myself could not be in better hands.