My Series of Author and Poet Interviews Narberth Book Fair with Rebecca Bryn,

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting interviews with the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

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

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.

And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition: Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –

Books and Reading.

Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

I’ll be chatting with one ot two of them each week. Today it’s the turn of  the author, Rebecca Bryn, to chat to us.

Rebecca Bryn

Please tell us, Rebecca, what do you love most about the writing process?

Creating an alternative, believable reality and populating it with the people I could never hope, and sometimes never want, to be.

What is the ultimate goal you hope to achieve with your writing?

Imparting some small piece of knowledge, self-awareness, or understanding, and challenging my readers’ preconceptions, as my tales have challenged mine and informed me of who I am.

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

A bit of both. Walt in Touching the Wire, though a fictitious character, was based on my maternal grandfather because I needed a person I loved deeply in order to be able to contemplate writing such a harrowing story. Jem in For Their Country’s Good was a real person; he was my great-great-great uncle and there is a lot of fact in that story. Most of my other characters are out of my own damaged and devious psyche…

What do you think makes a good story?

Characters that live, flawed and imperfect, who make wrong choices and drive the story in unexpected directions. A believable plot. Settings in which you can immerse yourself and forget reality for a while.

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

Product Details

Product DetailsProduct Details

 

Six. I love them all, but then I’m biased; I fall in love with the characters. I think I’m most proud of For Their Country’s Good. I wrote it for my family: it’s part of their history too.

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

Loosely thrillers. I’ve written contemporary, historical and dystopian, all with a romantic thread, but I like to think they’re thrillers with a twist.

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

My latest is On Common Ground, Book Three of For Their Country’s Good, so, really, to get the full impact you need to read Books One and Two first. The story takes us back to Victorian England and immerses us in the poverty and inequalities of that time. The lack of rights for women, even over their own bodies – rape in marriage was legal until relatively recently – the brutality of the transportation system where young men and women were transported, with little hope of ever earning the fare to return home, for crimes such as ‘stealing two lengths of ribbon’ or ‘being fraudulently in possession of a shovel’ (Yes these are real crimes) in order to build an empire in Australia on convict labour: the strength of love to withstand everything life throws at it. Love, social inequality, and injustice are subjects dear to my heart. You have to read this series!

Does your book have a lesson? Moral?

Never give up?

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

Do they ever! Reins? What are they? I have a beginning point and an idea of how and where the story will end. Between the first page and the last looms this chasm of blank white paper. I put my trust in my characters and follow where they lead. They land themselves in some awful situations and expect me to write them out of them.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I have had some hundred or more fabulous reviews, and one or two not so fabulous ones. A letter I received from an elderly Hungarian lady, whose parents died in the Holocaust, made my entire writing career worthwhile. She thanked me for writing Touching the Wire, saying that after seventy years she could finally contemplate the process of forgiveness. I wept when I read her letter, as I wept when I wrote the novel. I’m filling up just thinking about her.

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

I am a woman of hidden talents, most of them well-hidden, but I can turn my hand to most things. I paint in watercolours, mainly seascapes. I’ve tiled floors, mixed concrete, and dug ponds, and the same rough hands have embroidered pictures and made intricate patchworks. I just love to create.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have a habit of constructing sentences backwards. And I have dyslexic fingers when typing. I have learnt not to call my characters Hnery or Hnerietta, for example.

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

Painting, walking, reading, gardening – anything except housework.

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

Should I admit to this? I was once rather non-PC with a black gentleman who came to carry out an inspection when I ran a village Post Office. Post Office inspectors are like policeman: not known for their chattiness or sense of humour. I’d tried to be friendly, but he was having none of it and even refused my coffee. While he was pouring through my books with an eagle and disapproving eye, I had a phone call from my future husband whose dog was due to whelp. She was a black Labrador, and the father of the pups was a tortoiseshell Collie, so we were hoping for pretty puppies. The news was that Katie had begun giving birth and was still in labour. The part of the phone call the inspector heard went as follows.

Me ‘Oh, good, I’m a granny.’

The inspector broke a frugal congratulatory smile.

Me ‘How many has she had?’

He rose one eyebrow a quarter of an inch at this.

Me ‘What colour are they?’

The expression on his face was absolutely priceless.

Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself…

 Another incident that was embarrassing at the time but funny in retrospect is retold in ‘Ooh Air Margrit’ Download it free at http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/rebecca-bryn.html Find the link immediately beneath my author biography.

Give us a random fact about yourself.

I love Marmite.

Links to Rebecca:

 

 

My Series of Author & Poet Interviews at the Narberth Book Fair

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting interviews with the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

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

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.

And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition: Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –

BOOKS AND READING.

Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

Today I’m really pleased to be chatting with  Graham Watkins.

grahm watkins

 

Welcome, Graham, please start by telling us what  you love most about the writing process?

