A best-selling author who draws inspiration from Wearside for her colourful characters is looking forward to the release of her latest romantic novel.
Although Rita Bradshaw was born and lives in Northamptonshire, her North East family members sparked a love affair with the area which has seen the region play a central role in many of her fifty novels, which include number 1 bestseller Dancing in the Moonlight.
Later this month she releases Snowflakes in the Wind, which begins its tale in Sunderland.
The author explains: “The story starts in Sunderland but the main character then moves to the Borders and around the country. Although I’m a Midlands girl we had a branch of the family from the North East and I love Sunderland, I love the accent and the warmth of the people.
“My Uncle Ron was from the area and he was a lovely man.”
Rita, who researches her novels with the help of Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and Ordnance Survey Maps, added: “When I first started writing novels, the first was set more in the South. I got a couple of chapters in and it just wasn’t working, so I moved the setting North and the characters just leapt off the page.
“I’ve been writing about Sunderland for 20 years now, but the Sunderland I write about is very different to Sunderland today. Research is essential and I always do lots of research. The Museum and Winter Gardens are wonderful and let me delve into the archives and Ordnance Survey Maps are a great way of researching parts of Sunderland that are long gone.
“I prefer written research rather than the internet and I still write all my books on an electronic typewriter. Writing on a computer just isn’t me.”
The 67-year-old, who has been a published author since she was 40, added: “I really enjoy researching the East End of Sunderland. It was a really different place back then than it is today, it was such a rich environment in terms of the things going on.
“Though life was tough for the people living there, it’s fascinating to research because of its characters. It’s much like the East End of London in that respect.”
Snowflakes in the Wind transports readers to 1920 and tells the story of Abigail Kirby who is just nine years old when her family is torn apart by tragedy on a snowy Christmas Eve.
Facing the horrors of the workhouse, she and her younger brother Robin flee Sunderland and everything they know to find their estranged grandfather in the Borders.
Abby and Robin grow to love the tough Borders farming life, but Abby still feels haunted by their past. Whilst most of the community has welcomed her as one of their own, her mother’s former fiancé, consumed with bitterness, is determined to make her life a misery. Hopelessly in love with a man she knows that she has no future with, Abby determines to start a new life and trains as a nurse.
When the Second World War breaks out, Abby volunteers as a Queen Alexandra nurse and is sent to Hong Kong. However, her life takes another unexpected turn when the Japanese invade, and she is taken prisoner.
•Snowflakes in the Wind by Rita Bradshaw is published on November 17 by Pan, priced £6.99 in paperback.