My Review of Emmet and Me by Sara Gethin #Honno #NetGalley #Review

Book Description :

Summer 1966: When her father comes home with lipstick on his collar, ten-year-old Claire’s life is turned upside down. Her furious mother leaves the family and heads to London, and Claire and her brothers are packed off to Ireland, to their reclusive grandmother at her tiny cottage on the beautifully bleak coast of Connemara. A misfit among her new classmates, Claire finds it hard to make friends until she happens across a boy her own age from the school next door. He lives at the local orphanage, a notoriously harsh place. Amidst half-truths, lies and haunting family secrets, Claire forms a forbidden friendship with Emmet – a bond that will change both their lives forever.

My Review:

Sara Gethin has a unique talent for being able to enter a child’s mind, to give their thoughts, speak their dialogue. I know this is commonplace in children’s stories but what I mean is that she has the ability to speak from a child’s perspective in an adult world. A world that is dysfunctional, that the child sees and comments on, but is swept along, helpless in the chaos those adults create.

Yet threaded throughout Emmet and Me is the wonderful developing friendship between the Welsh, displaced protagonist, Claire and the, equally displaced Irish boy, Emmet.

I also admired the short sections where Claire speaks as an adult looking back on her childhood and on that time in her life, which affected so much and says why she is now the woman she is.

I first came across this author when I read Not Thomas, also published by Honno, (my review here: https://bit.ly/3tUBjHw and greatly recommended.). Emmet and Me is as poignant, as heartrending as that book. And as with Not Thomas, I both cried and rejoiced with the characters at certain parts of the story.

This is a novel set in Ireland at a time when many children had absolutely no control over what happened to them. To say any more would be to add spoilers: suffice it to say it is obvious Sara Gethin has researched thoroughly and has brought that era to life within this book.

This is superb writing: the plot is enthralling (and, although I had an inkling which way the story was travelling, in no way did this spoil the read for me), all the characters are well rounded, grow as the story progresses and come to life on the page, and the settings have a real sense of place.

Emmet and Me is a novel I have absolutely no hesitation in recommended to any reader.

About the author:

Sara Gethin

Sara Gethin grew up in Llanelli and worked as a primary school teacher. ‘Not Thomas’, her debut novel for adults, was shortlisted for The Guardian’s Not the Booker prize in 2017 and the Waverton Good Read Award in 2018. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award and she was selected for the Hay Festival Writers at Work programme in 2018.
She has written four children’s books under the name Wendy White, and the first of these won the Tir na-nOg Award in 2014.
While west Wales remains her home, Sara is a frequent visitor to Ireland where she loves spending time browsing the many bookstores of Dublin. She is an avid reader and theatre-goer.

Website & Blog: saragethin.com

Facebook: @SaraGethinWriter

Twitter: @SGethinWriter

Instagram: @saragethinwriter

A few Moments With Carol Lovekin #MondayBlogs #Interview @Honno

Handing over to Carol for a moment

Hello, dear reader, and welcome.
Like you, I am a guest; invited by Judith to appear on her blog and answer some questions. This is an event, frankly. Since lockdown has put paid to physical book launches and fairs, sitting down to write about my author self and my books is a treat. So thank you, Judith!
   Judith and I are both published by Honno, the Welsh women’s Press. It’s the longest standing women-only press in the UK and I think I can safely speak for both of us when I say it is an honour and a privilege to be a Honno Girl. That said, we’re not girls anymore! We are both women of a certain age who, although we were already writers, came to publishing later than some. Judith was first published by Honno in 2010; my debut came out in 2016.
   Although we write in very different genres, our stories share some similarities. We both write strong women characters and explore family dynamics, not least, the relationships between mothers and daughters, and sisters.
   I recall first meeting Judith at a Honno gathering before I was published. Ghostbird, my debut, had been accepted but I was very much the new girl. Judith immediately struck me as down-to-earth, friendly and very funny. I was soon to learn her dry wit and no-nonsense Northern persona sat comfortably alongside her kindness and supportive nature.
   Over the years we have become good friends. (I’m still a bit star-struck to be honest. Judith really is a wonderful novelist and her published output is prolific.) It’s an extra special pleasure then to chat with her on her blog.  

Now let’s learn a little about Carol and her books

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

Carol: The opportunity to create story, Judith. Showing up and losing myself in the process. The lightbulb moments which illuminate a previously dim corner, or the ones that change the narrative’s trajectory. Being led by my characters because I threw away my breadcrumbs and allowed them to show me the way. Days when I punch the air because an unexpected tangent is about to make the story so much better.   

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

Carol: I’ve never knowingly based a character on a real person. I do confess to having ‘borrowed’ certain character traits. For instance, the narcissism of Allegra in Snow Sisters definitely has echoes of someone I used to know. The wonderful thing about it is of course, you don’t have to worry about being accused of writing negatively about a narcissist. They would never believe they could be that flawed therefore the character couldn’t possibly be based on them!

Snow Sisters

Judith: If you could write about anyone fictional/nonfictional who would you write about?

Carol: No one comes to mind. My writing feet are firmly set in the land of make-believe. I would be scared of mucking up a story about someone I admired!

Judith: What do you think makes a good story?

Carol: The perfect hook. An opening sentence that causes me to stop, go back and read it again. A sense of place and a central character who immediately piques my interest. To use a cliché: somebody who makes me care about them. They can be unreliable so long as they are largely sympathetic. And language – I am quickly put off by lazy language, which isn’t the same thing as bad editing. A good storyteller with a grasp of her craft will still shine through a tardy edit.  

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

Carol: The only ones I’m prepared to own are the three I’ve seen published plus the one in transit. There are the cobwebbed stories of course, in the back of metaphorical drawers. And the one I seem to have been writing forever, whose destiny is to be discarded each time a new, more exciting idea crops up. (My mentor calls it ‘the one my other books bounce off’ and a writer friend described it as being like ‘an old lover you parted with on good terms – between great passions, this lover is comfortable. . ’  (Like old lovers, some stories are best left to fade?)
   Not sure I have a favourite but okay – for the sake of a good yarn, I’ll have a go. Ghostbird because it was my first published book and Cadi, the central character, retains a special place in my heart. She presented herself, fully formed from a dream and I knew everything about her. She made writing what was a vague outline a possibility. Snow Sisters because it validated me as more than a one-trick pony and I love the relationship between the sisters, Verity and Meredith. My heart still aches for Allegra – a narcissist yes, but made that way by circumstances and upbringing. Wild Spinning Girls, my most recent book is my favourite because I can see my process as a writer; the improvements that come with practice I guess. And it has the best ghost! If I ever come back, as a ghost, I want to be Olwen!

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Judith: Have you considered writing in another genre?

Carol: Good question, Judith. When I began writing Ghostbird, I thought, naïvely and a little smugly, that I was writing literary fiction. I had nothing else to call it to be honest. I knew nothing about how genre works in publishing – in book shops – and in any case, I disliked the idea of being pigeonholed. Time has taught me that the Lit Fic label is as meaningless as the Women’s Fiction one.
   (My favourite quote about genre comes from Matt Haig who said: “
There is only one genre in fiction. The genre is called book.”)

   Once I realised Ghostbird was a ghost story my first thought was, ‘Who knew?’ My second was that it suited me. There was a palpable shift in my thinking and my next two books were specifically planned as ghost stories – with hints of Welsh Gothic – and with an emphasis on family dynamics.  
   Having found my “niche” so to speak, I see no reason to deviate.

 Judith: Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book? And why it’s a must read?

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Carol: Wild Spinning Girls came out just before the first lockdown and unlike so many of my writer friends I was able to have a physical launch. I remain hugely appreciative of this.
   The book is, like my previous ones, a ghost story. It concerns Ida Llewellyn, a young woman who loses her job and her beloved parents in the space of a few weeks. Her life thrown off course she sets out for Wales and the remote house her father has left her. When Heather, the daughter of the last tenant turns up, Ida is confronted by a series of terrifying events, not least the ghost Heather claims is her dead mother. The two young women embark on a battle of wills and in the process uncover a dark secret that has lain hidden in the house for twenty years.
   Anyone who likes a ghost story rather than a horror one; family intrigue and mother daughter relationships will, I think, like Wild Spinning Girls. There is a ballet theme too and allusions to the fairy tale, The Red Shoes. It has been described as ‘stunning and utterly unforgettable’ and ‘a timeless tale alive with a wild, old magic.’

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

Carol: Reins!? I was about to say, ‘I wish’ but as I mentioned previously, what I particularly love about the writing process are the tangents. Yes, I am a serious plotter – other than scribbled outline notes I’m reluctant to type Chapter One until I have a pretty good idea what the story is about, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Equally, I’m open to suggestions!
   Like real people, fictional characters evolve. And often indulge in spontaneous hijacking. It can be startling, but it really is part of the process. When characters behave in ways that differ from my original concept, it makes them more real to me. I can only hope it does the same for my reade
r.  


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

Carol: What a brilliant question! It would have to be Olwen. I adore her as a ghost and love her as a living woman. Her story is a thread though, with only hints about her life before she died. I’d like to go for a long walk with her, take a picnic and sit “out on the wild moor near the stone where the black birds watch” where she grew up; ask her to tell me about her life, the one I have half imagined for her and only vaguely outlined.   

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

Carol: I wrote my first story when I was about ten or eleven. It was called The Veiled Lady and although I hadn’t written the end, I read it to my younger sister. I told her she would have to wait until the next day for the dénouement. The next day came but because she did something to annoy me, I refused to finish the story. We are both in our 70s now and she still hasn’t forgiven me.


Judith: Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

Carol: I used to be a ballet dancer and drew on that dormant past when I wrote Wild Spinning Girls.

 Judith: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Carol: I have a pair of writing earrings. They’re odd – their partners lost. Because they were so pretty, I paired them up and wear them when I’m working.  

