The daughter of a country doctor, Shelia Kaye-Smith was born in St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings. Her first novel, The Tramping Methodist was published when she was 21. In 1923 her book, The End of the House of Alard became a best-seller and gave her national prominence. She went on to write over 40 books.Kaye-Smith's early novels were chiefly pre-occupied with rural life in Sussex and Kent. They focused on farming, land inheritance, agricultural mechanisation and changing women's roles in rural life. Joanna Godden, arguably her most famous novel, was adapted into a film in 1947. Her later books focused on her religious pre-occupations, and her conversion to catholicism. She was also a passionate scholar of Jane Austen and with her friend, G.B. Stern wrote Speaking of Jane Austen and More About Jane Austen.