By best-selling crime writer Sophie Hannah

I LIVED in Bingley between 1999 and 2006, with my husband Dan Jones, who at the time was a lecturer at the university of Leeds. We started our family while in Bingley, and while I found my feet as a poet and crime writer. Some of my happiest memories are of our time in Yorkshire.

One day, Jane Fielder, who was a neighbour of ours, put a leaflet through our letterbox explaining that she was a local artist and advertising an open house exhibition of her work. I didn’t know anything about this, because Dan hid the leaflet, and secretly went to the exhibition! There he bought me the most brilliant surprise birthday present. It was a painting almost entirely made up of what looked like blood red fingerprints, with a quote from Shakespeare written all the way down the painting in gold: By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.

At the time, I had no idea that one day I’d be asked by Agatha Christie’s estate to write new novels featuring her greatest creation, Hercule Poirot. But By the Pricking of My Thumbs is an Agatha Christie title, so I feel, in retrospect, as if this picture was a sign! Even without this foreshadowing, that painting had a direct impact on me and my work. I hung it on my wall, and in that moment I realised two things. Suddenly, I knew the difference between real, original art and everything else I’d framed and hung up. And, at the same time, I decided to take down the Athena posters and posters of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and to start collecting real, original art instead. I attended every exhibition I could find in Yorkshire, and bought many paintings that I loved - many of them were very affordable, too. Some of my favourites, I bought for less than £50. One day, I went to one of Jane Fielder's exhibitions myself - it was incredible; one of my most memorable experiences - and I bought about half a dozen paintings. That's how I became a passionate art collector.

That passion is still a huge part of my life, and now I own hundreds of paintings, as well as ‘single artist’ collections’. One of my main ‘single artist’ collections is (of course) work by Jane Fielder. When I came to write my fourth crime novel, The Other Half Lives, art was so important to me that I knew I wanted it to play a major part. The book is about a woman who has been through severe trauma and finds solace in art. She falls in love with a sinister picture framer, who confesses to having murdered someone …but his supposed victim turns out not to be dead! I like to start my crime novels with really outlandish mysteries, like why on earth someone would confess to murdering someone who plainly is still alive.

Jane Fielder’s work was so important in my personal journey that I actually mentioned her in the book – the heroine goes to an art fair and admires her work. Then a strange thing happened. I sent Jane a copy of The Other Half Lives, and she got in touch, asking how I could possibly have known the name of the school she went to. The answer: I hadn’t known – I had simply made up a name that sounded suitable for a boarding school. By an amazing coincidence, it was the name of the school Jane had attended: Villiers.

I went to all of Jane’s exhibitions after that, and continued to buy her work. One day, at one of her exhibitions, I saw an enormous painting which included several objects on a table. One of these objects was a book by me: Hurting Distance, my second crime novel. Of course, I had to buy the painting – and now it has pride of place on my living room wall. Visitors always ask about it!

When my husband Dan started to paint a few years ago, neither of us ever thought he would go on to have exhibitions and become a 'proper' artist. But he kept working at it, producing oil, watercolour and acrylic paintings. He paints landscapes, street scenes and vibrant still life portraits, with the surreal edge that only his imagination can produce. Everyone admired his work, and last year we decided it was high time we exhibited it. Dan held his first exhibition in Cambridge this summer, and to our absolute delight he sold twenty-three pictures!

We were delighted with this result, and told Jane all about it. At once, she invited us to come and exhibit at her gallery. It felt so fitting – Bingley, we knew, would be the perfect place to exhibit and the perfect opportunity to revisit Yorkshire, which was our home for eleven happy years, and where we had both our children. We can’t thank Jane enough for being such an important part of our journey, and we simply can’t wait for Dan’s exhibition at The Bingley Gallery.

* Dan Jones - New Work is at The Bingley Gallery until Sunday, October 29.