Judith: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Carol: In the middle of what Marion Keyes calls, The Pandemonium? Think about not being in it? *Wry grin* Covid restrictions on meeting family and friends and attending book events apart, my life is pretty much as it was. I walk (I’ve always walked alone), read a good deal the way most writers do. In the morning I practice Qigong and have recently taken up yoga.
   I like to knit, watch long series on telly and tend to my house plants. Currently, I’m obsessed with growing avocado trees from the stones. It’s fascinating, watching the tap root emerge in water, the stone splitting and a tiny green shoot pushing its way up. Potted on these shoots soon begin turning into tiny trees and over weeks and months they can become really tall.     

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

Carol:Does tripping over outside the chip shop and landing on my face count? Or on my knee, running (why would I even do that) to open the door to answer the postman? Or breaking my leg tripping over an inch of iffy pavement in the dark? Three times in two years and I’m not even kidding. I’m an accident waiting to happen, Judith, but you have to see the funny side. And small things amuse me every day. I am drawn to the absurd and see it everywhere. It’s what keeps me cheerful I think.      


Judith: Give us a random fact about yourself.

Carol: I’m continually and endlessly home-schooled. Seriously – I left school with two O-levels and once I caught up with myself and refused my father’s “education is wasted on girls” doctrine, I began educating myself. I’ve been doing it ever since.


All my books are available from my publisher, Honno: www.honno.co.uk

LINKS:
Website: carollovekinauthor.com
Twitter: twitter.com/carollovekin
Instagram: www.instagram.com/carollovekin
Honno: www.honno.co.uk/authors/l/carol-lovekin

Thank you for being with us today, Carol. And for giving us a glimpse unto your writing world.

I loved being here, Judith. Thank you

Judith Barrow Author MA BA (Hons) Dip Dramahttps://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

The Heart Stone Kindle Edition
The Memory Kindle Edition

Crazy Chloe by Alex Askaroff #Humour #ShortStory

I’ve already introduced Alex Askaroff. But here’s a reminder. When I was researching for the background of The Heart Stone https://bit.ly/3kOpZYO, and needed to know the technical details for the manufacturing of sewing machines, I knew there was only one person to contact. The man who knows all is Alex. As the emails flew back and forth ( and I wondered how long it would be before he became fed up with my constant and often boring – I’m sure – questions), I realised that there seemed to be nothing he didn’t know. But I also knew he is a story teller – a multi genre writer: https://amzn.to/3pM7vLX . So I asked him to tell a story about one of his days…

Over to you, Alex…

After a lifetime in the sewing trade you would think that I had seen it all. No. Today, Crazy Chloe was going to show me how to abuse a sewing machine in a completely new way.

In the October sunshine I rolled down the hill from Friston Forest. The sun hung low in the bright sky as sheep enjoyed nibbling on the last lush grass that had sprung up in the dewy autumn fields. I was on my way to Honeycrag Close in Polegate and my second customer of the morning. I was a bit wary because I knew Crazy Chloe all too well. She had a reputation in Polegate that actually scared the villagers. She once screamed and threw a bag of dog poo at a dog walker when she saw them leave it hanging on a tree branch. She chased the manager of Barclays Bank up the High Street, shouting about her overdraft. Boy, that woman was tough and knew the value of a penny!

I pulled up outside her pretty bungalow. Her garden was plastered with tiny garden ornaments from her local discount store and looked great. I took a deep breath, no turning back now! Shortly after I rang the doorbell I could see her tiny frame and massive wild curly hair moving towards the door. Last chance to run I thought. “Chloe, how lovely to see you. How are you?”

“Oh, don’t ask. I’m only alive because I can’t afford the coffin! Come in darlin’, I’ve got work for you. Don’t mind the mess. The cleaner broke last year and he doesn’t get out of bed till lunchtime now!”

Chloe showed me into her messy life. We made our way around countless obstacles to a table piled high with junk mail. It was post that she could not bear to throw away. Chloe shoveled a hole with her hands, creating a space on the table. I heaved up her old New Home into the space. “Seized solid!” Chloe announced. “Bloody thing, it’s ‘ardly been a year since the last time I paid you.” I quickly interrupted her with a little correction. “Actually it was three years ago Chloe, and last time you paid me it was with half a pot of honey and two marrows. Not exactly a king’s ransom.”

“Ah, but there were lovely marrows weren’t they? Not that I grew them mind,” she threw in with a wicked smile. “Now down to business. My baby has seized up solid. Won’t make a bloomin’ stitch. She was running slow, so I oiled her like you told me to, but then it got even worse, then stopped altogether!” 

Sewing machine seizures fall into several categories: lack of oil, thread jamming, bearings tightening, gears stuck, shafts out of line and so on. The worst, so I thought until today, is a main top bearing seizure. The top bearings are the largest on a sewing machine and when they go it can be hard work. I could try for a month and they would still never run properly. “Any chance of a nice cuppa, Chloe?

“Only if you have one sugar! Last time you caused a sugar shortage in Polegate! I’m surprised you’re not type four diabetic!

“I don’t think there’s no such thing,” I laughed back.

“Well there should be!” She added, muttering something else under her breath as she went. I sat in front of the old machine and tried to turn it. It was locked. I mean LOCKED. There was no movement at all, not even the slightest wiggle. I let out a deep sigh and surveyed my cluttered prison. I knew Chloe would not let me out of the house until her machine was purring like a pedigree kitten. As I looked across the table I saw a half empty bottle of fabric glue. A sudden feeling of dread came over me. I called Chloe.

“Um, Chloe, what oil did you use on your sewing machine?”

“It’s right there on the table you pillock. Lost your eyes hav’ ya’!”

“Chloe. That’s glue!”

“Don’t be such an idiot,” she said grabbing the bottle. She held it up at an angle to the light and tried to read the label. Then she toddled off to find her glasses. I could hear her swearing like a drunk sailor in the other room. She sheepishly returned. “Do you think that is the problem?”

I’m pretty sure it is, Chloe. The reason it slowed in the first place is that you had the motor switched to half speed. I suspect you then glued the moving parts together to make sure it never works again!”

“NOOOOOOO.” She howled. “NOT MY BAAABY. You have to save her,” she wailed in desperation. “Look I’ll give you two sugars, no, three. I’ll give you the whole bag. I’ve got loads!”

“Let me see what I can do Chloe. Now if you can get me four sheets of kitchen roll. Not one piece cut into four like last time, I’ll get to work.” I had seen she had not managed to get the top and bottom off so she could only have ‘glued’ the side needlebar assembly. Chloe shuffled off as quickly as a witch on bonfire night and I got down to work.

An hour later the New Home was stitching like new. I had taken the needlebar out and scraped every last bit of glue away. Then I had carefully reset the whole machine, including the half speed setting. I left with a large muddy pumpkin, a jar of blackberry jam, half a pot of oil, sorry, fabric glue, and yes, you guessed it, some sugar poured into a plastic Chinese take-away container (I knew I’d never get a whole bag). No mention of money was made or forthcoming. I did not have the guts to ask for any. Visions of the Polegate bank manager running for his life always stopped me from trying.

Chloe waved me away with the words. “I ‘ope I don’t see ya’ again luv’. Enjoy the pumpkin. I nicked it from the allotments the other night! Same as your marrows last time.” She howled with laughter and slammed the door.

I put my stolen goods on the passenger seat and pulled out of Honeycrag Close. Sweet Lord I love this job. No money, countless crazy customers, and the most life affirming, soul fulfilling way to grow old. I knew that as sure as the sun rises it would not be long before Crazy Chloe did something else stupid to her baby and I would be back!

Links to Alex Askaroff:

Website: https://sewalot.com/

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3pM7vLX

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3pQkInk

Thank you, Alex. A lovely story that made me chuckle. I‘m sure the readers will have laughed as well at Chloe’s antics.

Judith Barrow Author MA BA (Hons) Dip Dramahttps://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

My Review of Advent by Jane Fraser #TuesdayBookBub #NetGalley

Book Description:

Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father. 

On her return, she finds the family in disarray.  Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen’s younger twin brothers face difficult choices.

Ellen, tasked with putting her family’s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another.  Resourceful, passionate, and forthright, can she remain in Gower, where being female still brings with it so many limitations?  Can she endure being so close to her lost love?  Will she choose home and duty, or excitement and opportunity across the Atlantic?

My Review:

I loved this book for so many reasons. Jane Fraser’s writing style is superb; the story is a good one, the characters well rounded, the dialogue immediately summons up each of them, the descriptions evoke instant images.There is not one word wasted.

The protagonist, Ellen, is multi layered, the reader becomes aware of her fragility, both emotionally and physically as the story progresses. She has striven to distance herself from her family’s needs, from a lost love, by going to America – yet still,on her return to the farm, she is drawn in by those needs, by that love.

To paraphrase a sentence in the book, “long days, short time.’ – the story only covers a brief six months, but each day is long, each day needs to be endured, dealt with by Ellen. New decisions have to be made. And all the while we are listening to her internal dialogue: learning her history, of her relationship with those in her life, getting to know them through her eyes; discovering how each fits into the society and era of Wales in the early twentieth century, what is expected of them. How, in the past, through no fault of her own, she didn’t fit in, and now refuses to succumb to others’ expectations.

What I most admire about this author’s writing is the brevity of words in bringing the background, the setting, the weather, to life on the page. A sentence, here and there of poetic prose immediately evokes a sense of place. Wonderful.

Whilst I realise that, for some readers, there may be not enough background fleshed out – and it’s difficult for me not to give spoilers here( i.e. Ellen’s life before America and her life there) – I felt the subtlety of the writing that covers both of these events was enough for me and the absence of that backdrop doesn’t take anything away from the story.

Advent is a book that will stay with me for a long time. I have no hesitation in recommending it to any reader who loves a well written historical family story.

