In Conversation: Glenda Young – Sunderland Author
We caught up with award-winning author, Glenda Young, to discuss her latest novel, how the ancient village of Ryhope shaped her writing life and what’s next…
How has growing up in the area influenced your writing?
All of my books centre around really strong women, which is definitely influenced by the women I grew up with and saw around me in Ryhope.
There’s a great deal of poverty in my books as they’re set in 1919 but also a lot of love and a sense of the pit village community coming together to help the heroine overcome everything I put her through.
Ryhope Library has long gone now, but I used to visit it every Saturday morning when I was growing up.
My grandad Eddie was an avid reader of cowboy and western books and I’d go to the library for him once a week to change his books.
I started to take books out for myself and fell in love with Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven books and Nancy Drew mysteries then progressed to reading more grown-up books such as those by Agatha Christie.
Ryhope Library was hugely important to me and instilled a love of books that lasts till this day.
I was hugely honoured and proud to be asked to officially open the renovated school library at my old school, Ryhope Juniors, after my debut novel set in Ryhope – Belle of the Back Streets – was published.
The headmistress had a ribbon for me to cut and I talked to all of the schoolchildren about following their dreams, whether it was to be a writer or a dancer, or whatever they wanted to be.
As part of Heritage Open Days last year, I lead a guided walk around Ryhope showing the locations in my books and it was one of the best days ever!
I was hugely proud to share the history of Ryhope with the large group who turned up on the walk, some from as far away as down south.
Has lockdown helped your creativity?
I’ve enjoyed the peace and quiet that has given me more time to write and concentrate wholly on my work.
However, trying to research Sunderland’s history during lockdown hasn’t been without its challenges!
Normally I’d be researching in Sunderland local history library, Sunderland Antiquarian Society, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and Durham County Records office, but because of lockdown, I had to research in a very different way this time.
I ordered a lot of old books online and used online resources.
Are there any other areas in the city that inspire you creatively?
I’m inspired everywhere I go in the city!
I’m always thinking of questions like: ‘Would my heroine have walked along this city street?’ and ‘What would she have seen one hundred years ago?’
What can you tell us about the process of beginning a novel?
I think of writing a novel like decorating a house!
I start by sanding down the woodwork – that’s when I do thinking and planning, jotting down notes and ideas.
Then there’s the undercoat to apply – that’s the research.
Only when all the research has been done and when I’ve got my chapters roughly planned do I begin to start putting on the gloss and writing the first draft.
When you’re not writing, where will we find you in the city?
I love cycling along the seafront and the river.
My favourite shop in the city is Waterstone’s and the staff who work there are very supportive of local writers.
When my second novel The Tuppenny Child was released, it came out at the same time as Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments.
Margaret Atwood is my writing heroine, my favourite author and Waterstone’s Sunderland had my book next to Margaret Atwood’s in their shop window display.
It’s fair to say I was somewhat overcome with emotion when I saw this!
So, if you were in the Bridges and saw a lass from Ryhope crying her eyes out outside of Waterstone’s, that was me!
A word of advice for budding creatives in the area…
Get involved and get connected! Find others who enjoy the same things as you do.
Organisations such as Sunderland Culture and The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) have been hugely supportive to me and I’m indebted to them for their help.
What makes Sunderland so special to you?
It’s a city that dares you to dream – and keeps your feet on the ground!