I’m happy to welcome author Sharon Booth onto my website today. She tells us all about why Yorkshire is so important in her life, and why it inevitably found its way into all of her novels. Make yourself a cup of Yorkshire tea and sit back and enjoy a taste of Yorkshire, with Sharon.
All my novels are set in Yorkshire. It wasn’t meant to be that way. When I was writing my first full-length novel, There Must Be an Angel, I had originally intended to set it in Glastonbury. It was on a journey to Somerset, after all, that the first three characters popped into my head, and it was while wandering the streets of the mystical town that I began to plot out their stories.
Somehow, though, as the months went on, I began to feel that my characters just weren’t settled in the location I had placed them. I could hear their voices so clearly, and there was no doubting it. They were speaking to me with Yorkshire accents.
It seems unthinkable to me now that Eliza, Rose, Lexi and Rhiannon could live anywhere but Kearton Bay – a former fishing and smuggling village on the North Yorkshire coast that strongly resembles Robin Hood’s Bay. Kearton Bay’s streets are peopled with men and women I know, and voices I recognise.
I suppose the truth is, having lived in Yorkshire all my life, the county is in my blood and bones, as well as my heart. I love its varied landscape, from the picturesque Dales to the wild North York Moors, from the flat plains of Holderness with its crumbling cliffs and huge skies, to the pretty, and much underrated, Wolds.
But it’s the people, too. There is something about Yorkshire folk that intrigues and delights me. They can be “mardy” and annoying, not to mention stubborn as mules, but there’s a warmth and familiarity about them. I love to travel to different parts of the UK, and I’m making it my mission to see as much of this beautiful country as I can, but there’s no place like home for me. I remember once, on our way home from Scotland, we travelled back on a hot, sunny day and pulled over to check the map, unsure we were going in the right direction. Almost immediately, we were approached by a young woman with a couple of small children beside her. “You all right, love?” she asked. “Need any help?” We looked at each other and had the broadest smiles on our faces. We were back in Yorkshire, and all was well with the world.
When I was a child, my parents didn’t have a car and they didn’t have much money either. Holidays, therefore, were spent locally on the Yorkshire coast. We usually stayed in caravans or chalets. Sometimes, if money was particularly tight, we’d travel no more than twenty miles to stay on the Holderness coast. Mostly, though, we headed to Primrose Valley near Filey, staying in beautiful caravans. My nanna and grandad and auntie and uncle would be in a bungalow across the road, and various other great aunts and uncles, cousins and half cousins would be dotted around the village. We’d meet up every day to have picnics on the beach, paddle in the sea, go roller-skating or on the swing boats. Evenings would be spent walking along the sands to Filey, where we’d buy fish and chips for tea, then head back to a little pub, where the adults would disappear into the grownups’ bar for an hour, and us kids would sit in a little room, eating peanuts and crisps and drinking cola.
They were very simple, basic holidays, but the memory of those days on the Yorkshire coast stayed with me. As an adult, whenever things got too much for me, when “real life” overwhelmed me and I needed to recharge my batteries, I would jump on a bus or train and head up to Filey or Scarborough for the day, to breathe in the sea air, watch the waves lapping on the sands, gaze up at those huge skies, and realise that, whatever was bringing me down, this too would pass. There’s nothing like being by the sea to put things in perspective. One memorable year, we spent our holiday in Whitby. I had my fifteenth birthday there, and I decided I had never been to a more beautiful area in my life. We visited Robin Hood’s Bay for the first time, and I never forgot that experience. I had no idea how important that little place would become to me.
I’d always wanted to visit the Yorkshire Dales, but – unbelievably – I was in my thirties before I finally went there. I fell in love with the area immediately, and these days we visit frequently, sometimes just for the day, other times for a week. Researching my family tree, I was delighted to discover a whole branch of my family came from Swaledale, and it made me feel even more connected to the area. I had to set one of my books there, and although I changed Swaledale to Skimmerdale, This Other Eden is a love letter to the home of my ancestors. It’s been a real pleasure, recently, to work on the follow-up, which I’m hoping will be published in September.
When I was at school, we went on a trip one day to Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey. I was captivated by these historic sites, and by the beauty of the surrounding area. Years later, Helmsley would become Helmston, a market town featured in most of my books, and Rievaulx Abbey would be the inspiration for the ruined abbey at Kirkby Skimmer in This Other Eden.
We are so fortunate to have so many ancient buildings in Yorkshire. Scarborough Castle has also featured in one of my books, as has Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire, which became Kearton Hall in Once Upon a Long Ago. I’ve already tucked Knaresborough, with its glorious castle, into my file for a future series. The pretty villages dotted around the North York Moors inspired me when I created my Bramblewick series, and I have plans to write another series set in the Yorkshire Wolds. How could I not? They may not get as much attention as the Dales or Moors, but they are stunning, with some of the prettiest villages you’re ever likely to see.
When I was writing my Moorland Heroes series, I headed to an unfamiliar part of Yorkshire – the West Riding. I was writing about a modern-day Mr Rochester, so obviously I wanted to visit the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth! The Brontës are probably the most famous of Yorkshire’s writers, and like millions of other people, I love their work – particularly Jane Eyre. It’s not difficult, in the area surrounding Haworth, to imagine the brooding Mr Rochester riding his horse across the moors, or see Cathy and Heathcliff in each other’s arms beneath a glowering sky.
Wherever you go in Yorkshire, you can find inspiration, and many writers have done just that. From the gothic horror of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, washing up on the shores of Whitby, to the cobbled streets of Victorian Hull in Valerie Wood’s fabulous historical novels; from the wide open spaces of Holderness in Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, to The Secret Garden of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s North Yorkshire; from the dramatic moors of Brontë country, to the rolling hills and glorious dales of James Herriot country, Yorkshire’s varied landscape has lent itself to a massively diverse range of literary works.
Will I ever set a novel outside of Yorkshire? Never say never, of course, but for now I still have so much of God’s own county to explore, so much inspiration to draw upon, that I don’t feel the need to look elsewhere. I’m Yorkshire born and bred, and I wear my white rose with pride!
You can find out more about Sharon by visiting her website at www.sharonboothwriter.com
Follow her on Amazon: bit.ly/sharonboothpageUK or bit.ly/sharonboothpageUS.
You can find Sharon on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sharonboothwriter, or Twitter as @Sharon_Booth1.
Sharon Booth writes heartwarming love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire locations.
She wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives.
She is the author of ten novels with Fabrian Books and has also written for DC Thomson and Ulverscroft. Her short story, The Other Side of Christmas, was included in the Winter Tales anthology – a collection of seasonal stories by popular writers, in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust.
Sharon lives in East Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes. If forced to choose her favourite fictional hero, however, she would probably say Paddington Bear.