Links to buy:

Honno: http://bit.ly/3nUfXYa

Amzon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2WNt8yn

To read more about Jane, please visit the interview she gave previously on my blog: http://bit.ly/3fxNPX4

From my Archives: The Inspiration Behind Pattern of Shadows. Ah, the Memories! #Bookbub

I’m thrilled that Pattern of Shadows is on BookBub this month and grateful to my publishers, Honno, for the support and belief in my writing. When I discovered the first of the trilogy was going to be promoted, I remembered the research that set off the idea for the book, and thethoughts it brought back.So this is a return to memory lane…

Glen Mill was the inspiration for the first of my trilogy: Pattern of Shadows. Glen Mill was one of the first two POW camps to be opened in Britain. A disused cotton mill built in 1903 it ceased production in 1938. At a time when all-purpose built camps were being used by the armed forces and there was no money available for POW build, Glen Mill was chosen for various reasons: it wasn’t near any military installations or seaports and it was far from the south and east of Britain, it was large and it was enclosed by a road and two mill reservoirs and, soon after it opened, by a railway line.

The earliest occupants were German merchant seamen caught in Allied ports at the outbreak of war and brought from the Interrogation centre of London. Within months Russian volunteers who had been captured fighting for the Germans in France were brought there as well. According to records they were badly behaved, ill-disciplined and hated the Germans more than they did the British. So there were lots of fights. But, when German paratroopers (a branch of the Luftwaffe) arrived, they imposed a Nazi-type regime within the camp and controlled the Russians.

Later in the war the prisoners elected a Lagerführer; a camp leader. This hierarchy ruled the inner workings of the camp and the camp commanders had to deal with them.

Image courtesy of Lancashire At War.co.uk
Image courtesy of Lancashire At War.co.uk

The more I read about Glen Mill the more I thought about the total bleakness of it and the lives of the men there.  And I knew I wanted to write about that. But I also wanted there to be hope somewhere. I wanted to imagine that something good could have come out of the situation the men were in.

And that’s where Pattern of Shadows came in. Pattern of Shadows was published  by Honno in 2010.

Reading about the history of Glen Mill as a German POW camp in Oldham brought back a personal memory of my childhood.

In the nineteen fifties and sixties my parents worked in the local cotton mill.

My mother was a winder (working on a machine that transferred the cotton off large cones onto small reels – bobbins – in order for the weavers to use to make the cloth). Well before the days of Health and Safety I would often go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school I. I remember the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into a great wooden door. I remember the rumble of the wheels as I watched men pushing great skips filled with cones alongside the winding frames, or manoeuvring trolleys carrying rolls of material. I remember the women singing and shouting above the noise, whistling for more bobbins: the colours of the cotton and cloth – so bright and intricate. But above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease – and in the storage area – the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales and the feel of the cloth against my legs when I sat on them in the warehouse, reading until the siren hooted, announcing the end of the shift.

1950s Lancashire Cotton Mill
Image courtesy of Lancashire Life
Image courtesy of Lancashire At War.co.uk

When I was reading about Glen Mill I wondered what kind of signal would have been used to separate parts of the day for all those men imprisoned there. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill. 

Pattern of Shadows was published by Honno in 2010, followed by Changing Patterns and then, the last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows. When all three books were published the parents of the protagonist, Mary Haworth, clamoured for their story to be told. I actually think they thought they’d been unfairly represented in the trilogy. In the end I gave in, and wrote A Hundred Tiny Threads as the prequel.

Links

Website: https://judithbarrowblog.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3

https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

Pals Regiments – An Experiment Never Repeated #WW1

 As members of the human race we feel safest with those we know and trust. And we choose who to trust; friends and those members of our families with whom we can empathise. Those who think like us, who, on the whole, believe in the things we believe in, who share group values.

Even if those ideals are instigated by someone else, we can sometimes be persuaded to take them onboard. To consider them as our own core principles. And, as such we cooperate; we work together towards a shared goal.

It was this theory; that man has evolved to cooperate within a trusted group and so is able to achieve more than any one person could ever accomplish alone, that in nineteen fourteen led to the formation of the Pals Battalions.

When the First World War broke out in the August, Britain was the only major power not to begin with a mass conscripted army. It quickly became clear that the small professional British Army was not large enough for such a comprehensive conflict. Despite the general belief that the war would be over by Christmas, the newly appointed Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, was unconvinced. He approached Asquith’s Government to allow conscription, but this was considered politically dangerous for the Liberals. However, Parliament did sanction strengthening the Army through volunteering.  And so, on the sixth of August, Kitchener set about recruiting.

General Henry Rawlinson, serving as Director of Recruiting at the War Office on the outbreak of war, believed that men would be more willing to join up if they could serve with men they already knew, they would enlist if they could serve alongside their friends, relatives and, local football teams, church members, workmates.

pals-batallion

Image courtesy of A Date with History

Building on General Rawlinson’s idea Lord Derby, Conservative member of the House of Lords, organised one of the most successful recruitment campaigns to Kitchener’s Army.

In  a speech to the men of Liverpool , he said: “This should be a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool.”

Pals battalions were formed on patriotic fervour and community spirit, spurred on by local magistrates and officials on behalf of Lord Kitchener. Thousands answered the call. Cities, driven by civic pride, competed to sign up new recruits until there were too many for the military to train. So they were drilled in their own towns by those same magistrates and officials, until the army could take over.

December 1915, London: A recruiting campaign attacts recruits to Southwark  Town Hall. Read more: http://www.mademan.com/ga… | World war one, World war  i, World war
Image courtesy of Pinterest

It was easier to sign on recruits from areas where mining or mass industry were the main employment. It appears that, to many men, the army gave them a great opportunity to escape dire poverty: to have regular pay, food, clothing, sometimes better living conditions in barracks compared with their homes. Most had never been abroad. The war offered the opportunity to go to France and Belgium with their friends and get paid for it.

Hull and the First World War | World war one, World war, War
Image courtesy of Pinterest
World War One: Manchester Pals battalion details to go online - Manchester  Evening News

Members of Manchester pals battalions – image courtesy of Manchester Evening news

Once they had been formed, most Pals Battalions spent 1914 and 1915 training in Britain. But plans were being made for a major offensive on the Somme that was intended to relieve the pressure on the French and break through German lines to force an early victory. It would be the first major battle for most volunteers.

For many it would also be their last. The first day of the Somme was disastrous. Most of these units sustained heavy casualties.

Certainly the Pals Battalions increased the number of volunteers. However, poor military tactics by the higher ranks meant that there was a heavy price to pay by the men in those battalions. Neighbourhoods and families were devastated.

 With the introduction of conscription in 1916, the close-knit nature of the Pals battalions was never to be replicated.

Quote from one Pal: ‘Two years in the making. Ten minutes in the destroying. That was our history.‘.

Image courtesy of The Manchester Evening News

 THE HEART STONE IS CURRENTLY ON NETGALLEY:

https://www.netgalley.co.uk/catalog/?text=the+heart+stone

The Heart Stone

Excerpt:

In The Heart Stone, Jessie’s young love, Arthur, joins the local Pals Brigade, even though, at sixteen, he is too young.

They held onto one another for a while.

‘I have to go, sweetheart.’ Arthur pulled away from her. ‘Best I go first, eh?’

Jessie nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She didn’t watch him walk away...

Chapter Eighteen September 20th 1914

She didn’t go to watch him leave the town with the other two hundred men and boys either. Through her opened bedroom window, she listened to the uneven thud of their undisciplined marching between the changing tunes of the brass band and the singing. How she resented the singing. And the cheering.

Sitting on her bed, her handkerchief sodden between her fingers, she tried to shut down the images she’d conjured up in her mind of what Arthur might face. She had no idea, but she’d read in the newspapers about the atrocities the Germans were committing in Belgium; killing randomly, deliberate cruelty. What kind of men were they?

Despite Amos Morgan’s constant calls to go down to serve in the shop, she ignored him. She wouldn’t face the excitement, the proud chatter of the customer. She didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t share it.

Eventually the crowds moved away from in front of the shop. She heard the noise from below quieten to a low murmur and thought bitterly that Amos Morgan would be worried about making less money now so many men had gone. Gone to a foreign land to be killed in a war that her own country shouldn’t have become involved in. It didn’t make sense to her.

Links:

https://judithbarrowblog.com/

https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3

https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

The Inspiration for A Time For Silence

Thorne Moore

When I first started writing, it was fantasy that inspired me, but somewhere along the way, I realised that fantasy works best when it best reflects real life, and that real life can be fantastical enough for me.

I moved to my present home, deep in the wooded countryside of north Pembrokeshire, and during one of my tramps among the surrounding fields, I came upon a cottage, lost in a deep dell, completely engulfed in trees. It was small, dark, derelict and it must have been abandoned at least fifty years before, but the ghost of occupation was still there, fossilised in stone. The upper floor had collapsed, but under the beams and rotting boards, I could just glimpse flagstones, a broken chair leg, the rusting grill of a hearth from which a family had once been fed.

This is what truly fascinates me: the hand of the past on…

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Looking Back… and Looking Forward #ThrowbackThursday #Review #Excerpt

Every now and again one my books receive a review that takes my breath away – that makes my day/week/month… even makes me think that, if I never write another word, this is what I’ll treasure. Something that says I succeeded in writing something I can be proud of.

