Former Chesterfield College student launches her first published novel after landing a three-book deal
Sally-Anne Martyn has set her dark thriller in a former asylum turned diet and beauty clinic run by a mysterious doctor. When a former patient of the asylum is paid by a developer to return to the building, she finds it’s not as bad as when she left, it’s much, much worse!
Ahead of the release of her book titled The Clinic on October 27, Sally-Anne gave an insight into her inspiration for it. She said: “In 1994 I worked as a care assistant in Hill End Hospital in St Albans, which was one of the last Victorian asylums in England. It was a baptism of fire and I was thrown in at the deep end, put in very frightening situations with little support or training; the place was falling apart internally and externally. The thing that stuck with me the most, was the building itself, many wards were closed by that time and walking along those long corridors alone was unnerving, just echoes of cries and shouts that carried throughout the near deserted rooms. I think a building like that that has seen so much pain holds it within the walls, it just never felt right.”
While the hospital closed down in 1995, the memory of the eerie building never faded for Sally-Anne. She said: “It was an experience I always wanted to write about, so it became the perfect setting for my debut novel when the time came.”
She began writing the novel in 2020 and sent it off to various publishers. Sally-Anne said: “When it was first sent out, the big publishers felt the issue of weight and diet was too sensitive, which surprised me and disappointed me in equal measures. I’m one of millions of women that struggle with weight and yo-yo dieting and I feel it’s something we need to address. We are bombarded with representations of what the female body should look like, leaving many with eating problems for years. I felt it was more than time for a novel to address this, especially in a dark way. As with most things, it all worked out for the best, because I landed with Joffe Books…Joffe is incredibly forward thinking and innovative, unafraid to tell stories they know readers want to read.
“I have a three-book deal with Joffe Books so I’m currently finishing the second book to be published by them, this time set in Derbyshire, with witchcraft and mother/daughter relationships as the theme. This was inspired by my time working in a nursing home in Darley Dale and some of the brilliant residents I was lucky enough to meet during my time there. Everything I write about always seems to come back to my childhood, those brilliant working class women I grew up with and the incredible Derbyshire landscape.”
Sally-Anne was born in Darley Dale 49 years ago, grew up in Hathersage and moved back to Darley Dale as a teenager. She said: “I studied at Hope Valley College and then did performing arts at Chesterfield College of Technology and Arts, before spending a year in America as an au pair. I have done a variety of jobs since leaving school – a film and television extra , working in a film props department on Gladiator and various care roles at nursing homes and hospitals.”
This is the second time that Sally-Anne has featured in the Derbyshire Times, having been chosen for the Friday’s Child column in 1981. She said: “I was about eight or nine and a pupil at St Michael’s C of E School in Hathersage. I had been a flower girl for the Hathersage Carnival queen Julie Wood (nee Barber) and I was told she had recommended me for ‘Friday’s Child’. I still remember the interview very well, I didn’t stop talking…I just talked about my train set, horror films and a recent operation. I have always been proud of this appearance in the Derbyshire Times, because no matter where I’ve lived, everything I do seems to come back to that happy childhood in Derbyshire.”
At the age of seven Sally-Anne won a junior school prize after plagiarising a poem that a friend read to her on holiday. Sally-Anne, whose maiden name was Atkinson, said: “It was read out in church much to my mortification. I’m surprised lightning didn’t strike the steeple! After that I kept to my own ideas and over the years wrote pieces that appeared in the Daily Mail, Vegan Food & Living Magazine, Scriptwriter Magazine and various online publications. I also wrote a short script which led to winning a place on an ITV writing course with Emmerdale’s Bill Lyons.
“I didn’t go to university so I was convinced that I couldn’t write a novel, that was for people with degrees. Eventually I just gave it a shot, attended a couple of courses and found a mentor. I wrote my first book and sent it out in 2019 and had some interest from agents. As soon as I sent that one out I began my second book which was quickly picked up by my agent, Katie Fulford, which was then picked up by Joffe Books and will be my first published novel.
“I would love to continue writing for Joffe and bring out a book a year, and become known for my dark female characters. Obviously, it would be great for a book to be picked up by TV, I think the setting and characters in The Clinic would make for great television!”
Sally-Anne has a 16-year-old son Gabriel and has lived with her family in Cheshire for eight years. She has an array of animals including three dogs, five pet pigs and three snails.