Hello! What can I tell you about Thorndale, the little village in the glorious Yorkshire Dales where my first four books are set? Firstly it’s fictional and mainly inspired by Arncliffe in Littondale. This tiny hamlet was the original setting for Emmerdale Farm back in the day and the local pub stood in as The Woolpack before the series grew and moved elsewhere.
Research for each of the books is something I love doing and I knew I wanted to set a book in Yorkshire after exploring some of Littondale on foot with friends. I always find the landscape inspiring and it’s often a setting that prompts me to think up a story. Littondale is a beautiful location and I think rural settings will always be at the heart of my stories. Years-old stone walls, barns standing in meadows, busy farms, quaint cottages and rocky rivers all played their part in creating this place and then I began to imagine the people who might live here and why. Thinking through a new book is one of my favourite parts of writing.
In Thorndale there is a pub (of course; The Royal Oak) and later on, in A Summer of Second Chances, Daisy works part time at another, The Coach and Horses. There’s also a church, cared for by Charlie Stewart and his wife Sam; a post office and craft centre with a cafe; places Annie enjoys exploring in The Cottage of New Beginnings now she’s returned to the village she loves.
Thorndale is also home to a cast of characters I loved writing and you’ll get to know some of them well if you read the books. If you’re not familiar with them, then I’d suggest starting with The Cottage of New Beginnings as its the first in the series, and introduces Thorndale to readers. Jon’s life and work keep him closely involved with the local community too, and his mentoring of a young man escaping trouble and searching for a better life is something else he takes seriously. Whitby pops up as a location but I still haven’t managed to eat fish and chips there yet. One day!
Thorndale adapts, as all places do over time, and new characters arrive, and some who are long familiar with it return, like Annie, and of course Olivia in A Country Village Christmas. She left the village a long time ago to study and she returns at Christmas to help clear her dad Hugh’s old house. She isn’t expecting to have to share the place with Tom, a good friend of her dad’s and one who she’s already familiar with after an evening spent together during a storm.
Olivia and Tom were two brilliant characters to write and as Tom is an actor, I had a lot of fun playing around with his backstory, which included him playing a famous romantic hero on television to great acclaim! He doesn’t take himself too seriously and Olivia enjoys the connection to his work as they both come to consider the future over the holidays.
Perhaps you’ve noticed there is a bit of a theme going on with naming my lead male characters; drop me a line if you think you have spotted it!
Next time I’ll share Talking with Tom Bellingham and you can find out what he thinks about his best and worst date, his pet peeve and more.
Thank you for reading,
This image was taken in summer over the River Skirfare, which is a shallow river flowing through the valley floor of Littondale. I was back there in January of this year for a few days away to write, and it was lovely to walk in those footsteps again and think of my previous characters.