This review from author Barb Taub covered not only one of my books, but the whole of the Haworth trilogy and the prequel. So chuffed was I that I copied, pasted and printed it off to pin on my notice board to remind me that I can write – even on the days when I am banging my head on the keyboard and writing xmjhnsdjhsdjhfjhf

This is Barb’s review:

We’ve all read epic family sagas—sweeping multi-generational tales like The Thorn Birds, The Godfather, Roots, the Star Wars franchise, and anything remotely connected to the British Monarchy. So as I read Judith Barrow’s Howarth Family trilogy, I kept trying to slot them into those multigenerational tropes:

*First generation, we were supposed to see the young protagonist starting a new life with a clean slate, perhaps in a new country.
*The next generation(s) are all about owning their position, fully assimilated and at home in their world.
*And the last generation is both rebel and synthesis, with more similarities to the first generation made possible by the confidence of belonging from the second one.

But the complex, three-dimensional miniatures I met in the first three books of the trilogy stubbornly refused to align with those tropes. First of all, there’s Mary Howarth—the child of parents born while Queen Victoria was still on the throne—who is poised between her parents’ Victorian constraints, adjustment to a world fighting a war, and their own human failures including abuse, alcoholism, and ignorance.When Pattern of Shadows begins in 1944, war-fueled anti-German sentiment is so strong, even the King has changed the British monarchy’s last name from Germanic Saxe-Coburg to Windsor. Mary’s beloved brother Tom is imprisoned because of his conscientious objector status, leaving their father to express his humiliation in physical and emotional abuse of his wife and daughters. Her brother Patrick rages at being forced to work in the mines instead of joining the army, while Mary herself works as a nurse treating German prisoners of war in an old mill now converted to a military prison hospital.

Mary’s family and friends are all struggling to survive the bombs, the deaths, the earthshaking changes to virtually every aspect of their world. We’ve all seen the stories about the war—plucky British going about their lives in cheerful defiance of the bombs, going to theaters, sipping tea perched on the wreckage, chins up and upper lips stiff in what Churchill called “their finest hour”. That wasn’t Mary’s war.

Her war is not a crucible but a magnifying glass, both enlarging and even inflaming each character’s flaws. Before the war, the Shuttleworth brothers might have smirked and swaggered, but they probably wouldn’t have considered assaulting, shooting, raping, or murdering their neighbors. Mary and her sister Ellen would have married local men and never had American or German lovers. Tom would have stayed in the closet, Mary’s father and his generation would have continued abusing their women behind their closed doors. And Mary wouldn’t have risked everything for the doomed love of Peter Schormann, an enemy doctor.

I was stunned by the level of historical research that went into every detail of these books. Windows aren’t just blacked out during the Blitz, for example. Instead, they are “criss crossed with sticky tape, giving the terraced houses a wounded appearance.” We’re given a detailed picture of a vanished world, where toilets are outside, houses are tiny, and privacy is a luxury.

The Granville Mill becomes a symbol of these dark changes. Once a cotton mill providing jobs and products, it’s now a prison camp that takes on a menacing identity of its own. Over the next two volumes of Howarth family’s story, it’s the mill that continues to represent the threats, hatred, and violence the war left behind.

Unlike the joyful scenes we’re used to, marking the end of the war and everyone’s return to prosperity and happiness, the war described in these books has a devastatingly long tail. When Changing Patterns takes up the story in 1950, Mary and Peter have been reunited and are living in Wales, along with her brother Tom.

But real life doesn’t include very many happy-ever-afters, and the Howarths have to live with the aftermath of the secrets each of them has kept. The weight of those secrets is revealed in their effect on the next generation, the children of the Howarth siblings. The battle between those secrets and their family bonds is a desperate one, because the life of a child hangs in the balance.

Finally, the saga seems to slide into those generational tropes in Living in the Shadows, the final book of the Howarth trilogy. Interestingly enough, this new generation does represent a blend of their preceding generations’ faults and strengths, but with the conviction of their modern identities. Where their parents’ generation had to hide their secrets, this new generation confidently faces their world: as gay, as handicapped, as unwed parents, and—ultimately shrugging off their parents’ sins—as family.

But I didn’t really understand all of that until I considered the title of the prequel (released after the trilogy). 100 Tiny Threads tells the story of that first generation, their demons, their loves, their hopes, and their failures, and most importantly, their strength to forge a life despite those failures. That book, along with the novella-sized group of short stories in Secrets, gives the final clues to understanding the trilogy. As Simone Signoret said, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” And it’s both those secrets and those threads not only unite them into a family, but ultimately provide their strength.

This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that each of these wonderful books can be read alone. But no, don’t do that. In fact, if you haven’t read any of them, you’re luckier than I am, because you can start with the prequel and read in chronological order. I chose to review these books as a set, and I believe that’s how they should be read.

Every now and then, I come across books so beautifully written that their characters follow me around, demanding I understand their lives, their mistakes, their loves, and in this case, their families. Taken together, the Howarth Family stories are an achievement worth every one of the five stars I’d give them.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.png

An edited excerpt from the first of the trilogy, Pattern of Shadows. (Taken from the chapter where Mary Haworth, the protagonist – has just had her first date with Frank Shuttleworth.)

Frank stared into the flames for a couple of minutes and then said. ‘Tell me about your brother, Tom. Patrick told me he’s a Conscientious Objector. There doesn’t seem much love lost there.

 The anger flared immediately. ‘My younger brother has a big mouth. Tom’s a lovely bloke and entitled to his own beliefs.

Frank held his hands up. ‘Whoa, I was only saying.’

‘Yes, well,’ Mary said, ‘for some reason, Patrick’s been jealous of him for as long as I can remember. Her voice faltered. ‘Look, I know what people think about COs. I’m not expecting you to feel any different. Let’s leave it for tonight.’

‘No. I want to know.’ Frank was insistent. ‘Tell me.’

Mary felt the clench of her stomach muscles. ‘Tom was always the odd one out, the only one in the family who still went to church when the rest of us lapsed years ago.’ How many times had she tried to understand the depths of Tom’s unquestioning faith? ‘His beliefs rule his life. It would have been easier for him if they didn’t. After it all came out, we discovered he’d belonged to a group in Manchester for ages. You know, meetings, talks on pacifism, how he felt about violence, how he felt it wrong to get involved with the war. When he first refused to sign up, he was given exemption, provided he continued to work in local government; he was in the Stationery Department. But he turned that down; he said he wouldn’t work for a government of a country at war.’ Mary met Frank’s stare. ‘He was sent to London to Wormwood Scrubs and he’s been there on and off ever since. They keep trying to make him do fire watching and he won’t do that either. They’ve extended his sentence loads of times. Dad won’t have his name mentioned in the house … won’t let Mam visit him, wouldn’t let him come home the times he’s been released.’

A memory of the last grubby bed-sit Tom lived in flashed into her mind. It had been in a part of Bradlow she didn’t even know existed, a maze of narrow streets lined with shabby back- to back terraced houses and filled with gangs of dirty kids and barking dogs. She’d studied the bit of paper with the address written on it before pushing her way past the two women smoking on the bottom step of a flight of stairs. The door to Tom’s room was open and for a moment she’d watched him sitting on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands, his arms sticking out of the sleeves of a jacket too small for him, his back shuddering with sobs.

They keep saying he has to do work that involves the war and he refuses. I think they do it for spite.’ Sparks flew from the fire onto the hearthrug and Frank reached out with his foot and stamped down on them. She couldn’t tell from his expression what he was thinking. ‘I admire what he did. I think it took a lot of courage.’

Frank leant forward, his hands clasped in front of him. Then he pressed his thumb against the first knuckle of each finger until it cracked. The noise jarred in the silence between them…

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2klIJzN

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/3jqHYUy

Honno: http://bit.ly/2jXy28Z

About Barb Taub:

In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them consulting with her occasional co-author/daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

Links to Barb:

Amazon. co.uk: https://amzn.to/3lgiJq3

Website: https://barbtaub.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barbtaub

Twitter: https://twitter.com/barbtaub

There is Still Crime!The Covenant, by Thorne Moore #BookLaunch #Review #FridayReads


THE WELSH CRIME WRITING COLLECTIVE

Crime Cymru is a diverse collective of Welsh crime writers, spanning crime fiction and non-fiction.

Crime Cymru has three main aims.
– To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales
– To help in the development of new writing talent
– To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world
.

2020, a year that brought us Covid 19, months during which many brilliant books have been produced but have struggled to be found by readers. Here is the list of books by our authors that have arrived this year or are in the pipeline: https://bit.ly/2Q2rqpA. I have read quite a few of them but have been remiss in writing reviews, so have set myself the task of catching up over the next few weeks

I will start the series by my review of The Covenant, by Thorne Moore, a prequel to A Time For Silence, and published by Honno only yesterday, the 20th August 2020.

Book Description:

Leah is tied to home and hearth by debts of love and duty – duty to her father, turned religious zealot after the tragic death of his eldest son, Tom; love for her wastrel younger brother Frank’s two motherless children. One of them will escape, the other will be doomed to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps.
At the close of the 19th century, Cwmderwen’s twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches are hard won, and barely enough to keep body and soul together. But they are all the Owens have and their rent is always paid on time. With Tom’s death a crack is opened up and into this chink in the fabric of the family step Jacob John and his wayward son Eli, always on the lookout for an opportunity.
Saving her family, good and bad, saving Cwmderwen, will change Leah forever and steal her dreams, perhaps even her life

My Review:

The first thing I became aware of when reading The Covenant was of being drawn so quickly into the world of Cwmderwen. The immediacy of a sense of place is something I’ve been conscious of before in the work of this author. Thorne Moore has a talent for description: of the changes in nature throughout the seasons, the unpredictability of the weather and in her absolute ability to bring the countryside of Pembrokeshire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century alive, both in The Time for Silence (her first novel set around Cwmderwen), and in The Covenant.

Told in the first person point of view of the protagonist, Leah Owen, a woman driven by duty, loyalty and love for her family (who always expect too much of her), the story follows her life through the decades. And, though the core of this thoroughly rounded character remains the same, the outward changes in her, wrought by life’s disappointments and regrets are inevitable as the years’ progress. I found myself wanting her to rebel, to question the road she’s forced to follow, not only through the whims and vagaries of the farm’s land; “twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches” , but by the wishes of Thomas Owen, her father, Tadu, who rules the family through his inflexible translation of the Bible.