One of the things about writing I particularly enjoy is doing the research. It’s an excuse to have some fun. For example, before writing my historical novel A White Man’s War, which is about the siege of Mafeking during the Boer War, I took my wife and myself off to South Africa. My wife and I negotiated a deal. She agreed to accompany me exploring the battlefields of the Zulu and Boer Wars in return for a visit to Kruger Game Reserve to see the big five, a tasting tour of the Southern Cape vineyards, a trip up Table Mountain, Oh! and a day shopping in Cape Town. It was a good arrangement. I got plenty of material for the book and we both had a great time.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

That’s a difficult question. It’s tempting to answer Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ I first read his book when I began my business career in the 1970s and it helped me a lot. More recently I discovered two books by David Howarth ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Trafalgar.’ Howarth is a superb writer and a great narrator.

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

The Iron Masters Vol. 3 Press Gangs, Pistols and Poison: An Historical Novel of the 18th Century

Creating key characters is one of the first thing I do when planning a book. I write out a profile. Name, age, sex, physical appearance, mannerisms, hates and passions and so on. Some, like Nye Vaughn in The Iron Masters, are a composite of different real historical people, others pure invention. Writing historical fiction also enables me to include real people. Again, in The Iron Masters there are cameo appearances by Admiral Lord Nelson, Thomas Telford and others.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Exit Strategy: A practical guide to selling your business - How to sell a company for the best price and ride into the sunset

I came to writing late in life, when I retired in 2003. My first book Exit Strategy was a business self help tome written to explain how to sell a company; an experience I had just gone through. These days I write mainly for my own enjoyment rather than the money and I still regard myself as a journeyman, an apprentice wordsmith, learning the craft. I don’t think we ever stop learning.

What do you think makes a good story?

What makes a good story? A strong beginning, characters that readers can believe in, a problem and a solution reached after overcoming a series of obstacles. I detest ending where everything is left in the air and the reader abandoned like a ghost ship swinging on its moorings.

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

The Sicilian Defence

Yes I have. I write in a variety of genres including historical fiction, nonfiction and short stories. More recently I’ve started writing thrillers. My first attempt was The Sicilian Defence a novel about a young American heiress lured to Sicily to be defrauded. Right now, I’m working on a novel with the working title Protocol 5 set in Britain involving murder, adoption, terrorism and corrupt politicians.

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

An impoverished Italian Count, an American beauty, mafia money lenders, treachery and Sicilian guile all are in The Sicilian Defence; a story of good intentions and evil plans where the past and the present collide.

What was the inspiration behind The Sicilian Defence?

A White Man's War: An Historical Novel of the Boer War and Mafeking

In the same way that a trip to South Africa inspired A White Man’s War, it was a holiday in Sicily which gave me the idea of The Sicilian Defence. The title of the book is a chess strategy but the idea for the plot came from reading about a real American woman lured to Italy and swindled out of her fortune by a fake count. Touring the island; seeing the squalid slums of Palermo, the breathtaking beauty of Mount Etna, the sad mass of African refugees at Catania and the romance of Taormina was a story in itself. The rest, as they say, is history.

How long did it take you to write The Iron Masters?

My historical novel The Iron Masters is the biggest project I’ve undertaken so far. It’s a fifty year family saga set in the cannon foundries of the South Wales during the Napoleonic Wars. Researching the history, crafting the plot, writing and editing took two years.

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

That’s a good question and the answer is yes. While reading a draft of The Iron Masters to my wife she observed that villain’s wife was a bit dull. As a result I did some rewriting and the character, Delyth was her name, sprang to life. Murder, adultery and much more. She was great fun and totally unexpected. In fact I had trouble keeping up with her antics.

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

It certainly would not be Delyth. She’s the sort of woman who entrances, seduces, uses and devours. I think I would spend time with Themba Jabulani from A White Man’s War. He’s a Baralong warrior at Mafeking, armed by Baden Powell – that name might ring a bell. Themba’s back story about what really happened during those 217 days when the town was besieged would be fascinating. Themba is, of course, my creation but to meet and talk with a man like him from that time would great.

 Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

I’m told I like the sound of my own voice which must be true because I’m sometimes invited to give talks to different audiences. How good I am is debatable and I confess I once put a listener to sleep at a black tie Rotary event where I was the after dinner speaker. The poor chap almost fell off his chair. It might have been what I was saying but I suspect his wine consumption was the real culprit.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I’m a butterfly and flit from one idea to another. It’s a bad habit and I have to concentrate so I don’t lose track of what I’m writing.

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

We have an old farmhouse high in the Brecon Beacons with six acres which I call as our green gymnasium. There is always something that needs doing. Aside from looking after the house and garden, I like walking and have a wood turning lathe in the barn.

