Born in Castleford, Val Wood has spent most of her life in East Yorkshire. The author of 21 romantic historical novels, her books have sold more than 1.5m copies worldwide.
What are your earliest Yorkshire memories? My earliest memories are of being sent into my Scarborough grandmother’s garden to pick peas for Sunday lunch and of her knocking on the window to stop me from eating them. Another is of playing on the sands and in the rockpools with my sisters and cousins.
Which part of Yorkshire do you like best? East Yorkshire, where I have lived most of my life. There is everything here; the fine city of Hull with its ancient history and buildings, the market towns of Beverley, Driffield and Pocklington, the coastline and Wolds on our doorstep. What more could anyone want?
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out? I often drive to Scarborough for an afternoon when I need to clear my head. In October I took a three day break there. The weather was dire, but I walked one morning from the Spa right across town as far as Peasholm Park and Scalby Mills on the north side, re-living childhood memories. I walked all the way back again where I met up with a Scarborough cousin and his wife for lunch. I got absolutely drenched but felt completely exhilarated and energised.
Do you have a favourite walk, or view? Beverley Westwood Pastures is a wonderful entrance to the town with views of the Minster and St Mary’s Church from the top of the hill. It is ancient pasture land with a very peaceful ambience and freedom to roam and a carpet of golden buttercups in the spring. It can come alive in winter snows with children tobogganing, and is where I used to take my daughters brambling in the autumn when they were young. I like that the cattle have the right of way.
Who would you take out for lunch? Alan Bennett, although I realise he must be invited out such a lot. I’d love to hear his dry humour and anecdotes at first hand. We’d have a lot to talk about.
Where’s your hidden gem? Holderness, 12 miles east of Hull, still retains its rural atmosphere with undulating countryside, acres and acres of golden rape, wheat and barley and the sea at its edge. It has the most wonderful morning and evening skies that you could ever wish to see and that I have tried, inadequately, to describe in many of my novels.
What gives Yorkshire its uniqueness? Each of the three Ridings is different in characteristics and varied landscape, from the bold North York Moors to the Yorkshire Dales and the softer rolling Wolds, down to the unique Spurn Point; but its true identity comes from the people of Yorkshire who are honest, plain speaking, and don’t suffer fools gladly, but who will put out a helping hand where it is needed.
How do you immerse yourself in Yorkshire’s cultural life? I like to hear the international orchestral concerts at Hull City Hall, and see the operas or Shakespearean plays which are now regularly shown live at the cinema. There are museums and art galleries to browse in, and in Beverley there is an exciting new theatre with fabulous performances, the Treasure House, and beautiful churches that participate in local events.
Have you got a favourite restaurant or pub? I can’t single one out as there are so many in the foodie town of Beverley where it’s possible to eat out somewhere different every day, but for a really good fish dish I’d choose Cerutti 2 at the railway station; the Westwood restaurant for a special occasion and now we have Carluccio’s for cappuccino and delicious Italian pasta.
Do you have a favourite shop? I always shop locally and the Saturday market is second to none. It’s where I buy duck eggs, meat and fresh bread. For a treat I buy hand-made chocolates from the White Rabbit Chocolatier. I’m lucky too to have a local greengrocer two minutes from my home.
Do you find yourself “selling” Yorkshire to strangers? I hope I do that with my books which are all set in Yorkshire.
Which person do you admire most? My late husband Peter. He didn’t believe in failure and thought that anyone could do anything if they put their minds to it. His favourite adaptation of an old Chinese proverb was “It’s not the falling down that counts, it’s the getting up again”.
How has living in Yorkshire influenced your work? It has been my inspiration. From my very first book, motivated by the erosion of the coastline and the resolve of local people to save their villages, to the history and survival of people under duress a, it’s all there waiting to be written about.
Who is your favourite author? It would have to be one of the Brontë sisters, but I’d be hard pushed to choose between Charlotte and Emily and I always make a pilgrimage to visit Anne’s grave in St Mary’s churchyard whenever I’m in Scarborough.
What are you working on at the moment? I’ve moved up a notch from the mid 19th century, which is my favourite period, to the latter part of that century and into the 20th and the First World War for the current novel. I’m well out of my comfort zone but finding it extremely interesting – and challenging.
Val Woods’s latest novel Little Girl Lost is out now.