This is a man who is unbending: in his control over his wife ( a control that leads to disaster), in his dismissal of his two eldest daughters, in his view of Leah’s younger brother, Frank – the “prodigal” son; a son who goes his own way, despite his father’s violent punishments, and whose story inevitably shapes Leah’s life, In contrast Thomas is unchanging in his love for Leah – but there is a proviso; it is only on his terms. She will be the dutiful daughter, forced to follow his rules. This is a wonderfully portrayed character underlying the basis of the actions of the family. Though Leah is the protagonist and it is her story we follow, it is Tadu who is at the patriarchal hub of the wheel and, like spokes on that wheel, are spread a whole cast of supporting characters.

Even the cottage of Cwmderwen itself becomes a character with its “…solid stones and heavy timber (that) seem to sink themselves into the black earth…” yet there is that crack in the wall of the parlour, the “Death” room, that Leah’s demented sister traces with her finger, peers through – and Leah wonders if Mary can see “all those who have passed through, those Leah could not see…”. The crack used as a metaphor for the fundamental weaknesses of each character within the family and the flaws in the determination to hold on to the the “twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches” 

As I previously mentioned, the author has a talent for bringing a Welsh ambience of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century alive, both in The Time for Silence and in The Covenant. This is awareness is equally obvious in the dialogue, where the Welsh language intermingles with English. And there is never any doubt as to which character is speaking.

Subtly threaded throughout the story are themes of duty, love – familial and romantic, pride,despair, loneliness, death and guilt – what more can one ask of a story set around families

As a reader, my favourite style of story is character led rather than plot. In The Covenant, I found the best of both worlds; a gripping story line with really believable characters. I cannot recommend The Covenant highly enough.

Although The Covenant is the prequel of A Time For Silence, both books are also stand alone and can be read as completely separate novels.

About the author:

Thorne Moore grew up in Luton, where her father was a Labour councillor and her mother once got the sack for calling her boss a male chauvenist pig, so she developed strong views about the way the world works. Her headmaster advised her to study law, but that implied a career in law, and the only career she wanted was as a writer, so she studied history instead, at Aberystwyth, and nine years later, after a spell working in a library, she returned to Wales, to beautiful and inspiring Pembrokeshire, to run a restaurant with her sister, Liz.

She did finally get her law degree, through the Open University, but these days, she writes, as she had always intended, and when she’s not writing,she makes miniature furniture, through her craft business, Pear Tree Miniatures, and occasionally she teaches family history.

History, personal and social, rather than political treaties and battles, remain a major interest, spurred along by her present home, a Victorian farmhouse that stands on the site of a Mediaeval manor. When she write about crime, as a traumatic turn of events that shakes people’s lives, she is primarily concerned with its causes and far-reaching consequences of actions, even through generations, rather than the thrill of the actions themselves, or the intricacies of forensic detection.

Links:

Facebook: https://bit.ly/2Yivh6o

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThorneMoore

To buy:

Honno: https://bit.ly/2CHRyTo

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3aFHqXQ

Why Honno? Just Asking the Question. @Honno #authors

Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.

Why Honno was a question I wanted to ask each of the following Honno authors when I started the interviews with them over the last few months.

I mean, I knew why I liked being published by Honno:

Judith Barrow

Honno  is my kind of publisher; small, independent, and led by strong women who know what kind of  books they want to publish and don’t accept anything but the best that an author can produce. So the editing is hard, but fair, and leads to many discussions – and a few compromises on both sides.
Because it is known to be a Welsh press it is sometimes assumed that all its authors will be Welsh as well. So, often, when I’ve appeared at events, people are surprised to hear my broad Northern English accent. The supposition is false; Honno’s aim as an inspiring, feminist, Welsh press is to provide opportunities for women writers. The only proviso is that they are either Welsh, are living in Wales or have a connection to the country – which actually covers a great many writers. I love their strapline -. “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” So it always gives me a thrill when the manuscript I’ve been toiling over for months (or years!) is accepted by them.

I’ve had experience of having an agent, of being asked to conform to the commercial market; to fit in. And it wasn’t for me. As a creative writing tutor, I’ve spent the last couple of decades encouraging students to “write in their own voices”. So when the agent told me I needed to conform if I wanted to be published by one of the big publishing companies, I knew it wasn’t for me. This, after she’d placed me with a commercial editor who, not only wanted me to write in a different way, but also wanted me to write in a different genre.”The talent and skill as a writer is there but you need to be open to change.”, was the advice.

I took it; I changed from being a client with an agent ( who had, after all, accepted me on the strength of my first book) to seeking other outlets for my work.

I was lucky, I found Honno.

But, enough about me.

But, enough about me.

Honno’s mission is to publish Welsh women writers – for the purposes of submission to Honno this means that you must be a woman born in Wales or resident in Wales at the time of submission. Honno also publishes titles of exceptional interest to women within Wales from writers who may not meet the first two criteria i.e. that they are female and that they are of Welsh birth or residence.

I started each of the interviews with the statement:”My greatest support has come from the group of authors published by Honno. We’ve met up in real life on many occasions…”

That being said, the question all the Honno authors were glad to answer was:What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses?”

To learn more about the authors and their books, please click on their names

In order of appearance their replies:

Thorne Moore:

It’s a small press, which means it’s personal. Maybe famous sportsmen or ex-cabinet ministers can be lauded (promoted) to the skies by big publishers, but most of their less famous authors tend to be lost in a very impersonal ocean, with very little one-to-one attention. They are names on a spreadsheet. With Honno, you know the team and they know you. You feel far more valued, even if the big bucks aren’t there.

And there’s the fact that Honno is a Women’s Press, run by women, publishing women (as well as being Welsh, of course). It’s not an anti-man thing, but I grew up in the era of the rising tide of women’s lib, when women didn’t just sit around arguing their case but took really positive actions to prove themselves, such as setting up publishing companies like Virago. Unlike others, Honno is still going strong and flying the flag.”.

Carol Lovekin

The intimacy. The sense of being part of a family. Honno’s reputation as an independent press publishing writing exclusively by women appealed to my feminist heart from the start. And it felt like the right fit for my debut, with its connection to The Mabinogion and the legend of Blodeuwedd.

A small press may not have the financial resources available to bigger, mainstream houses; they do tend to have a broad vision. They’re less bureaucratic, more collaborative and if they believe in a project enough, will invest time, expertise and energy in it. This has certainly proved to be the case for me with Honno.”

Alison Layland

It feels like being part of a close-knit family. The small but dedicated and talented Honno team are accessible and supportive at all stages of the process, and it’s been lovely to become friends with so many of the other Honno authors. We’re a wonderful community, and although we’re scattered all over Wales and beyond, it’s particularly lovely when we get to meet up in person.

Wendy White

When I was writing ‘Not Thomas’ I knew exactly where I wanted to send it when I’d finished, and that was to Honno. I’d long admired their work and I loved the fact that they’re a female-only press and have a committee of women who decide what to publish. Added to that was my huge respect for Caroline Oakley, a Honno editor who had worked closely in a previous role for a number of years with (the aforementioned) Ian Rankin. I was absolutely delighted when I heard from Caroline that Honno were going to publish ‘Not Thomas’ and my whole experience of being part of the Honno family has been fantastic. All the staff and other authors are extremely supportive and go out of their way to make everyone welcome. I’m constantly recommending Honno to my female friends who are writers. It may be a small indie press but it commands huge respect and publishes wonderful books.”

Jan Newton

“I love the team spirit which goes with being a Honno author. The other authors are so supportive of each other, and you really feel part of the gang. You get to know everyone who makes Honno work, and feel part of the enterprise, in a way which would surely be very difficult in a larger organisation. I was, and continue to be, overwhelmed at the generosity of everyone involved. It feels like a real joint-venture, which is a pleasure to be a part of.”

Jane Fraser

I think with Honno, my forthcoming novel has found the perfect home with the UK’s longest-standing independent press that champions Welsh women and Welsh writing. I am proud that I now find myself among a list of authors I so admire.

Alys Einion

First, the fact that I am published by a women’s press is a major achievement. I grew into my own identity reading books by Honno and other women’s presses, and I felt that there must be something really special about authors who are published by smaller presses who can’t afford to take a gamble in the way in a bigger publishing house could. I am in awe of my fellow Honno authors, and I really do feel honoured to be in their company. It is so great to have a good relationship with my editor, and the community of Honno authors is so supportive and helpful. It is a huge plus to not have to have an agent to get your work read. I could paper my wall with rejection slips and after a while it just wears you down. Then there’s that personal experience of being nurtured by an editor who really knows her stuff and is invested in making sure your work is the best it can be.  

I think with Honno, the authors are all excellent, and that kind of sets a standard. It makes me strive to be better, to be worthy of the association. And it’s a feminist press, so what’s not to like?

Juliet Greenwood

I’m eternally grateful that I had the experience of being published by Honno before finding an agent and having a two-book deal with Orion. Having been through the process in the slightly less pressurised atmosphere of Honno, and learning the different stages of the editing process, gave me the confidence to feel I knew what I was doing – and even more importantly know that I had done it three times before so could do it again! That experience has been utterly invaluable. Honno also gave me time to develop as a writer and become more certain of who I was as an author.”

Hilary Shepherd

Text Box:

The community of writers and the friendship that has come out of being published by Honno. Having the confidence that I’ll be taken seriously with the next book (though as with big publishing houses there’s no guarantee a book will be taken on). And going to the seaside whenever I go to talk to my editor.”

