My Series of Author & Poet Interviews #authors Narberth Book Fair #bookfair Today with me: Judith Barrow

Titleband for Narberth Book Fair

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting interviews with the authors who will be taking part in our Book Fair:

There are forty of us so, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults and fun workshops for children, activities for the children and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire.   

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed. Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin:  and Thorne Moore: Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: . 

 So, all the formalities now set out, I’ll be chatting with everyone week by week.  I thought I should start by  introducing Thorne. But then realised I should answer a few of the questions I’ll be putting to the authors, myself.


judith, showboat2


Here goes: This is a bit weird but hey-ho.

Me: What do you love most about the writing process?

 Me: The ability to become lost in another world

Me: Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

 Me: My characters are a mix of both real and imagined people. It’s the ability to transpose personalities, characteristics and the inevitable ‘oddities’ that we all have in one way or another that rounds out fascinating characters.

Me: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction who would you write about?

Me: My sister. After a lifetime of knowing her, I’ve never been able to fathom out what makes her who she is. If I was going to write about her then I’d need to study her. It’s a forlorn hope; she’d not let me in.

Me: What do you think makes a good story?

 Me: A good story grips from the first sentence to the last.  There should be a great plot, good rounded characters, a believable sense of place for them to move around in and evocative phrasing. Not forgetting dialogue that really works for each character and is consistent. Not a lot to ask for, huh?

 Me: How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

 Me: Eight, three of which will probably never be sent out into the world.


My favourite is Pattern of Shadows for a few reasons: it took me years of research to make sure I had all the facts about the first German POW camp in the UK (based in a disused cotton mill) and the truth about life in that time towards the ending of the WW2, it brought back the memories of my childhood when my mother worked as a winder in a cotton mill and I would go there to wait for her after school. It was in this book that my favourite protagonist was born, Mary Howarth; I’ve now lived alongside her for ten years. And last but not least, it was this book that Honno: accepted. I’d had stories in their anthologies published and I was thrilled when they accepted Pattern of Shadows.

Me: What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre?

 Me: My books are family sagas. I love writing about the intricacies of relationships within families. I have to admit, (and  I suspect most authors are the same) I am a people watcher. I think that the casual acceptance of one another within families can bring the best and the worst out in all of us; it’s fascinating to write about that potential.

 I have written a children’s book for middle grade; it needs a lot of work before it sees the light of day

 Me: Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?


 Me: A Hundred Tiny Threads is the prequel to the trilogy.Once I’d written ‘The End’ on Living in the Shadows, the family wouldn’t leave me alone. I realised I wanted/needed to write about their origins.

As with my other novels it’s been described as a gritty family saga. It’s set in Lancashire in the 1900s and Ireland at the time of the Black and Tans

The protagonist, Winifred, is the mother of Mary Howarth. She’s a determined young woman eager for new experiences, for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter ruled over by her domineering mother. When her friend Honora – an Irish girl, with the freedom to do as she pleases – drags Winifred along to a suffragette rally, she realises that there is more to life than the shop and her parents’ humdrum lives of work and grumbling.

Bill Howarth, is Mary’s father, a man with a troubled childhood that echoes through his early adult life and the scars linger, affecting his work, his relationships and his health. The only light in his life comes from a chance meeting with Winifred, the girl he determines to make his wife. But does he?

It’s an emotive novel set in Lancashire and Ireland during a time of social and political upheaval. I’d like to think it’s a must read for anyone who loves both family sagas and historical fiction.

Me: Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?

Me: I always start writing with a clear plan but sooner or later , usually when I’ve plotted exactly what will happen next it dawns on me that a particular character wouldn’t act in that way. It’s strange; they are my invention but they do seem to take on a life of their own. When that happens I nearly always take a couple of days to work out what I’m going to do… or rather what I think they would like to do

 Me: If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

 Me: It would be Mary Howarth, the protagonist of the trilogy. She takes a bit of a back step in the last book, Living in the Shadows, so I think I’d ask her what she wanted to do (there I go again; letting her take control). Like me she’s not a great fan of shopping so I’m hoping she’d opt for a long walk and talk across the moors of the Pennines. It would be a gloriously sunny day because, when you do get on the tops, it’s always breezy to say the least. I’d like her to tell me how she’s enjoyed her life in the trilogy. At lunchtime we’d find a good pub and stop for a ploughmen’s lunch and a cup of tea(she loves her tea1). In the afternoon we’d wander over to a cinema and watch the film Yanks with Richard Gere


