Every Town Has Its Secrets

by Laura Storey


At the edge of the Yorkshire Dales sits the picturesque town of Ilkley. Every summer, tourists descend from around the world to explore its independent shops, try a Betty’s Fat Rascal or to roam the surrounding countryside, but hidden deep in the shadow of Ilkley Moor, the town possesses dark secrets hidden from the tourists – stories of intrigue, lies and unsettling rumours. Or at least, that’s how writer Imogen Clark portrays it.

Imogen Clark

In her first book, Postcards From a Stranger, Imogen wanted to capture her hometown, “but I didn’t really want the kind of chocolate box picture visitors get, I needed something a bit darker.” The result is a fascinating portrayal of a town so familiar as an inviting place to visit, revealed as a prison the protagonist longs to escape.

For Imogen, the daily rhythms of everyday life in Yorkshire are where she draws her inspiration from. “You can stand in the playground and you can find absolutely fascinating things about the other mums, about what they’ve done before they were a mum or things they were doing quietly in the day when nobody was there. All these people have amazing stories that nobody really takes any notice of.”

You really need to actually experience something to know how it feels

Imogen’s always keeping an ear out for these stories, and luckily enough she overheard an incredible story… just as she was getting her hair done. “I was just minding my own business earwigging as a conversation was taking place. The hairdresser was telling the story about how somebody she knew had asked a friend of hers to keep an eye on her daughter after she died. It’s such an interesting idea – if you’re not there to bring up your children yourself, who would you choose to bring them up for you? By the time I had my hair done I decided that it was something I wanted to explore for a bit more closely.”

This is the plot for Imogen’s latest book, ‘Impossible to Forget’. Just turned 18, the character of Romany is on the cusp of taking her first steps into adulthood when tragedy strikes, and she finds herself suddenly alone without her mother, Angie, the only parent she has ever known. In her final letter, Angie has charged her four closest friends with guiding Romany through her last year of school. It is an interesting idea, and invites the reader to question who they would want to raise their children and the impact on whoever they had bestowed this huge responsibility. The questions all Imogen’s books raise are deep and universal, which explains why they are beloved of books clubs nationwide.

A prolific writer, Imogen already has another book due out in December. “An Unwanted Inheritance,” she explains, “it’s about a family who discovers a huge amount of cash hidden under a bed. The basis of the book is what on earth they are going to do with it and obviously they can’t agree!” Imogen laughs. “I realised it was actually about what is right and what is wrong, I found that it related to lockdown situation because we had that rule, I’m sure you do remember, where you could only go locally, you could travel but it could only be local and everyone interpreted that differently. For some people local was where they could walk to, for others it was 25 miles away.”

With eight books now under her belt, you could be forgiven for thinking Imogen always harboured dreams of being a novelist, but Imogen did not always cherish dreams of becoming a writer. Instead she studied law and worked as a solicitor in Leeds. After becoming a mother, she stayed at home to look after her four children.

I wrote quite a lot of novels which I thought were rubbish

“When they all went to school, I was at a bit of a loose end in the middle of the day so I started to write a blog about what it was like being at home with four children and that kind of led to writing short stories, then that led into wanting to write a novel.

“That was in 2010, and I just started practicing. I wrote quite a lot of novels which I thought were rubbish, and then eventually I wrote one which I thought wasn’t too bad.” Imogen smiles. For writers just starting out, Imogen shares advice which has always worked for her. “Write every day. People make the mistake of getting excited at the beginning, then you get to a certain point and you run out of ideas. Just like any form of exercise, the more you do it, the easier it is. And of course, spend time out in Yorkshire!

“There’s a limit I think that you can take from everything being on screen or just being in 2D, when you really need to actually experience something to know what it smells like or how it feels, all those kinds of things,” Imogen explains. A day trip to Ilkley could be just what you need it’s all part of the creative process!

Impossible to Forget published by Lake Union is available £8.99.