Jo Verity

The informality and camaraderie of an indie publisher suits me and my way of working. I’ve been a Honno author for fifteen years and everyone I’ve worked with there has been approachable, supportive, flexible and available. I’m extremely blessed to have Caroline Oakley as my editor. She ‘gets’ what I’m trying to achieve and nudges me, firmly but sympathetically, in the right direction. I couldn’t bear to hand ‘my babies’ over to people whom I didn’t know, trust and consider to be friends.”

Jacqueline Jacques

My association with Honno began with their anthology, Luminous and Forlorn, which included my short story, Lovey Dovey Cats Eyes. I like that they are real people, who treat their authors as real people, rather than as a means to an end. They respect your wishes, offer sound advice and editing and pull out all the stops to provide a really good quality product you can be proud of.

Stevie Davies

“Being published by Honno is like going home. The first publisher of my fiction was The Women’s Press, where writers experienced warm support and a shared outlook on the politics of gender. At Honno there is a sense of solidarity such as one rarely finds in larger and more impersonal firms. Caroline’s editing skills are second to none and I have been grateful for her experience and insight.

Submitting your work

Honno is always interested in receiving unsolicited manuscripts  but currently does not intend to publish  poetry, works for children, novellas or short story collections by a single author. Honno does publish full length works of fiction and non-fiction for adults (manuscripts of between 60,000 and 120,000 words).

Honno is open to all genres of fiction and is particularly interested in increasing the number of literary fiction, crime/thriller, commercial women’s fiction, science fiction and fantasy titles it publishes. Honno is also building a list of non-fiction works to include biography (untold tales of remarkable Welsh women, places and industries), memoir, nature and travel writing. For a good idea of the types of work Honno is interested in study the Books pages on this site and the Editor’s blog posts.

However, whatever kind of work you are submitting, please ensure that you meet Honno’s criteria (see ‘Submission guidelines’ below) BEFORE doing so.

Honno is keen to publish work that shows all sides of life in Wales, but will consider stories not set within Wales. Honno is a feminist publisher and that influences the kinds of work selected for publication.

During the Coronavirus crisis we are happy to take submissions by email. Please attach your covering letter and submission and email it to post@honno.co.uk with ‘submission – your name ‘ as the subject line

https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/

Honno: “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” Today with Stevie Davies #Honno

My greatest support has come from the group of authors published by Honno. We have a Facebook group where we can chat and ask for help, information and generally boost moral when it’s needed. And we’ve met up in real life on many occasions. About three years ago I shared interviews with some of them. Since then there have been other women writers who have become Honno authors. So this is the new set of interviews and today I am with Stevie Davies. Although new to Honno with this genre, Stevie is a prolific writer of many genres, on many platforms, as you will see when you check out her website

Welcome, Stevie, please tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Mumbles, Swansea, 10 doors down from where my parents once lived. I am a feminist, cyclist, sea-swimmer, music-lover, mother of 3 and grandmother of 4. I’m a long-time member of CND. I stood for Cheadle Council in the 1990s as a Green Party candidate. I didn’t win.

I taught English Literature at Manchester University, leaving to concentrate on writing fiction, before coming home to Swansea University in 2001 as Royal Literary Fund Fellow and then Professor of Creative Writing. I’m a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Welsh Academy. The Party Wall will be my fifteenth work of fiction. I’ve published 14 books of non-fiction. Euan Thorneycroft of A.M. Heath is my agent.

When did you start writing?

I started writing stories at the age of 5 or 6, which was more or less the age when my feminism kicked in: I saw the way the world was organised along gender lines and felt compelled to argue with it. My Morriston-born father was an Air Force sergeant so we were constantly on the move. My home from home was always the public lending library, from Oystermouth to Cornwall; from Kinloss to Hildesheim in Germany. My earliest works included an illustrated tale set in the Second World War, in which a group of Nazis gunned down everyone in sight, including one another – at which point the story found its natural terminus.

What genre do you write in and why?

I like to experiment. Writing is a process of exploration and discovery: it’s boring to repeat yourself. In non-fiction, I’ve written biography (Emily Brontë, Henry Vaughan), literary criticism (Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Virginia Woolf), popular history (17th century).  In fiction: historical fiction, novella, short story. In The Party Wall, I’ve tried a slow-burning psychological thriller, domestic noir. For me the most powerful form of realism is tragicomedy because it represents a spectrum of experience and response.

How important is location in your novels?

Super-important, and especially location set in a historical period – from 20th century Yorkshire (Four Dreamers and Emily), Shrewsbury (The Web of Belonging), 17th century Cheshire and Wales (Impassioned Clay), Northern Germany pre- and postwar (The Element of Water), South Wales (Kith & Kin, The Eyrie, The Party Wall), 1940s Egypt (Into Suez), 19th century Gloucestershire (Awakening), Manchester (Equivocator).

When I came to write novels, I found that the varied landscapes of my childhood had given me different settings, enabling me to ponder history in a very personal way. From my early childhood in Egypt came Into Suez; from the lakeside Forces boarding school in Northern Germany, where I had been profoundly homesick, came The Element of Water, when I discovered that in 1945 High Admiral Doenitz had been named as Hitler’s successor, in those same buildings. Such coincidences enable us to focus the great wheel of history from the small arc of an individual’s destiny.

In The Party Wall, interior space is the central motif and the way people’s lives connect and are separated by the walls of home. I’ve lived all my life alongside party walls – overhearing the coming and going of neighbours, snatches of chat, arguments, muffled laughter. If you stop to think about it, how strange it is that we live our lives side by side, a few metres apart, hidden but throwing out unconscious clues. How little we know one another’s inmost hearts. I’ve sometimes imagined all the walls of a terrace turning to glass – we’d all be revealed in our most private (and embarrassing) postures and activities. Perhaps a novel functions like those glass partitions, revealing what is intimately concealed. In its double narration, oscillating between male and female narrators in adjoining terraced houses, The Party Wall tracks the convergence of a traumatised outsider and a free but broken spirit.

Who is your favourite (non Honno) author?  

I read voraciously and my tastes are catholic – forever changing and broadening, often according to the joyous principle of serendipity,  so I can’t give you a favourite. Since 1981, I’ve kept a Commonplace Book as people used to do in the past, noting the title of every book I read, with comments and quotations. Here are the openings of the first notebook and of the current one.

Where do you write?

At the dining room table and at a desk in the loft. With coffee. Up to and including the writing of The Eyrie, the first draft of every novel was handwritten. I redraft drastically many times and find it just as fascinating to revise as to create an original draft. You learn so much from your mistakes – and I think I have been a decent teacher of writing precisely because I have, over the years, committed every technical mistake in the book. You can’t beat a life rich in examined mistakes.

Who is your favourite character in your books?

It’s a mistake to keep looking back and ogling one’s earlier works. Probably the historical radical women I studied for Unbridled Spirits: Women of the English Revolution, 1642-1660 (Elizabeth Lilburne, Katherine Chidley, Anna Trapnel, Margaret Fell , Mary Fisher etc), have been the greatest inspiration. The characters of radical Quakers Hannah and Isabel in my novel, Impassioned Clay, are based on this research. Then come the complex, never-say-die rebels of my later novels: ‘Red Dora’, veteran of the Spanish Civil War, in The Eyrie; Ailsa Roberts, the adventurous spirit in Into Suez; Hannah Pentecost in Awakening; Quinta and Tertia in the Roman Britain of the title story of Arrest Me, For I Have Run Away.

What was your favourite bit of research?

Research might involve travel, a reading odyssey, and/or the learning or relearning of a language: for The Element of Water I read widely in German history, relearned German at the Goethe Institut and travelled to Lűbeck in Schleswig-Holstein. To research Into Suez, I made two unforgettable trips along the Suez Canal with my daughter Grace and corresponded with veterans of the Suez War.

What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses.

Being published by Honno is like going home. The first publisher of my fiction was The Women’s Press, where writers experienced warm support and a shared outlook on the politics of gender. At Honno (as also in other Welsh presses like Parthian, who have been wonderful supporters of my work) there is a sense of solidarity such as one rarely finds in larger and more impersonal firms. Caroline’s editing skills are second to none and I have been grateful for her experience and insight.

Find Stevie at her website: http://www.steviedavies.com/

Honno: “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” Today with Jacqueline Jacques #FridayReads #Honno

Welcome, Jackie, please tell us a little about yourself

Raised in smoky, post-war Walthamstow, mostly in brick terraces, prefabs and flats, I have always loved escaping to fresh air and trees and, as soon as I could, moved to Essex. Now, in retirement, my husband, Peter, and I can watch ducklings and moorhens on Buckhurst Hill’s village pond, from our front windows, I couldn’t be happier. To cap it all we have the freedom of Epping Forest just a few hundred yards down the road. Perfect.
In spring and summer I spend half my time working an allotment with a friend; in autumn and winter and on rainy days, I cosy up indoors to do my writing. In between times, I paint, I run a Creative Writing group and Bookclub for the local U3A, and attend other art-based groups, a Scrabble Group and indulge in hilarious Parlour games with my friends. Before lockdown, I helped out at a Memory Cafe for people with Dementia. I consider myself blessed in my son and daughter, my daughter-in-law and in my four grandchildren who spice up our lives and keep us on our toes.


When did you start writing?

I have always loved make-believe. As a child I spent too much time daydreaming or immersed in a book for my own good, or so they told me. I loved play-acting, adored cinema and theatre and knew I would write stories eventually. But teaching put paid to that idea. It was only when I could see an end in sight, in the early 1990s, that I actually swapped my pottery kiln for a word processor and began writing short stories. Honno took one for an anthology they were compiling, and the rest – you’ve guessed it – is history.


