Sheila Newberry, author of 24 novels, has died at the age of 88, her publisher Bonnier Books UK has announced.
Newberry, whose works included Bicycles and Blackberries (Zaffre), The Winter Baby (Zaffre) and The Nursemaid’s Secret (Zaffre), died peacefully on 10th January after a short stay in hospital.
Kate Parkin, m.d. of adult publishing at Bonnier Books UK, said: "Sheila was one of our favourite authors, and a genuine delight to publish. Every bit as warm in person, over the phone and on email as her lovely books promised, she was a joy to work with and we are very proud to have been her publishers. She will be much missed by us all."
A mother-of-nine and grandmother to 22, Newberry wrote all her life, including a period writing short stories for Woman’s Realm. It was the magazine’s editor, Sally Bowden, who encouraged her to write full-length books, beginning with Tilly’s Family (Piatkus) in 1996.
She wrote scores more, drawing on her own life experiences, among other things, to tell heartwarming and moving tales about family life and growing up in bygone days.
However, it was only in her later years that she found success. A resurgence in her saga novels in 2016 has seen them sell 350,000 copies in paperback and e-book since then, according to publisher Zaffre. Through the TCM, she sold 206,402 books for £821,606, with The Nursemaid’s Secret her bestseller.
Her editor, Claire Johnson-Creek, said: “It has been a great pleasure and privilege to know and work with Sheila. The fact that she was writing right up until the end and enthusiastically discussing her latest book edits with me the week before Christmas was truly inspiring.
“Sheila was a wonderful storyteller, as well as a warm, funny and interesting person. I’ll miss her brilliant anecdotes and musings on everything from family life, writing, the weather and the fascinating characters she encountered on her travels. She brought so much joy to my me, and to everyone she worked with.”
Judith Murdoch, Newberry's agent, said: "Sheila was one of my first authors and it was lovely to see her late blooming with Zaffre. She will be much missed."
Newberry's next book, The Meadow Girls, will be published in May this year with The Mother and Baby Home scheduled for November.