Award-winning book writer sets work of fiction in Derbyshire village where she grew up

An award-winning novelist has set her new book in a Derbyshire village where she spent the early part of her life.

By Gay Bolton
Monday, 12th July 2021, 3:57 pm
Janet Scaife has set her latest book in Milford, the village where she lived until she got married.
Janet Scaife has set her latest book in Milford, the village where she lived until she got married.

Janet Scaife’s latest publication, Sarah-Jane’s Secret, follows numerous books written by the author whose previous work has appeared in The Sunday Times Bestsellers’ List.

The work of fiction is set in Milford, near Belper, at the beginning of the 1950s and focuses on the daughter of an abusive mother and a jailbird father. When her mum dies Sarah-Jane continues to look after her young brothers but they are taken away from her and she is left alone. She falls pregnant to a man who is betrothed to another woman, but as she gives birth to the baby Sarah-Jane makes a decision that will change her life, provided that she can keep a very big secret.

Janet, 72, estimates she has written about 20 books. She said: “My stories just come into my head. I see them like a film strip moving across my vision. I love writing fiction, because you are in charge of the characters and the action, it’s all in your hands and you can go anywhere you want to go and do whatever you choose.”

She won The Romantic Novelists’ Association Award for New Writer of the Year 1991 for the novel The Perfect Pirate, written under the name Mary Edwards. Then her focus shifted to family sagas which she wrote under the maiden name of Janet Haslam for Tranworld in their Corgi imprint.

"The most successful book was back in the 90s,” said Janet, who lives in Allestree. “The third one I wrote for Transworld reached No 23 (out of 100) in The Sunday Times Bestsellers List.”

Janet, who lived in Milford until she was 20 and got married, has always loved reading. She read short romantic stories in her younger years, saying: “When I reached the last page I would think I could do that. But then I would lose confidence. I was a secondary modern school girl without a GCE to my name, who was going to take me seriously? In the end I stood in the kitchen one day and thought if I didn’t do it I’ll never know.

"I immediately went out and bought the cheapest typewriter I could find in Woolworths, at the bottom of King Street, crossed the road and went round the corner to Feason’s and got a packet of A4 paper, went home and started my first novel. It didn’t get published. Neither did the six or seven that came after. Then I wrote The Perfect Pirate and it was published by Robert Hale Rainbow Romances, and won the award. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Janet worked in accounts prior to retirement and now spends most of her day writing. As she finishes work on one book, she starts on the next. "I have actually written the first draft for a follow-on to Sarah-Jane’s Secret,” said Janet, “but when I read the finished article I didn’t feel it gelled properly, so it’s been put away in a cupboard. This has happened before, some I have gone back to, some I have not.”

Sarah-Jane’s Secret is available in paperback or Kindle form on Amazon.