YOU wouldn’t guess it to look at her, but Tami Egonu’s literary world is peopled with searing prejudice, revenge, racial tensions and haunting tales of loneliness, the spiritual and the supernatural.

She has successfully published four novels over the past two years – three of them forming the Bird trilogy, an epic Victorian story of love and loss – and is about to embark on her fifth. They are successful ebooks and paperbacks and Tami, who lives in Middlesbrough, hopes that their continuing and growing success means she can eventually give up her day job at Teesside University and concentrate on writing full time.

Tami, 42, moved to the North-East six years ago from her native Camden Town in London, where some of her story influences come from. "Back in the 1940s my grandfather, who was from Nigeria, was in the RAF," she says. "He met and married my grandmother, who was white, and she was ostracised for having married him.

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"My grandparents eventually separated and grandmother was left alone to bring up her family. She had four mixed race children - my mother was one of them – and all were scarred by the experience of racial injustice. That influenced the creation of one of my trilogy characters, Amelia, who is the product of a union between a middle class white girl and a black man."

Apart from the subject matter, one element sets Tami’s paperback books apart from the rest. In looking for ideas for the covers, she came across the designs of the famous and influential Victorian English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist William Morris. He was associated with the English Arts and Crafts Movement, and the Victoria and Albert Museum holds an extensive collection of his wallpaper, textile and tile designs.

Tami thought some of the designs would be perfect for her books, and on the off-chance, she contacted the William Morris Society. They agreed to her using some of his artwork for the covers of her books. "I was incredibly thrilled, and I am so grateful to the society curators for the privilege," she says. "Getting permission to use such striking artwork and providing the worldwide licence to use these precious designs was amazing. They are incredibly inspiring and beautiful."

Tami’s books – the stand alone, A Rhapsody of Dreams; and the trilogy, Bird, The Enchanted and A Blue Lark Sang – have spiritual and supernatural elements, which Tami would like to explore further. Her last book, A Blue Lark Sang, is currently only available as an ebook, but comes out in paperback shortly. "E-books are a fantastic way of accessing books quickly and in a compact way, but I still like the feel of a 'proper' book," she says.

And having a genuine William Morris design on the cover makes it a real work of art.

n Tami Egonu’s books are available through Amazon.co.uk