Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Well, that’s a couple of things we have in common! Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective who investigates family secrets in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in anthologies. Her ‘Identity Detective’ series explores the themes of identity, family history, secrets and adoption reunion. Sandra is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the series, set in London during The Blitz.
LWOTW: Welcome to last Word of the Week, Sandra! Tell me, when did you write your first story?
SANDRA: I must have been six or seven when I made my own magazines, writing the stories but cutting pictures out of my mother’s ‘Woman’s Weekly’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines. I’m still rubbish at drawing but clearly I was showing early signs of the magazine editor I would later become. I have no clear memories of all those stories but I do remember writing an ambitious series about a sea-going cat that travelled to all the exotic faraway places I wanted to go. My early writing was always about adventuring into the unknown, being brave and fighting battles, influenced by the Famous Five and Swallows and Amazons, combined with an avid curiosity about life beyond the East Yorkshire dairy farm where I grew up.
Curiosity is so essential for a writer. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I would describe myself as an imaginative planner. The over-active imagination that saw me told off as a child at school for dreaming, well she’s still here but is now forged with the organised focussed journalist who likes to plan and research. I must have read thousands of words about how other writers do it, but every writer has to find their own way. As I wrote my first two novels, with a third abandoned in a box, plus countless short stories, I’ve experimented and learned to loosen my planning and to listen to my dreams. The phase of writing I love the most is when story points fly into my head at random, often in that first dozy thirty minutes on waking.
A waking dream! That sounds very, very useful. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
A reader coming up to me at a fair and saying ‘I’ve read the first two, when’s the next out?’ There’s no better motivation for pushing on with the next book.
Oh, that’s a marvellous question to hear! What are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m straightening out the kinks and twists in the plot of my third novel, ‘Sweet Joy’. It’s the sort of job that has to be approached with a completely clear sharp brain or things can get out of hand and ideas mysteriously disappear. It’s incredibly satisfying when connections are made and your brain says ‘of course that goes there’ when you’ve had a blank spot for sometimes months.
There is sometimes the sense that your subconscious (or maybe your characters…) knew what had to happen all along… If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t give up. It’s a long haul; you have to be in it for love. Writing is a job, not a hobby.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Green, but only green as in the nature that surrounds us. I never wear the colour green, I think because I hated my 1970s bottle green school uniform. My favourite green is the landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds, endless rolling green hills and a wide horizon.
How beautiful it is. Thank you so much for sharing with me today, Sandra.
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