LIKE many authors, Stephanie Butland has always been a writer at heart.

Now with six novels and two guides to living with cancer under her belt, Stephanie talks to The Northern Echo about how she turned her creative outlet into a day job.

"I was always a person who wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write for theatre and had written something for the Edinburgh Festival one year, but it fell through," she said.

"Then life got in the way, with small children and a job – but in 2008 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I started blogging about it – initially as a pragmatic way of keeping friends and family informed.

"But it also reconnected me with my love of writing, and it helped me to process things that I was experiencing. I could write about how I felt and it was very therapeutic."

"I never expected it to gain a following, but it did, particularly in the US as there is a wider cancer survivorship community there.

"I decided I would write a book – How I Said Bah! To Cancer: A Guide to Thinking, Laughing, Living and Dancing Your Way Through. It was my story of how I learned to cope: through thinking strategies, a proactive approach to treatment, determination to keep the rest of my life going, and keeping my sense of humour (mostly) to hand.

"I found my agent, Oli Munson, on Twitter by entering a competition. I sent him a sample and he asked to read the rest, and that was it."

It was published by Hay House in 2011, and Stephanie's second book Thrive: The Bah! Guide to Wellness After Cancer, was published in September 2012.

She said: "I really got the writing bug after I'd finished those, and wanted to write a novel. The cancer books had given me a way into publishing, and luckily when I told my agent I wanted to write a novel, he said he'd thought I would!

Stephanie's first novel, Letters to my Husband, was born after she decided to take part in NaNoWriMo, a challenge each November to write 50,000 of a novel in 30 days.

She said: "I wrote a list of things that I knew something about, to give me a starting point, and one thing that struck me was I had experience of being on a committee, so I went with that.

"But 20,000 words in, I stalled. After getting some advice, I took the committee element away and I had a story about someone who had drowned and the people close to him, and then I got going.

"I think it is quite common for writers to start something and then discover it is going to be something different."

Stephanie went on to publish subsequent novels The Other Half of My Heart, Lost for Words, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, The Woman in the Photograph, and, to be published in August, Nobody's Perfect.

The Woman in the Photograph is set in 1968, and follows Veronica Moon, a junior photographer on a local paper, who is frustrated by her (male) colleagues’ failure to take her seriously. Until she meets Leonie on the picket line at Dagenham Ford Factory. So begins a tumultuous, passionate and intoxicating friendship. Ahead of her time and fighting for women’s equality with everything she has, Leonie offers Veronica an exciting, free life at the dawn of a great change.

Stephanie said: "Writing The Woman In The Photograph changed me. It gave me new respect for the women who bellowed and marched and organised, and changed the law. And changed the world. I thought I had educated myself about feminism, but there was so much I didn’t know.

"Spending time in archives and reading the work of women who were uncovering and exploring the things I take for granted was humbling. It’s made me determined to be a better feminist myself."

With her new book, Stephanie had to do much of her work through a global pandemic – but she said luckily her writing studio at the bottom of her garden provided the perfect escape.

"I already had a first draft of Nobody's Perfect. I think if I was starting from scratch I might have struggled. But in my writing studio the world was just the same as it had always been.

"This novel is based on characters that appeared in my first novel. I never intended to write a follow-up, but I wanted to explore these characters further. I'm interested in bright, young women that are sidelined by something that happens to them, that takes them off their path."

Nobody's Perfect follows Kate, who vowed when her daughter, Daisy, was born with cystic fibrosis, she would never be defined by the illness. Yet, somehow, Kate has started defining herself by the way others see her: the single parent, the source of small-town scandal, the drop-out, the former mistress; half a family.

Alongside her writing, Stephanie has now set up a Patreon – a subscription-only space dedicated to giving readers more of an insight into her work.

She also delivers a manuscript assessment service, coaching and mentoring, and runs writing retreats, mainly at the Garsdale Retreat, based in the Yorkshire Dales, near Hawes.

She said: "I really enjoy mentoring and working one-to-one and in groups, to give writers the tools they might not have.

"Some is skill and some is talent, but sometimes someone can give you a short cut. I think there can never be enough books in the world, or enough writers."

To find out more about Stephanie Butland, visit