Me and my writing – Dee Yates

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By Dee Yates

I’m Dee. I live in a wee village on the edge of the Southern Uplands of Scotland. But I haven’t always been here. I started life in Somerset as a war baby, was brought up in Surrey (now part of Greater London), one of nine children, went to Leeds Medical School for six years and subsequently worked in the coal mining areas of Yorkshire as a Family Planning doctor and a part-time GP. My last home before moving to Scotland eleven years ago was a Victorian railway cottage by the side of the busy East Coast main line.♥

As a teenager I started to write poetry and I loved to read – particularly Thomas Hardy, whose books I loved for their detailed and exquisite description. At medical school and afterwards there was no time for anything other than hard work. I also started to have a family – three wonderful daughters. In the last eleven years the family has expanded to include three grandsons who are wonderful in a completely different way!

Through all the years I never lost the desire to write. In 2003, having retired slightly early, and having already written quite a bit of poetry, I sat down in my railway cottage and started to write a novel about a girl belonging to a railway family. I imagined them living in my cottage – with the high-speed trains (and even the Flying Scotsman on occasions!) thundering by between London and Edinburgh, it wasn’t difficult!

An important decision at this time was to join the local Writers’ Group. There I received encouragement and positive feedback, and learned to appreciate and comment on others’ writing styles. It was there the suggestion was made that I try sending my novel to an agent. It was accepted and after the usual editing was published in 2007 as The Railwayman’s Daughter. A sequel, A Yorkshire Lass, was published in 2008.

When I moved to Scotland in early 2007 I rented a shepherd’s cottage in the remote and beautiful Camps Valley east of Crawford. With no distractions other than sheep, I wrote a third book. Its story starts in 1914 and is about a girl from a farming background and the influence on her life of two men who come to the valley, the first a Yorkshire shepherd and the second a German prisoner of war, one of a group of prisoners detailed to help build a reservoir within the valley.

Once again I pictured them living in my cottage. My view from the window was theirs, The land they worked was the same as that on which I walked every day before sitting down to write.  I need at least part of my writing to be based on personal experience. The story, A Last Goodbye, published on 1st May 2018.

Our village museum is an Aladdin’s cave of farming stories and material. Helping there one weekend I picked up a school diary and began to read about the life of a school for shepherds’ and farmers’ children, out on the moors. The school ran from the 1870s until 1953. It made fascinating reading. The result was my first non-fiction book, Stormy Weather. Following this a colleague and I collaborated to bring out a book of photography and poetry, Living on the Land. Both these books are self-published and all proceeds go to the museum. They have been fun to do and rewarding in terms of interest and support.

In the book I am working on now, time has moved on to 1939. Is the farming community immune from the effects of the impending war? Will it be the seasons that continue to influence the day to day living on the land or will lives be changed forever as the war edges closer? The stunning view from my window as I write is the one seen by some of the characters in my story. The newly born lambs in the field opposite have had the same battle with the elements as did the livestock and their owners in that difficult time when war threatened the peace and the lives of those who lived on the land.

Born and brought up in the south of England, the eldest girl of nine children, Dee Yates moved north to Yorkshire to study medicine. She remained there, working in well woman medicine and general practice and bringing up her three daughters. She retired slightly early at the end of 2003, in order to start writing. In 2007 she moved further north, to the beautiful Southern Uplands of Scotland. She writes historical fiction, poetry and more recently non-fiction. Occasionally she gets to compare notes with her youngest sister Sarah Flint who writes crime with blood-curdling descriptions which make Dee want to hide behind the settee.

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