What genre do you write in and why?
I’d written five novels before I decided, as an experiment, to have a go at crime, mainly because I thought I would reach a wider audience. I didn’t read crime myself, only seen police procedurals on TV which I found ‘samey’ and, for the most part, predictable. What did attract me, though, was historical research: the Victorian era and early policing. How did they solve crimes before fingerprinting and DNA? If I could combine all that with art, I’d be happy. So I invented a police artist named Archie Price, born in Wales but painting and working in Walthamstow, a town I know very well.

How important is location in your novels?

I have set many of my books in old Walthamstow, as I grew up there. I knew my way around the streets, the market, the shops, schools,the park, the railway station. I knew the Palace theatre watched pantomime and music hall there. I even danced the Highland Fling on its stage when our ballet class put on a show. I knew the journey to and from London, by train and bus, and all the stops along the way. I knew the walk down to the river, the marshes, the pubs and bridges. Loving a place, it’s easy to set a story there, imagine your protagonists walking around, inhabiting the place, having adventures.The place, and the time, of course, have such an influence on who they are and the way they think, react.

 Jackie’s painting of the Buckhurst Hill village pond outside her front window.

In all my books I need to have been to the places I write about, so that I can look around, recognise, touch, taste the air, get the atmosphere, put myself there and, through me, my characters.


Who is your favourite (non Honno) author?
Before she wrote Handmaid’s Tale I would have said Margaret Atwood. Now, I have to return to my first love, Thomas Hardy. My daughter is named Tamsin after his heroine in Return of the Native. My favourite live author Is Maggie Farrell. No one can break your heart as she can

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Where do you write?
Anywhere in the house where I can find a quiet spot. Now that I have discovered I can write in Word on my iPad in bed and have it appear on my laptop downstairs, the world is my oyster.


Who is your favourite character in your books?

Archie Price – my ideal man – flawed but well meaning and kind.  Julia Margaret Cameron made a photograph of an enigmatic and mysterious man she called Iago. Those are his looks. He is not Shakespeare’s Iago, however. He does not have a disloyal bone in his body. He is rather like my husband, in fact
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The Illusion of Innocence (Archie Price Mystery) by [Jacqueline Jacques]

The Illusion of Innocence (Archie Price Mystery): https://amzn.to/2B606Co

What was your favourite bit of research?
Any forensic Art – how an artist can build up the likeness of a villain from a witness’s description. How a face can be made for a skull, as in pmy latest novel Shades of Deception.But I also love researching the suffragettes for my current work in progress.


What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses?

My association with Honno began with their anthology, Luminous and Forlorn, which included my short story, Lovey Dovey Cats Eyes. I like that they are real people, who treat their authors as real people, rather than as a means to an end. They respect your wishes, offer sound advice and editing and pull out all the stops to provide a really good quality product you can be proud of.

Links to Jackie:

Honno: https://bit.ly/2ysM2C9

Amazon.co.uk:https://amzn.to/2Twe2Mz

Honno: “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” Today with JO VERITY #TuesdayBookBlog #Honno

My greatest support has come from the group of authors published by Honno. We have a Facebook group where we can chat and ask for help, information and generally boost moral when it’s needed. And we’ve met up in real life on many occasions. About three years ago I shared interviews with some of them. Since then there have been other women writers who have become Honno authors. So this is the new set of interviews and today I am with Jo Verity.

Welcome,. Jo. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I live in North Cardiff with my husband of 53 years. We have two daughters – one lives in Bristol, one lives in London – and four grandchildren. Before retirement I worked as a medical graphic artist at the Dental Hospital in Cardiff. (I drew teeth!)

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To date, I have had six novels published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press – the first in 2005, the most recent in 2018. I also write short stories, many of which have been published or broadcast.

When did you start writing?

I began writing in 1999. I was scheduled to spend a week in Budapest with an American friend but at the last minute Ruth pulled out. I was furious with her for letting me down. An avid reader all my life, I’d never written anything before but, for some reason, I decided to get it off my chest by writing a short story about an egocentric American sculptress who got her comeuppance. Within days I was hooked. Obsessed in fact. After about six months of short story writing, I began working on a novel – naively assuming that this was the natural progression. (I’ve since discovered they are very different animals.)  

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What genre do you write in and why?

Those first short stories were about ordinary people, everyday life and set firmly in the ‘now’. When I decided to have a stab at a novel, I stuck with that. I’ve always been drawn to ‘quiet’ novels in which characters face the same dilemmas most of us do. They give us a chance to rehearse how we might react were we in the same position. To examine our own attitudes, prejudices and weakness.    

Genre? Amazon classifies my books as ‘contemporary urban fiction’ or ‘contemporary family fiction’. I’m not sure whether that’s a genre or simply what’s left after you eliminate crime, fantasy, sci-fi, historical etc.

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Who is your favourite (non Honno) author?

Anne Tyler. She has the knack of making the ordinary seem extraordinary. Her characters, flawed and unsure of themselves, linger around long after you’ve put the book down. I’ve just finished her latest novel (number 23!) – ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road’. Once again, in her quiet, ruthless way, she hits every nail squarely on the head.

May I cheat and choose another? Elizabeth Strout. Strout covers the same territory but is perhaps a little tougher on her characters. If you haven’t read her, I suggest you start with ‘Olive Kitteridge’.

 Where do you write?

I’ve concocted a writing cave at one end of the spare bedroom where I sit surrounded by writing paraphernalia – printer, scrap paper, pens, pin up board, etc. I work on a PC with a large screen. I find laptops uncomfortable to use – not good for posture or eyesight. When I’m away from my desk, I write by hand in a notebook. (It has to be a Pukka Pad and a black PaperMate Flexigrip. It is a well-known fact that all writers are stationery geeks.) I transfer what I’ve written to my machine as soon as I can, using this as an editing opportunity. And I’m rigorous about backing up my work.

Who is your favourite character in your books?

Mmm. That’s like asking a mother which child she most loves. I couldn’t possibly choose between my various protagonists.  

Secondary characters can be more broad-brush and quirkier than those taking centre stage although they mustn’t be ‘cartoonish’. I have a soft spot for the eccentric old codgers Mrs Channing and Mr Zeal who appeared briefly, yet to great effect, in ‘Sweets from Morocco’. Children and teenagers are delightful to ‘work with’. They ask awkward questions, stir things up and make a nuisance of themselves. They are fun to write about and a useful way of eliciting information and forcing grownups to address tricky issues.

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What was your favourite bit of research?

My stories are set in the ‘now’. I make them up as I go along. Consequently any research I do is on a ‘need to know’ basis. A character might recall what was in the charts when their first child was born or what the weather was like one particular Christmas. Small details evoke memories in the reader and make a fictitious character ‘real’.  A quick Google and I have the song title or weather report. (Get it wrong, and a helpful reader will soon let me know!)

Having said that, I did send Gil Thomas (from ‘Left and Leaving’) back to his home in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. Thanks to Google Maps, I could ‘virtually’ wander around the town and surrounding area which gave me confidence to describe it. https://www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au gave me the local lowdown – right down to shops, café’s, train and bus services. Several globe-trotting acquaintances remarked that they didn’t know I’d been to Australia – so I think I got away with it.

What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses?

The informality and camaraderie of an indie publisher suits me and my way of working. I’ve been a Honno author for fifteen years and everyone I’ve worked with there has been approachable, supportive, flexible and available. I’m extremely blessed to have Caroline Oakley as my editor. She ‘gets’ what I’m trying to achieve and nudges me, firmly but sympathetically, in the right direction. I couldn’t bear to hand ‘my babies’ over to people whom I didn’t know, trust and consider to be friends.


Links to Jo:
Honno:https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/v/jo-verity/
Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2XiFmPm

Honno: “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” Today Thorne Moore interviews me: https://bit.ly/2WWQ1jW #weekendReads #Honno

Thorny matters

Thorne turns the tables on me today!

Fellow Honno author Judith Barrow has been running interviews on her blog (https://judithbarrowblog.com/) with other authors published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press. (Read her interview with me)  I thought it was about time that the table was turned on her, so here is my interview in similar vein, with Judith Barrow.

Judith Barrow

So, Judith, you are the tireless champion of other authors. Let’s hear about you, for a change.
How did Yorkshire lass come to be a Pembrokeshire author?

We found Pembrokeshire by accident. After we were married, and before children, we always holidayed for a week in July in Cornwall. But after seven years of marriage and with three children under three and our only mode of transport being an ancient van, we decided it was too far with a young family. So we thought we would go to Wales; not too difficult a journey from Yorkshire, we believed.
I borrowed books on Wales from the library and, balancing our 8-month-old twins, one on each knee, I read as much as I could about the county of Pembrokeshire. With wonderful beaches it sounded just the place to take children for a holiday
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We booked a caravan and, when the big day came, packed the van to the hilt with everything the children would need, remembering only at the last minute, to throw a few clothes in for ourselves.

It took us ten hours. In 1978 there was no easy route from the North of England to West Wales. We meandered through small lanes, stopping for emergencies like much needed drinks, picnics and lavatory stops. The closer we were to our destination the slower we went; in the heat of the day the engine in our old van struggled; we needed to top up the radiator every hour or so. For the last fifty miles we became stuck in traffic jams. We got lost numerous times.

All this and three ever-increasingly fractious children.

We arrived at the caravan site in the middle of the night so were relieved to find the key in the door. The owner, a farmer, had given up and gone home.

The following morning I woke early. Leaving David in charge of our exhausted and still sleeping family, I crept out. The air was warm; a breeze barely moved the leaves on the trees around the field. Although the caravan was one of four in the farmer’s field, we were the only people there.

I walked along a small path. Within minutes I was facing the sea, glittering in the sun; dark rocks jutted out of the water surrounded by foaming waves. The horizon was a silvery line far in the distance. Faint voices from two small fishing boats carried on the air. The cliffs curved round in a natural cove. It was so quiet, so peaceful.

I fell in love with Pembrokeshire.