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

Newly married, my wife and I went camping to Coniston. We pitched our tent in a nice grassy spot beside a pretty little stream and walked into the village for a couple of drinks.  It was late when we came back to the campsite and had started to rain. The rain got heavier; stair rods would be a good description. We woke in the early hours in total darkness and soaking wet. The stream had burst its banks and overflowed. Our airbed had submerged under six inches of water and the tent had collapsed around us. Everything – shoes, clothes, torch was underwater. We spent the rest of the night shivering in the car. It didn’t seem funny at the time.

Give us a random fact about yourself.

After leaving school I trained to be a marine engineer.

Links to Graham:

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My Series of Author & Poet Interviews at the Narberth Book Fair

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting interviews with the authors who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

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

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.

And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition: Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –

Books and Reading.

Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

 So, all the formalities now set out, I’ll be chatting with everyone week by week.  Our next author is Juliet Greenwood.  Juliet’s is  rather a longer post than the others as I’ve also incorporated her #familysaga interview afterwards. Both  fascinating so I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.

Juliet From Trisha Small

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

My most memorable pilgrimage was going to Howarth to the Bronte Museum. I went first as a teenager, when I’d first discovered ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’. It was fascinating to see where the sisters lived and worked, and I was amazed at the smallness of their dresses. The things I loved best were the tiny little books they’d written as children. I was creating books myself at the time, not nearly as tiny, and it was great to see that that was how my idols had begun their literary career!

The thing I remember most, though, is the graveyard, and the sounds and the atmosphere. When I was older, I walked the Pennine Way with friends. We reached Top Withens in the morning, swathed in mist, and sat and had breakfast in the ruins. That was definitely one of the most atmospheric mornings I’ve ever experienced.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Writing is the best buzz ever – but also the most exhausting. I find it’s always hard to get into, the temptation to go into the garden instead (or even clean the house) is overwhelming. But once I get into the story, my mind begins to fizz. Ideas come from all over the place and I can hardly keep up with writing them down. I hate stopping. I find the mind keeps on going, racing away, working at knots in the plot, so I’m always grabbing a pen in the middle of cooking, or meeting friends, or even emerging from the shower, to write things down before I forget. Then, just as suddenly, I crash. If I’ve managed to have several hours at the book, the brain goes to mush, just about up to Masterchef (seriously surreal for a life-long vegetarian), but very little else. But I find flickers of ideas are usually still working in the background, as knots in the plot can miraculously be resolved (usually in the middle of the night – I have notebooks all over the place).

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

I think the most common trap is thinking the book is finished. When I started, I realised the story had to go through several drafts, but it wasn’t until I first worked with an editor that I realised this isn’t just tinkering, and you need to be prepared to throw anything and everything out if it isn’t working. It gets less drastic as you become more experienced, but all books are worked on again and again, and again and again – and then the real editing process begins. I love the editing process, it’s when the book really comes together, but I never would have believed it is such hard work, and that I would loath the sight of the book by the end, as well as loving it for being the best it could possibly be. Like all good things, the art of writing a book is mostly hidden. Finishing a novel is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

I think you need a big ego to give you faith that you can write a book and that someone else will want to read it, but also none at all in order to take criticism and, in the end, put your ego aside to work in the best interests of your novel. When it comes to publicity, you need to be generous and help others and not expect them to help you for nothing. There’s nothing worse than someone on Twitter shouting ‘buy my book!’ and nothing else. And even worse is the one who, the moment you follow them, direct messages you to demand you retweet their book, without so much as a hint they might return the favour. That kind of ego is its own worst enemy – especially as most writers are really supportive of each other and great at returning favours.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I do write under a pseudonym as well as under my own name. I really enjoy the freedom ‘Heather Pardoe’ gives me when I’m writing for magazines. She was how I was first published, so I’m very proud of her – even if she does tend to slope off to a beach in Barbados for long periods while Juliet Greenwood is stuck at home working her socks off!

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I try to write the kind of book I know readers love, but put my own slant on it. I write historical family sagas and timeshifts, usually focussed around a big old house and a family secret. I have a fascination with the lives of ordinary women in the past, who were often far more active and in control of their lives than history remembers them (if they are remembered at all). I tend to set an intensely personal story against a historical background. ‘We That are Left’ is set in WW1, but focuses on the experience of women working on the front line, as well as those keeping life going at home, and on the changes that made to their self-conception and expectations, as well as the tragedy of war. In ‘The White Camellia’, the story of one of the first women photojournalists is set against the long struggle of the suffrage movement, and the beginnings of the suffragettes, and the struggle for equal pay and the rights for women to have control over their lives and their money, as well as for the vote.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It made me approach the whole process with much more professionalism. It made me see that if I was going to be serious about this, I wasn’t just writing for myself, but to entertain and move readers. The first draft is always for myself – that’s okay, it’s a total mess and no one is going to read it. But from then on, I need to consider the needs of the reader, how they will see things, and what they need from a book, in order to make it at all publishable. That doesn’t mean compromising – it’s means more skill and more ingenuity, and being able to listen to others’ opinions – especially those with far more experience!