Since Pattern of Shadows was published I’ve been back to my roots to an event called  YANKS ARE BACK IN SADDLEWORTH: This film was made around the group of villages that are known as Saddleworth in 1979. Yanks Back in Saddleworth is great fun. Everyone dresses up in Forties clothes or various uniforms of the British, German, American services of that era and there are so many things going on over the weekend; A Vera Lynne singer, A Churchill lookalike, forties fashion stalls, military memorabilia stalls, a dance, a procession with all kinds of military vehicles, a fly-past of WW2 warplanes.

As Pattern of Shadows  is set during the forties I was invited along when it was first published and have been quite a few times since. I’m there again 6th/7th August this year.

 Oh, I’ve digressed – sorry Mary. After the film we’d have a slap up meal at one of the lovely restaurants around Saddleworth … and then, after such a long day it would be time to sleep for me. Mary would need to hurry to get back into the second of the trilogy,  Changing Patterns.

Me: When did you write your first book and how old were you?

Me:  I was eight. The book was called, The Death of the Teapot. My mother used to say all my childhood stories were gory (wonder what that shows?) The teapot fell off the table, broke its spout…and died.

 Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

Nope; I’m an open book as they say. (Whoever they are!!) Though I am a dab hand at making novelty cakes… does that count as a talent… hmmm?

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Well, I don’t know is it’s interesting to anyone (it drives Husband mad!) I sometimes write all through the night.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

What I would really like to do would be to have a camper van and travel around the country. As it is, I read, walk along the lovely coastal paths around Pembrokeshire, sit and watch Husband gardening (and sometimes joining in with the boring jobs like weeding or mowing the lawns). Given chance I love clearing out clutter (opposed by said Husband – the hoarder). And I enjoy making up different creative writing exercises for my classes.

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing

I once went to a book fair held in a primary school. The loos were those miniature types for the little people. I got locked in by a faulty lock and had to climb over the door. One of the buttons on my blouse got stuck around the top hinge and I landed feet first on the floor with my blouse around my neck and showing my rather raunchy new bra. Not amusing to me at the time but hilarious to the two author ‘friends’ who just happened to walk in at that moment

Give us a random fact about yourself.

I hated school. I was well into adulthood before I gained all my qualifications and was brave enough to start sending out my work.

 Well, that was fun… I think!

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“Judith Barrow has surpassed herself in writing this great family saga… There is such a wealth of fantastic characters to fall in love with and ones to hate!” (Brook Cottage Books)


Front of Secrets

Ashford, home of the Howarth family,is a gritty northern mill town, a community of no-nonsense Lancashire folk, who speak their minds and are quick to judge. But how many of them are hiding secrets that wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of others?
Judith Barrow’s Howarth Family trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows, along with the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, published by Honno Press, is peopled with just such characters. Here are some of their secret stories – the girl who had to relinquish her baby, the boy who went to war too young, the wife who couldn’t take any more…




19 thoughts on “My Series of Author & Poet Interviews #authors Narberth Book Fair #bookfair Today with me: Judith Barrow

  1. Pingback: My Series of Author Interviews #authors Narberth Book Fair #bookfairs | Judith Barrow

    • Thank you Olga, it was the only way to think to do it (dual personality?) And the cakes – made them for years; made them for the children and then people started asking me to make for them. Quite a nice little hobby/business. Each one took hours to do though – stopped me painting and writing so ave up.


  2. Pingback: My Series of Author Interviews #authors Narberth Book Fair #bookfairs | Judith Barrow | Just Olga

  3. Trying to imagine myself writing about my own sister. Like you, I have only a vague sense of who she is. I wonder though – perhaps we know them better than either we or they realise simply because they *don’t* allow us in?
    Lovely interview with this Judith person! She sounds like fun & I can’t wait to meet her! xXx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know!! I think you’re probably right, Carol. I gave up trying years ago to be honest. And I think this Judith person is completely schizophrenic… but who cares, eh? Thank you for dropping by, my friend.XX


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