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


Janet Scaife put her latest book in Milford, the village where she lived until her marriage.

Janet Scaife put her latest book in Milford, the village where she lived until her marriage.

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 bestseller list.

The work of fiction is set in Milford, near Belper, in the early 1950s and focuses on the daughter of an abusive mother and a trapped father. When her mother dies, Sarah-Jane continues to care for her younger brothers, but they are taken from her and she is left alone. She becomes pregnant with a man who is engaged to another woman, but as she gives birth to the baby, Sarah-Jane makes a life-changing decision, provided she can keep a very big secret.

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

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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 attention shifted to the family sagas she wrote under Janet Haslam’s maiden name for Tranworld in their Corgi imprint.

“The most successful book dates back to the ’90s,” said Janet, who lives in Allestree. “The third one I wrote for Transworld reached 23rd (out of 100) on the Sunday Times bestseller list.”

Janet, who lived in Milford until the age of 20 and got married, has always loved to read. She read short romantic stories in her youth, saying, “When I reached the last page, I thought I could do it. But then I would lose confidence. I was a modern high school student with no GCE to my name, who was going to take me seriously? In the end, I stayed in the kitchen for one day and thought if I didn’t, I would never know.

“I immediately went out and bought the cheapest typewriter I could find in Woolworths, down King Street, crossed the street and turned the corner to Feason’s and I took a packet of A4 paper, went home and started my first novel. It wasn’t published. Nor the six or seven that followed. Then I wrote The Perfect Pirate and it was published by Robert Hale Rainbow Romances, and I won the award. The rest, as they say, is history. “

Janet worked in accounts before her retirement and now spends most of her day writing. When she finishes her work on one book, she begins the next one. “I actually wrote the first draft for the sequel to Sarah-Jane’s Secret,” Janet said, “but when I read the finished article, I didn’t feel it gel properly, so it been put away in a cupboard This has happened before, some to which I have returned, some not.

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


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