Sheila Kaye-Smith was born in St. Leonard’s-on-Sea, Sussex, England, the daughter of a country doctor. She made her publishing debut at age 21 in 1908 with the novel The Tramping Methodist. Other novels and collections of short stories and poetry followed, including Sussex Gorse: The Story of a Fight (1916), her first critical success, Joanna Godden (1921), and The End of the House of Alard (1954). Many of her works are set in rural West Kent and East Sussex.
In 1924, she married Theodore Penrose Fry, an Anglican clergyman, and five years later they both converted to the Roman Catholic faith. She published more than 40 books in her career, including three volumes of autobiography, two biographical studies (with G.B. Stern) of Jane Austen, and several other works of nonfiction.