Return home is a novel inspiration

Sally King, pictured at Rudding Park Hotel, Harrogate.
Sally King, pictured at Rudding Park Hotel, Harrogate.
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You can take the girl out of Yorkshire but you can’t take Yorkshire out of the girl.

That’s very much how Sally King sees her life that started in Holderness and has taken in Ascot, London, California and the Yorkshire Dales in a career that’s never been short on drama.

Sally has just released her first novel, Heirs & Graces, a work of romantic fiction that borrows much from her experiences in the East Riding, her knowledge of North Yorkshire and her highs and lows from over the past decade.

It’s her roots that provide the basis for her characters and the Yorkshire Dales the canvas from which the story unfolds.

“I moved away from Holderness when I was quite young and spent many weekends and holidays coming back to the family farms at Winestead, Halsham and Patrington.

“I grew up in the Croft family of farmers that my grandfather Richard Croft ran in the 70s and 80s. There were some extremely strong characters at the farm and they have all had a great effect on me. The rest of my life has been defined by them and the farming routine and lifestyle we all shared.

“My grandfather was a legend. At one time he was the Mayor of Holderness as well as being a Conservative councillor. He had strong views on everything and if ever there were questions about farming in the local community it was his opinion that was sought.

“He was also a very traditional farmer and I recall it took a long time for his sons to convince him that he should even get a combine harvester. That’s unthinkable now, but he only bought his first in the 1980s.

“We had Suffolk Punch working horses that he adored, probably more than people at times, and it took a while before he stopped using them. The farming operation across the four farms, that were combined in those days, ran to around 2,500 acres.

“My nana Freda was the real family matriarch. She fell in love my grandfather when she arrived at Park Farm in Winestead as a Land Army girl in the Second World War in her teens and she never left. She was an amazing cook and used to feed up to 16 people working on the farm during harvest. Although she passed away in 2002 she is fondly remembered in the local community, as are her egg and bacon pies and her cakes.

“In Heirs & Graces she is very much alive as Milly and is the glue that holds the other characters together in much the same way as she was in real life back in Winestead.”

The Croft family remains tied to Holderness in the form of Sally’s uncles, aunts and cousins but her mum Kathy married out of farming stock and moved to Hull before relocating south for Sally’s father’s work in IT.

“When we left Yorkshire it felt as though I’d been torn out of its heart. It didn’t feel very natural at all and I always had a hankering to come back.”

Following a successful career in recruitment and headhunting that saw Sally fly all over the world she moved into property development, selling to everyone from Russian oligarchs to high-profile footballers before finding herself caught up in a media frenzy.

“I can’t talk about it now because I’m legally bound not to, but it affected me so much and I’m only now finally closing the door on it a decade on. What happened was terribly unfortunate and was crushing for me at the time.”

Sally’s experiences with the likes of the paparazzi are also brought to bear in the novel and her lead character of Lottie, originally from a family farming background is on the run from the media circus, which is what brings her back to Yorkshire where she grew up.

“I was able to write that direct from the heart as it is what happened to me through no fault of my own.

“I have a vivid imagination but when I want to engage with an audience I find it’s important to use what you know about and what you have lived. I also wanted to write about what I could see, feel and touch.”

Writing Heirs & Graces brought Sally back to the land of her ancestors in the Yorkshire Dales.

Her great grandfather Thomas Croft farmed in Masham and when Sally married husband Andrew in 2005 they moved to Thornton Rust, between Hawes and Leyburn.

“It was here that I began to write the novel. I’ve always written, but this was different and I felt I had a story to tell that was and is quite unique.

“The longer we lived in the Dales the more obvious my story became.”

Her writing also flourished while enjoying a cup of tea at Bettys tea rooms in Harrogate, she said.

Heirs & Graces is published by Autharium and is available as an ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ibooks, Kobo, Book Shout and Google Play for £5.99. This weekend it is also available in print via Amazon for £9.99.