I’ve always loved telling stories. Even before I could hold a pen, I would sit on top of the coal bunker in our south London back yard, making up tales in my head. My greatest joy was when my grandmother bought me an exercise book, which I could fill with stories (a shiny new notebook still gives me a thrill now – oh, the endless possibilities of those empty pages!).
I read voraciously, too. There were no books in our home and my grandfather disapproved of reading, but my grandmother would sneak me off to the local library, which opened up a whole new world. I also loved comics, especially Bunty, with its wonderfully melodramatic serials. How I used to look forward to my nan coming home on a Saturday lunchtime so I could get the next instalment!
When I was 19, I landed my dream job – writing photo love stories for a teenage magazine. Suddenly I was being paid for doing what I’d always done, making up stories.
When I was 40, I published my first novel, Waiting in the Wings, under the name of Donna Hay. The novel won the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Award.
A few contemporary novels followed then, out of the blue, I was offered the chance to create the Nightingale series, following the lives of a group of student nurses at an East End hospital in the 1930s.
I researched endlessly, talking to former nurses, reading books and journals and raiding archives. And the more I read, the more I realised there were some compelling stories waiting to be told.
This led to the Steeple Street series. Like the Nightingales, this follows the lives of a group of young women, this time District Nurses, set against the gritty backdrop of 1920s Yorkshire.
I love writing about women’s lives in the early part of the 20th century. There are so many more stories to be told, and the more I research, the more I find. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!