Within months we’d thrown caution, and our past lives, to the wind and moved into a half-built house in what was a field. It took us years to finish it but it’s been a labour of love.

How could anyone not fall in love with Pembrokeshire? But your books are mostly set up north. How important is location in your books?

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For me it’s vitally important, because it sets the scene for where my characters live. |And I try to portray the locations as they would exist in a certain era. It takes a lot of research to make sure the details of both the place and the time are correct. Luckily I enjoy researching.

I always draw a map of the town or village so I can see the characters moving around, see what they see; experience what they experience. It’s the only way I can picture it.

Location was especially important for the trilogy. The first book, Pattern of Shadows, was inspired by my research into a disused cotton mill in Oldham, Lancashire and its history of being the first German POW camp in the country. Rather than the noise of the machinery, the  colours of the cotton and cloth, the smell of oil, grease and the new material, I envisaged only vehicles coming and going, the sounds would be of men with a different language and dialect, no riot of colour, no tang of oil, grease, cotton fibres; just the reek of ‘living’ smells.

And the camp retains its importance throughout the trilogy after the war and into the sixties. It falls into ruin at the same time as the cotton industry is declining and the mill town where it is situated also deteriorates.

But, in the sequel, Changing Patterns and the last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows, the characters are also in a small Welsh village; a complete contrast to the industrial town. And this disparity between the two locations is where the many layers of the human condition can be explored in order for me to create rounded characters that, hopefully, come to life on the page.

I hope that makes sense?

Perfect sense. Your first books, the Howarth stories, are a family saga. What appeals to you about that genre?

I love writing about the intricacies of relationships within families; it fascinate me. We live in such diverse situations and, a lot of the time; tend to take it all for granted. Being a family member, with the casual acceptance of one another that the circumstance brings, can bring the best and the worst out in all of us. So there is a wealth of human emotions to work with. It’s fascinating to write about that potential.  And, of course, behind closed doors, anything can happen. So the family saga is a genre that can cross over into historical fiction and the crime, mystery and romantic genres.

Your latest, The Memory, is still family-based but quite different. What made you shift direction for that one? What inspired it?

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It is new territory for me but the book is still set around a family unit so, from that point of view, I don’t think I strayed too far with The Memory. In the Haworth trilogy and the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, (set against the background of the first World War, the Suffragettes and the Irish War of Independence),  there is still an underlying theme of reactions to a situation. But the difference between those books and this one is that those characters, as well as reacting in a domestic setting, respond to a wider situation; their lives are affected by what is happening in the outside world.  In The Memory it is only Irene Hargreaves, the protagonist that the reader learns about; mainly from the claustrophobic atmosphere she is living in presently, but also through her memories.

It’s a more contemporary book than the others and also it’s written in a different style. The book runs on two timelines: Irene’s life from the age of eight, after her sister is born and her grandmother comes to live with the family because her mother refuses to accept her second daughter, Rose, a Downs Syndrome child. That’s written in past tense. The second timeline, over the last twenty-four hours is written in the present tense and shows Irene’s life as the carer of her mother, who has dementia.

I don’t know that it was inspired by any one thing. The Memory actually began as a short story I wrote a long time ago, which just grew and, which, in turn, started from a journal that I’d kept from when I was carer for one of my relatives who had dementia. I read many articles on coping with the disease at the time, but writing how I felt then helped tremendously. Writing like that always has; it’s something I did through many years from being a child.

Another memory was of was a childhood friend of mine; a Down’s syndrome child, though I didn’t realise then. We would sit on the front doorstep of their house and I would read or chat; well, I would talk and he would smile and laugh. I didn’t think that it was odd that he never spoke. Thinking about it, I never even wondered why he wasn’t in school either. Anyway, one Monday after school, I went along the lane to their house and the front door was closed. I didn’t understand; one day he was there and the next gone. No one explained that he’d died. I‘m not sure I even understood what that meant anyway. So, I did what I usually did; I wrote about it; how I felt losing a friend. So, from finding the short story in a drawer I was clearing out, my memories, and remembering the journals, came The Memory.

What matters to you, apart from your writing? 

Family and friends. At least the small family that David and I created. I suppose that sounds odd; perhaps even a little selfish to exclude any extended members of our families. But I’m being honest here. I wasn’t close to my parents for various reasons; reasons that partly underlined the decision to move so far away from Yorkshire. They weren’t bothered about their siblings, who we rarely saw, so I never really got to know any of them.  Don’t misunderstand me; when any of them needed us we willingly did what we could. But moving away from where most of them live meant we were unable to rely on instant support; there was no childminding, no unexpected welcome visits. It made us more self-sufficient. So by family I do mean David and the children. And their children; our grandchildren. Whatever happens; however much changes, whatever life chucks at us, they will always matter to me.

 And friends? Well, at my age (and I think this happens to most people as they get older), friends are fewer and become more important. And, at this stage, true friends tend to know you inside out; all the good bits and the not so good bits. And they still like you. I think that’s wonderful. And it works both ways!

How did you come to be a Honno author?

For many years, whilst writing books that stacked up in drawers, never to appear again, I was writing poetry, plays and short stories and entering creative writing competitions. I also used to look for notifications for submissions to anthologies. A friend told me about a call that had come from Honno. The remit was to write a story around the subjects of gardens and life. The title of the anthology, published in 2008, is Coming up Roses. My story is called Whose House is This? (I wrote a post about it here).

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Shortly after the anthology was published I attended a workshop run by Honno and, in conversation with the editor, Caroline Oakley, I said that I had recently completed a manuscript. I think I should mention here that this book was the first I’d ever been truly excited about; even reluctant to consign it to the drawer with the others. Caroline told me to send it to her, which I did.

But, previously I’d sent the book to an agent.  And this is where it all gets a bit messy, drawn out  and tedious; so all I will say is that the agent wanted me to work with a commercial editor to change the genre from family saga to chick lit ( not that there is anything wrong with chick lit, it’s just not what I write.) So, after much discussion, the agent and I parted company and it was a great relief when the book was accepted by Honno as a family saga. That book became the first of the Haworth trilogy, Pattern of Shadows.
The rest, as is often quoted, is history. I’ve been with Honno for over twelve years now and had five books published with them and another, The Heart Stone, to be released in 2021
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What do you value most about Honno?

Honno  is my kind of publisher; small, independent, and led by strong women who know what kind of  books they want to publish and don’t accept anything but the best that an author can produce. So the editing is hard, but fair, and leads to many discussions – and a few compromises on both sides.
Because it is known to be a Welsh press it is sometimes assumed that all its authors will be Welsh as well. So, often, when I’ve appeared at events, people are surprised to hear my broad Northern English accent. The supposition is false; Honno’s aim as an inspiring, feminist, Welsh press is to provide opportunities for women writers. The only proviso is that they are either Welsh, are living in Wales or have a connection to the country – which actually covers a great many writers. I love their strapline -. “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” So it always gives me a thrill when the manuscript I’ve been toiling over for months (or years!) is accepted by them.

Judith’s website

Judith at Honno

Judith on Twitter

Judith on Facebook

Judith on Pinterest

Judith on Amazon

Honno: “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” Today with Hilary Shepherd #WeekendReads #Honno

Text Box:

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I live in the middle of Wales in a house that was derelict when we bought it 10 years ago. I’ve spent my life farming and then building – the last 20 years making oak windows and stairs and things.

When did you start writing?

When I was still farming and the children were half grown up, my husband was away working in India for a month and it was the busiest time of the farming year, pre-lambing. I was very run down and developed a boil on my leg which made tractor driving (and everything else) excruciating. Writing was what I started doing to take my mind off the pain and after years of hating whatever I wrote it suddenly started working for me. I’ve been spending far too much time on it ever since.

What genre do you write in and why?

I never know what to think about genre, especially as applied to my own work, but my most recent book, ‘Albi’, happened to be a historical novel. Mostly I write contemporary fiction about ordinary people leading quiet lives, wherever that may be and whatever genre that is.

How important is location in your novels?

Very. Having lived in the Sudan and in Ghana and spent several months in India –  and now owning a house in Spain – I’ve had a lot of pleasure writing about other places. When the protagonist is an outsider, as Anne is in ‘In A Foreign Country’, that was fairly straightforward because I could show Ghana through her eyes. With ‘Albi’ it was much more challenging: the main character has lived all his short life in a Spanish village and sees the landscape differently as a result.

Who is your favourite (non Honno) author?

Has to be George Eliot, and the ending of ‘Middlemarch’ about the world going not so ill for you or I because of those ordinary people lying in their forgotten tombs…

Where do you write?

At my cramped desk in the study I share with my husband Nick. I get the window to the front with the pied flycatchers in the ash tree, he gets the window to the back and the green woodpeckers on the grassy bank. Mostly we don’t annoy one another too much.

Who is your favourite character in your books?

Albi. He’s so real to me that when I’m in our village in Spain I can feel him everywhere. That’s been an unexpected delight and I hope he’s still there when we at last get back after covid.

 

What was your favourite bit of research?

The hours I’ve spent in our Spanish house, which is full of the implements and utensils they were using 80 years ago (we possess three wooden ploughs), and listening and feeling for all those things that would have been the same in the 1930s. It’s a world that has changed a lot in the 20 years we’ve known the village, as the older generation quietly fades away, but the sheep bells still sound all round the village and the shepherds can still be heard calling them the same as they always did.

What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses.

The community of writers and the friendship that has come out of being published by Honno. Having the confidence that I’ll be taken seriously with the next book (though as with big publishing houses there’s no guarantee a book will be taken on). And going to the seaside whenever I go to talk to my editor.

And thank you Judith, fellow author, for all the support!

Hilary’s links:

https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/s/hilary-shepherd/

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2Xm3ccX ( Albi)

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3gdM5CY (In a Foreign Country )

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/hilary.shepherd.77