The Novelist






"If you happen to get hit by a bus, don't forget to throw my manuscript clear!"




Nicola opposite enjoying a lovely afternoon with her son Stefan in Regent's Park, London, taken in 1977 when
Return to Wuthering Heights was published



Meet Nicola Thorne
interviewed by Patrick Lavender

Nicola Thorne started her writing career shortly after leaving the London School of Economics, from which she graduated in sociology, and her first six attempts were contemporary autobiographical fiction, which in her own words, 'were somewhat heavy'.

She smiles when she recounts how in those early days she would send her then secretary to the various publishers with the instructions 'If you happen to get hit by a bus, don't forget to throw my manuscript clear!' But all the effort was in vain and none were published. She remembers finally packing them up in black bin bags and, somewhat sadly, watching them been loaded up and  driven away in the dustcart. In retrospect ,however, she thinks a lot of first time writers might consider doing the same thing.

Then, having been taken on by leading agents Curtis Brown, Nicola wrote a thriller Inclination to Murder, under her real name Rosemary Ellerbeck and achieved her first success with Hodder & Stoughton Publishers. Two further novels, however, failed to tempt them.

Next came the highly successful and for the times, mid sixties, controversial novel The Girls under the name of Nicola Thorne. 'My agent suggested that I change my name for this very different type of book. 'Thorne' was my grandmother's name and 'Nicola' happened to be a song played on the radio at that time. The Girls went into paperback and I thought that I was going to be rich and famous', she recalls. But that was not to be. The Girls had shocked the head of the firm and despite writing another novel that her editor considered to be 'terrific', publisher Heinemann turned its back on her (this was the novel found in a garage many years later and published as The Little Flowers in 2004!)

'It was a terrible blow after such a success and I found myself having to rebuild my writing career'

Nicola then had several exciting years in publishing as Editorial Director of Milton House Books, but decided that writing original paperback fiction was an area to get into.

'I wrote a series of three books about a gypsy in the Lake District called The Enchantress, under the name of Katherine Yorke. The idea at that time was that you might have different pseudonyms for different types of novels and indeed different publishers. I would never agree to that now.'

Never far from controversy, in 1977 Nicola started the trend of writing sequels to the classics with Return to Wuthering Heights. Whilst she was vilified by the Brontė Society and ridiculed by certain sectors of the press, the book was a great success! and was published worldwide.

'In 1980 I was given carte blanche by my new publishers Granada to write a book about women in the 19th century and this was The Daughters of the House - my first really big book'.

But rather than asking her to write a sequel, she was commissioned to write a book about the cashmere industry. Where the Rivers Meet was published in 1982 and became Nicola's first book to hit the Bestseller List. Its striking cover was designed by Nigel Chamberlain who did many others for her. She has the artwork hanging on the walls of her Devon home. Nicola then started the much acclaimed Askham Chronicles consisting of four books covering the period 1898 to 1967, which took her four years to write and which were reprinted several times.

In 1987 I really thought that my chance of fame and fortune had arrived at last. My agent phoned me to say that Booker Plc, who ran the Booker Prize, wanted to commission a book about champagne, which was then to be made into a film or TV series. I was given an outline of a story to follow - a French equivalent of Dynasty - and whilst my books Champagne and Champagne Gold did very well, the promised TV series never materialised. I still don't know why to this day. The project took up another four years of my life and was a lot of hassle. Too many people were involved and, although the author, I was sidelined and ultimately left in the dark as a sort of unimportant accessory. Altogether it was not a happy experience, though it had a few perks including trips to Reims and much consumption of that delicious beverage! I then came to Dorset in 1989 and began writing The People of this Parish, the first of six books set in Dorset. The sixth and final book in this saga, In Time of War was published in Autumn 2000.

Of the 30,000 plus authors registered under the Government's Public Lending Right Scheme, she has been among its top band of novelists most borrowed in public libraries for over a dozen years, and her books have been translated into many languages, including Polish, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.

In June 2000, she was the subject of an HTV documentary, filmed by Dashwood Productions Ltd, In Search of Martha. The Novel My Name is Martha Brown aroused considerable interest. Based upon a true story, the book is about the last woman publicly hanged in Dorchester in 1856, a scene witnessed by the young Thomas Hardy.

Since the year 2000 she has written a brand new saga set in Dorset. The first was The Broken Bough to be followed by The Blackbird's Song, The Water's Edge and Oh Happy Day!

At the end of the year 2002 Nicola was involved in a serious road accident which took  a long time to recover from and not only prevented her from writing for a number of years, but was virtually the end of her prolific writing career.

However having eventually made a remarkable recovery from her accident, Nicola felt she wanted to use the experience, because the way such an event changes people's lives intrigued her as a novelist, but she was anxious that it should not be considered an autobiography. Despite the theme, it is not a grim story, but is in fact a novel about relationships, particularly between Eleanor, the central character in the novel, and her daughter Alex who reluctantly comes to look after her. On a Day Like Today, was published in hardback in June 2008 with a paperback and audio in 2009. Then came the The Holly Tree, published in July 2010,about the fortunes and interaction a group of characters attending a watercolour class

Her latest novel, published in June 2012, After the Rain is one she always wanted to write. It is based very loosely on the life of her mother who was born in New Zealand but died, comparatively young, in England as the result of an accident .Although a charismatic, attractive and accomplished woman, she was always very secretive about her early life. Nicola always regrets she had never asked her mother more about her life in New Zealand. However  with the help of New Zealand cousins, who did a lot of research into family history, she has attempted a largely speculative account of what that might have been, while acknowledging that, except for one or two known facts, it is almost all conjecture.

To complete her recovery Nicola moved to Plymouth, Devon in 2005 to be near her son Stefan, her daughter-in-law Rebecca and their two wonderful young children Tom and Molly. At the time of writing they have gone to live in Doha, Qatar where Stefan is pursuing his career as a broadcast journalist with the acclaimed Television network Al Jazeera English. As well as planning a sequel to After the Rain Nicola is also pursuing a new interest, putting much of her huge backlist (over 50 novels) as E books onto Amazon Kindle in order to give part of her life’s work, now out of print, a new lease of life..