Sally Quilford

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in South Wales, and moved to Derbyshire in my teens – a couple of days after Elvis died, to be exact. I left school in 1979 with no real qualifications, and did a couple of menial jobs on YTS schemes (one day I’ll write a novel about that experience!). I went the usual route of marrying and having children; something I would not change for the world. Then at the age of 30 I decided it was time to buck up my ideas and return to school. I took a degree in Humanities and Literature from the Open University, earning a 2.1 hons. At around that time I started writing too. I’d had some vague idea of being a ‘writer’, without actually doing any writing. But doing so well in my studies gave me the confidence I needed to put pen to paper. The rest, as they say, is history. Since then I’ve had dozens of stories and articles published in magazines in Britain and abroad, and have written well over 20 novels/novellas.

Was there a moment when you just knew that writing books was something you had to do?

I certainly had the compulsion to write, after the events I describe above. But starting to write became something of a drug. The more I did it, the more I wanted to do it. It took me a while to move from short stories to novels, though I’d written a couple of really bad novels in the early days. I think those novels, as bad as they were, were essential in clearing my head so I could properly work in the craft of writing.

Can you tell us about your books?

I write mainly romantic intrigue or crime. This is because I find it difficult to write a straight romance (straight as in just the romance, not in terms of the sexuality of the characters). It’s a given that the lovers in a romance will get together in the end, so I wanted to add an extra element to keep the readers interested. That’s when I started throwing in dead bodies all over the place. But The Secret of Lakeham Abbey is my first straight crime novel. There is romance in it, as in all my books, but that’s not the central story.

Do you have a favourite character out of all your books?

There’s a couple. One is May Tucker, who was a secondary character in my Western romance, Bella’s Vineyard, and the other is Mrs Oakengate/Countess Chlomsky, who has appeared in no less than three of my books (True Companion, A Collector of Hearts and Eye of the Storm). May proves herself to be the real heroine of the story, whereas Mrs Oakengate is a bit of a nightmare, but such fun to write.

Do you have a favourite of your books?

I think it’s The Steps of the Priory, as it’s the longest novel I’ve ever completed – and took me two years. I was so proud of having done it, and I loved telling the story to myself. But Bella’s Vineyard is also a bit of a favourite.

How do your feelings about writing change with each book? Do you feel more confident the more you write or does it never get easier?

I’m more confident now that I can complete a book – real life notwithstanding – but it doesn’t get easier to have ideas, as they tend to get used up. Or I think I’d like to write about something and find someone else has got there first. But I still have a knot in my stomach every time I submit a book, convincing myself it’s a real stinker. I still get surprised when they’re accepted and the editor is so nice about them!

Do you judge a book by its cover?

I think we all do, because if you’re in a book shop, that’s pretty much all you get. They don’t much like you standing there reading the first chapter. But with online retailers now, and the opportunity to get samples, does make it easier to decide if what’s inside the book is worth reading.

If you could only take three books to a desert island, what would they be and why?

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

All three because they have had the biggest influence on my writing, particularly The Secret of Lakeham Abbey. Both The Woman in White and The Man in the Brown Suit are told in the first person – in The Woman in White’s case, several first persons – and I love the distinctive voices. They’re novels I’ve read again and again, so I know I wouldn’t get bored with them on the island (but will there be chocolate?)

ha ha - a woman after my own heart!

What was your favourite book of 2015?

I’m torn between The Girl on the Train and The Girl in 6e. Both ‘girl’ books, but very different in style. 

What’s next? Do you have a WIP?

I have several WIPs, not counting those that are stuck in my head. I am trying to work on a Christmas novel that I’ve been asked to write for My Weekly Pocket Novels, but recent family troubles (my husband has been very poorly) has put a bit of a halt to that. Hopefully I can get back to it soon, but family has to come first.

The Secret of Lakeham Abbey summary:


When Percy Sullivan’s family take over Lakeham Abbey for the summer, it was a chance to get away from battered post-war London and be cossetted by the capable and pretty housekeeper, Anne Pargeter. 


They soon learn that the Abbey conceals a dark secret; one that someone was willing to kill to hide. When Anne is convicted of murder and sentenced to execution, Percy is determined to do all he can to save his friend from the gallows. 


He encourages everyone to tell their side of the story. This leads to some startling revelations, including a shocking secret that Percy’s mother tried to hide from him. 


Will it be enough to save Anne’s life?




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Jan Lambert | Reply 27.05.2016 11.09

Great article Sally and the book sounds lovely. I heard you're having a tough time so heres a gentle healing hug from me x

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Latest comments

27.05 | 22:25

Another amazing review, dying to get my hands on this one xxx

27.05 | 20:42

probably the best new author I know....x x x x x x x

27.05 | 14:17

Great review, can't wait to read over the holiday

27.05 | 13:49

Wonderful review. Really looking forward to reading this.

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