As Emmerdale's Katie Sugden for 14 years, Sammy Winward was a household name to millions up and down the United Kingdom. An emotional and explosive storyline in the soap however saw her character's life brought to an end when Sammy decided it was time to move on, and now the talented actress has turned her hand to writing, releasing a brand new children's book embedded within the world of history.

Female First got the opportunity to chat to Sammy all about the book, as well as her decision to leave Emmerdale, new role in the second series of ITV's Prey and much more - read on to find out what she had to say.

Sammy Winward
Sammy Winward

Your character Katie Sugden was in Emmerdale for 14 years, was it hard to let her go?

Yeah it was a massive decision for me, just in terms of, because I loved it so much there still and I had all my best friends there. I still absolutely loved the job so to make that decision to leave was going against all my instincts really, but I knew that I had to do something different. It had come to that point where I had to do something else, so I decided to leave about a year before I did, so I had a good amount of time to get used to the idea!

How did the storyline of Katie being killed off come about - were you asked if this is how you wanted to go?

I basically said to Kate (Oates, producer), whatever you want to do - it was the storyline, I'd decided to go so I can't then say, 'and I want this and that!' (laughs) So I just spoke to Kate and said, 'whatever you're happy with and works better for the storyline', and she came up with it a few months later. At first I was a little bit unsure, I was like, 'oh God, maybe it's too much! I don't know if I can cope!', but do you know what? Now, I'm really glad, I don't have to always look over my shoulder and wonder if I can go back. I think it will definitely in the future - it has done already - spurred me on to work harder.

What are some of your fondest memories from being on the show?

Everybody says about the Emmerdale cast that they're lovely people and it's got a real family feel to the show, so just generally how much fun I had on the set I think! A lot of the time it didn't really feel like a job. I'd go in the dressing room and had all my girls there, me and Lucy Pargeter, Sian Reese-Williams, Nicola Wheeler, Gaynor (Faye) - we had such a good laugh from the start of the day to the finish.

Now you're moving onto other things, such as this new children's book - tell us about the creative process behind Princess Phoebe Meets The Tudors.

I came up with the idea a couple of years ago. I've always loved history, I'm a bit of a history geek on the sly! I've loved history since I was young, it was my favourite subject at school, and basically I knew that I wanted to do something with it but I didn't know what for quite a while.

I used to basically tell Mia, my daughter, lots of stories about different characters through history and she was fascinated and loved hearing about them and, days and days later she'd ask me about them again, 'what happened with her? Why did that happen? Did that really happen Mummy?', and I just thought, 'I'm gonna have a look and see if there is anything out there for kids which is a history book with a story running through it'. There's obviously Horrible Histories which is fantastic at the moment, but I wanted to do something that had a continuous character throughout the whole thing. So I looked and I couldn't really find anything for that age group that really grabbed me so I thought, 'OK! That's my history outlet, there's my calling!'.

So that's how Princess Phoebe was born. It's taken a couple of years in terms of the first idea to getting it finished, getting the illustrations right and things like that, but it's been brilliant it really has, it's been a fun process.

I've loved history but I left school at a young age, my only schooling that I've had really is reading and teaching myself, because I'm a bit of a geek really so I have kept that up! I do read a lot so yeah, I suppose this is me making myself feel better about leaving school too early!

What has your daughter's reaction been to the book?

Oh she's so proud of me, bless her! I think she's more proud of me doing this than she's been during my whole time in Emmerdale, by far! She absolutely loves it, she's read it three or four times now.

Will this be a continuous series then with Princess Phoebe?

Yeah, well I wanted to see how well this one did and how it's received, and I'm doing lots of book signings and readings and things like that. I wanna gauge how everyone feels about the book, and I've got hundreds of ideas! It could be Princess Phoebe meets... whoever. She can go back in time and meet whoever which is the good thing about the stories!

You're not leaving acting behind and have been announced to join the second series of Prey on ITV, what drew you to that show and your new role as Lucy?

That was perfect really. When I left Emmerdale I thought the thing I'd love to do is gritty, northern drama. So when I got the part it was only a few months after I'd left Emmerdale, I was over the moon really. The director and producer have done some fantastic stuff before and I'd watched the first series which was brilliant, and it was filmed round Manchester which for me is ideal because I'm from Bolton. It was filmed around Manchester and the Lake District so I could drive to work every day.

Have you started filming yet, and if so what's the chemistry like on-set?

Yes it's just finished. I'm not quite sure actually when the transmission date is, I'm not sure they know yet, but it's just finished filming this week.

The chemistry's been brilliant it really has. I was nervous because it was the first time I've walked onto a set and not known people, Emmerdale they were like my family, but on this one I didn't really know anybody at all. But I always think everyone's in that boat, everyone on a set on a drama don't know each other unless they've maybe done the odd thing before together. You get that vibe, everyone was lovely, very welcoming, really looked after me.

How different was filming this show compared to a soap?

It was different in that you get a lot more time. I think on Emmerdale you have a lot to do, you're filming six episodes a week, and to make that look good and look reasonably natural and interesting, it can be very hard. You've read 12 scenes a day, 'make it work, go!' I think people can turn their noses up at soap actors quite a lot which I find really annoying, the amount of stuff we have to do is crazy really.

So to go onto Prey and actually have time, and rehearsal and things like that was fantastic for me! I think Emmerdale definitely made me be able to cope with anything really.

What advice do you have for young women such as yourself who would like to chase a career path similar to yours, either in acting, writing or both?

I think the best advice is, I think everyone says it really but the best thing is to be yourself. When you start to pretend to be somebody because you want to conform and you think someone will like that about you, people can see through it straight away. And just go for longevity in your career as opposed to short term fixes or short term bursts of money, I think longevity and just make sure you enjoy what you're doing.

Finally, is there anything else you're currently involved with you can share some details about?

No, because I've just finished filming Prey I'm back to auditioning again. I've done a couple of auditions this week so I'll see where that goes. I'm going on holiday in a few weeks so I'm hoping I don't get a job before then! (laughs) That sounds terrible! I've got my fingers crossed! So yeah just a holiday, that's what I'm looking forward to! I'm just starting new ideas for the new book, hopefully, so that's it really!

Princess Phoebe Meets the Tudors by Sammy Winward is published by Candy Jar Books. It retails at £6.99 and is available from Amazon, and all good bookshops.

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