Saturday 12 August 2017

Close to Home ~ Alyson Rhodes

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.

Please welcome Northern Writer

Alyson Rhodes

 Hi, Alyson and welcome to JaffareadstooTell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author.

I was born in Norwich but I grew up in Birmingham where I tutored and began writing poetry to help my recovery after a severe illness. I have always been a bookworm, toting huge libraries around with me when I moved house. I relished my Saturday visits to our local library as a child. I had my first major publishing breakthrough in 1996 when Collins Educational published my children’s novel set on the Norfolk Broads, ‘Soldiers in the Mist.’ (Still available to buy on

When I met my husband to be we decided to raise our family in his home town of Bradford and we moved here in 2001. Motherhood and part time paid employment filled my time. I remained an avid reader and I think reading widely is a vitally important part of writing fiction. The more I read I believe, the better I write. It is an interlinked process.

But in 2011 I began (once again) scribbling ideas down in notepads. Fortuitously I spotted a WEA Creative Writing class in Otley, Leeds and so I took what felt like the huge step of joining. The tutor was/is the poet James Nash who has proved an inspiring, hugely encouraging mentor.

Which Yorkshire born writers have influenced you?

Two Northern born Y.A. authors, Messrs Robert Swindells (born in Bradford) and Westall (born in North Shields) have been important influences. I grew up reading their books and I return to them again and again. Swindells’ novel ‘Stone Cold’ had a huge impact on me, dealing with homelessness and life on the streets. It was eye opening. Several of my flash fiction pieces explore this issue. (‘No Home for Holly’ is available to read at:-

Whilst Robert Westall’s interest in World War 2 and his supernatural stories, feeds into my own writing bent for the gothic, ghostly and macabre. My ghost story, ‘The Resurrection of the Reverend Greswold’ is available for download on

I do still write for Y.A.s and children- my latest book is ‘The Runaway Umbrella’ (ages 7 upwards) and it is available to buy on but my main focus is writing Flash Fiction for adults. This is a new direction for me as a writer, telling a tale in 500 words or less or sometimes in just 100 words (aka a drabble), but one which I’ve found challenging and enjoyable. Many of my pieces are available to read on line, on websites like www.horrortree/tremblingwithfear and or in print anthologies, ‘Twisted Tales 2016’ published by Raging Aardvark (

Your books are written in Northern England – how have the people and its landscape shaped your stories?

Many of my Flash pieces are located in or inspired by the areas around Bingley in Bradford where I live. The park with its log cabin play hut described in ‘Doll Man’ is in Roberts Park in Saltaire where I used to take my son scootering. The sadly decaying old Odeon in Bradford town centre has inspired a number of derelict fictional buildings such as the hotel in ‘The Adelphi’. Cliffe Castle in Keighley is the backdrop for my longer ghost story, ‘Careful What you Wish For.’ Undercliffe Cemetery in Bradford with its lavish Victorian gothic monuments has worked its way into a few of my horror shorts.

A trip in the autumn to Leeds City Centre where we ate hot chestnuts bought from the handcart seller, led to the killer short ‘Chestnuts for my Sweet.’ Family holidays spent in and around Bridlington and Filey over the last 15 years, have their fictional overlay in several of my stories. Particularly the fun fairs and the piers. Ideal crime scenes!

All of these stories and more will be appearing in my debut Flash Fiction collection ‘Badlands’ which is due out from indie publisher Chapel Town Books later this year. This is an exciting opportunity for me, which came about via an open call from publisher/writer Gill James asking for authors to submit their short shorts! I will be appearing at the Morley Indie Book Fair with my book, on Sat 7 October 2017. So if you’re passing please drop by my stall and say hi.

If you were pitching the North as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

My uncle used to live in Otley and we visited every year walking our dog on Ilkley moor. So I have come back to my family roots in a round about way. I love the fact you are five minutes drive from the moors but you have such lovely towns with their flourishing arts scenes like Halifax, Harrogate, Hebden Bridge, Saltaire and Leeds, all so close to Bradford. I enjoy the history of these towns and their galleries, shops and cafes. Coming up from the Midlands I found Yorkshire people really friendly, chatty and down to earth! This summer on holiday, we are going whale watching by boat from Whitby! There is a huge variety of landscape and activities to explore in the North.

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

Over the last few years, apart from the Otley WEA class, I have attended Saltaire Writers Group (where I met the romance author Helena Fairfax) and currently I go to Menston Writers. I regularly attend literature festivals locally and writing workshops. The most recent one I went along to was run by crime writer Liz Mistry in Keighley Library. It was excellent and informative. The Bradford libraries run a variety of (low cost) writing classes, coordinated by Dionne Hood and are very supportive of budding writers. I learn a great deal from these workshops and I enjoy chatting to fellow writers. Inevitably writing is a solitary business but with the internet it’s easier than ever to link up with like minded creatives. I sometimes think I enjoy the chatting about the writing over a coffee more than the hard work of generating the actual words!

What do you have coming up in the future?

In September 2017 I am hoping to run and teach some Creative Writing Workshops. The Craft House in Saltaire is advertising here:-

My background is in teaching, both in the paid and voluntary sectors. After several years of writing and submitting my work, with all the highs of publication and the lows of rejection which I’ve experienced, I felt it was the right time to branch out into teaching. I hope to run more classes at another venue in Farsley, but this is yet to be finalised.

I am working on a collection of ghost stories for publication in November this year. Otley Writers group is publishing their own autumnal collection too called ‘The Darkening Season’.

I post information about my writing journey and any events I attend on my blog, which can be found at You can also contact me via my blog.

Thanks so much for hosting me in your Close to Home slot, Jo, and for your interesting questions. I’ve really enjoyed talking about my writing journey and how living in Yorkshire has influenced me and my fiction.


Facebook as Aly Rhodes
My Book Gorilla page is at :-
Author’s page on Gill James’ blog:-

Warm thanks to Alyson for spending time with us today

 and for talking about her writing and sharing with us her love for the North of England



  1. Looking forward to more news!

  2. looks really good, I love your flash fiction - looking forward to reading the new book - love the cover too!

    1. Hi Cathy, thanks for taking time to read and comment. Much appreciated.

  3. Great interview. I'd love it if you would do a focus on writers in the south west next. (I'm based in Dorset!)

  4. thanks for stopping by to read my interview Gail


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