My guest today is Sandra Danby, author of the Identity Detective series and fellow Yorkshirewoman. Have to say, the places she mentions are some of my favourite spots, so I really enjoyed reading this post. Over to Sandra as she shares her Five Photos …
Me aged 10
This was taken in a photo booth at Butlins Holiday Camp, Filey, North Yorkshire, in the late Sixties. I was there with my friend Lucy [the side of her head just visible on the right] on a Sunday School outing. This was a revolutionary year as previous annual summer trips had been to worthy local destinations such as Castle Howard, Fountains Abbey, Burton Agnes Hall and Rievaulx Abbey. The Butlins trip was much anticipated because of its swimming pool and bumper cars. The picture tells a story: it was August, but I am wearing an Aran sweater hand-knitted by my mother. I still have the freckles, I really only get a suntan when all the freckles merge.
The Yorkshire Wolds
I look at this photograph of the Yorkshire Wolds and my insides twist with longing. I grew up on a small farm on the edge of the Wolds just a mile away from the coast. As I lay in bed at night waiting for sleep, I could hear the waves breaking on the shore. I could also hear the Butlins wake-up call. I’ve lived away from ‘home’ for 40 years and every day I still miss the wide horizon, the rolling hills and stands of trees so identifiable from the Yorkshire series by David Hockney. This photograph was taken from Woldgate, the narrow lane which features in so many of his recognizable Yorkshire paintings and iPad drawings. Perhaps it’s not a surprise then that I used my Yorkshire coast childhood as inspiration in my latest novel Connectedness.
UKPG cutting 1982
Oh dear what awful hair. I’m the one in the middle with my one and only perm. This is a clipping from journalism newspaper UK Press Gazette. It is 1982 and I was a new graduate trainee journalist at Benn Publications, a business publisher in Kent. I’d finished my English Literature degree and finding a job as a journalist seemed impossible as the long-running Recession bit. Then one day when I was working at Marks and Spencer my mother called to say a letter had arrived asking me for interview. As my university tutor said, ‘today Ironmonger’s Weekly, tomorrow The Times.’ Well I didn’t work on either of those titles but I built a career in business publishing moving from Feature Writer to Editor, Publisher and Content Director. All of which, though I didn’t realise it at the time, gave me essential skills for being an indie author while allowing me to travel the world. I just wish I’d resisted the perm.
Tiaras exhibition, V&A 2002 [photo: vam.ac.uk]
The one unfinished novel in my drawer is related to this exhibition at the Victoria & Albert exhibition in 2002. Amongst the jewels at ‘Tiaras’ were South African diamonds as big as robins’ eggs, carved emeralds from India, amethysts from Siberia and rubies from Burma. It was dazzling. The novel is not unfinished because I ran out of steam or interest, simply that life and other writing got in the way. I will return to Tiara (working title) one day. On reflection it was probably too ambitious for a first novel with multiple viewpoints with action set in two decades, the 1920s and 2000s. One of my favourite books is Possession by AS Byatt and I can trace the influence it had on Tiara’s structure. In the Twenties young jewellery designer Eliza Tavernier creates a stunning tiara which is soon followed by bankruptcy, accidents and death. Eighty years later, a business executive buys an extravagant necklace. The first time Tara wears it she makes a dreadful error, a mistake that took a second to make but which could lead to a lifetime of ruin. So she runs away. Can an object bring bad luck; or do we make our own good and bad luck through our own actions and decisions?
The road to the supermarket
In 2008 my husband and I bought a house in Spain. We were in search of the sun, quiet, a home away from the stress of modern life. It is a project of love in the most beautiful hidden valley in Andalucía, deep in the countryside west of Málaga. The house was partly renovated so we finished the construction and installed systems to make the finca self-sustaining: solar electricity, solar-heated hot water, spring water, satellite telephone/TV/internet. There is not one wire or pipe connecting our house to the main utilities in the village. When we board a flight I carry only my handbag, everything is at the house and we need only to buy food, open the shutters when we arrive and start to relax. This photograph shows the route to the supermarket, proof that the countryside near Ronda is some of the most beautiful in the world. You can read about our life there at my blog Notes on a Spanish Valley where I write principally about nature, food and life in our small valley. With the art city of Málaga within easy reach, it made sense to use Picasso’s birthplace as a location in Connectedness.
Thank you so much for such an interesting post, Sandra, and for sharing your photographs and memories with us.
Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.
Read Sandra’s ‘Notes on a Spanish Valley’ blog here.
TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALWAYS HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.
Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?
This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain. A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.
You can buy Connectedness here.
You can buy Ignoring Gravity here.
About the ‘Identity Detective’ series
Rose Haldane reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz.