How Cleckheaton's Wendy Holden became a best-selling novelist

From ghost-writer for a high-flying It Girl to best-selling novelist, Wendy Holden has built an incredibly successful writing career - and it all started in Cleckheaton.

Sunday, 1st August 2021, 5:30 pm
Wendy Holden

Wendy was born and grew up in the town, attending St Luke’s Infant School, Heaton Avenue Primary School and Whitcliffe Mount School.

She now lives in Derbyshire with her husband and two teenage children but Cleckheaton is still very dear to her heart and she makes it back to the area at least once a month to visit family.

She said Cleckheaton is a “great town” and she is thankful for the education, support and encouragement she has had from it.

It was a teacher at Whitcliffe Mount - Vanda Symons - who encouraged her to pursue her passion for English and helped Wendy apply for Cambridge University where she was accepted to read English Literature.

As a child, Wendy loved reading and spent many hours at Clekcheaton Library.

“I must have read practically all of their children’s section before I moved onto their grown-up section,” she said, “I love that building. Without Cleckheaton Library, I’d be nowhere.”

After university, Wendy moved to London and started working as a journalist in the magazine industry. It was as the deputy editor for the Sunday Times newspaper’s Style section that she was asked to ghost write a column for celebrity socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

The column was a huge success but no one would believe it was Wendy writing it. The situation inspired the story of Wendy’s first novel.

“Writing a novel was something I’d always wanted to do but I never had a plot.” she explained. “I realised that this was the plot.”

Simply Divine was released and was an instant best-seller. Wendy did not expect it to be such a hit but she knew from then that novels were what she wanted to write.

She has gone on to write more than a dozen more comic novels and has more recently turned her attention to creating a triology of historical fiction.

The first book - The Governess - was released last year and was another top ten bestseller, based on the story of young teacher Marion Crawford who was the governess to the Queen and Princess Margaret.

The next - The Duchess - is out next month and features Wallis Simpson as the main character, and Wendy is currently working on the third book, based on the early years of Princess Diana.

Her best advice for budding writers? Do not tell anyone and get on with it.

“If you tell people then they’ll keep asking how the novel is going and you’ll get discouraged,” she said, “If you’ve got an idea, just get on with it.”