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Buying my original computer. A very long time ago. It was a really difficult decision as I didn’t have much money, and it took a month’s wages. You’d fall about laughing at it now, but it changed my writing life. The miracle of not having to use a typewriter! And there were rumours of this strange new thing called the Internet. Little did I know how much that would change my writing life too, as well as allowing me to work freelance to support my writing.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Loads! I read somewhere that an unpublished writer (and more than one ‘overnight success’) has about ten unpublished manuscripts lurking in a drawer. That’s about right for me. They aren’t all languishing. Some have become the basis of other books, and others the basis for serials I’ve written for magazines. Others are waiting for their time to come – while others (usually the early ones) will never, ever, see the light of day!

What does literary success look like to you?

Enchanting your readers, while writing what you love to write. And being able to earn enough money from your writing to live on, so you don’t have to try and squeeze writing and marketing in between the day job. Not zillions. Just enough to concentrate on the writing.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

The day job! Mind you, working as a freelance academic proofreader does help my language skills and makes me super critical of my own manuscripts. I enjoy it, especially seeing the world from the point of view of students as far afield as China and Saudi Arabia, but I’d love to have the time to concentrate on my own work. One day ….

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Approximately a year. I write the first draft in a mad rush, then, once I know my characters and the story, the real work begins. I’m usually thinking about the next one by the time I’m finishing the current one ready to go off to my editor. I spend a couple of weeks making the house look presentable again, then I’m off. It’s a never-ending process, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 Product Details

 

 The White Camellia

Cornwall 1909

Sybil has fought her way up from nothing to become a successful
businesswoman. It seems she has the world at her feet.

Then, against her better judgement, she buys faded Tressillion House
on the wild Cornish cliffs. A house with a tragic past of greed, folly
and revenge, linked to the goldmine in its grounds. Sybil cannot
forget that the Tressillion family once destroyed everything she held
dear, or the revenge that, in a moment of bitter fury, she took to pay
them back. Her actions have had consequences that have haunted her
ever since, and surround her with secrets that could destroy
everything she has fought so hard to become.

But help comes from the most unexpected places, from the very family
she has destroyed, setting Sybil off on the long, hard road towards
self-forgiveness.

A thrilling story of loss and redemption, of the power of friendship,
and the enduring power of true love.

And now for the Narberth Book Fair Author Questions:

http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/

Why do you write?

I write because I have to – I get itchy fingers and can’t settle unless I get my regular ‘fix’ of writing.

What do you love most about the writing process?

I love the transformation of the original idea into the final book, and the many stages it goes through to get there. As new characters arise as the story develops, the book so often goes in entirely unexpected directions, so it becomes a voyage of discovery.  I also love the final editing, when it all finally comes together – even though by that time I’m usually sick of the book, and have to fall in love with it all over again when I see it in print!

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

I always think my characters come purely from my imagination, but I think they really tend to come from an amalgamation of many people I have known, which then create a unique individual.

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

It would be Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the suffrage movement in the UK. Although she is being honoured as the first woman to have a statue in Parliament Square, she has been overshadowed by the Pankhursts and the suffragettes. She was an amazing woman, who, despite having no legal existence, successfully out-witted the male politicians. She won many rights we take for granted today and began the fight for equal pay for equal work. We owe her a huge debt, not least for ensuring that the UK parliament voted twice for women to have the vote. It also explains the anger and the violence of the suffragettes, which was due to the democratic process being overturned.

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

I’ve written four books, three for Honno Press, and three magazine serials. My favourite book is always the one I’ve just finished, because with each one I grow as a writer. But I’ll always have a soft spot for my first book for Honno, ‘Eden’s Garden’, because that was where my real journey as a writer began.

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

I write historical fiction, set against the backdrop of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, usually involving a big old house, and family secrets, and women struggling to follow their own paths against the expectations of society. I’ve flirted with writing cosy crime, but I find I always come back to my own kind of book – although I’m always open to trying something new.

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

‘The White Camellia’ is about a fading mansion in Edwardian Cornwall, and two very different women, whose families have been in a conflict that has led to tragedy. Both Bea and Sybil are increasingly haunted by a danger from the past, and have to decide whether to continue the family feud, or join forces. It’s a complex and entwined story about two brave, independent women and the men they love. Although the men are there to support them, it is Bea and Sybil who have to make their own choices, and who finally do the rescuing, in a nail-biting climax, when unexpected truths are revealed.

Does your book have a lesson? Moral?

That revenge always has unexpected consequences, and self-forgiveness is the hardest lesson of all.

What is your favourite part of the book?

The very last scene, which brings the story together – so I can’t say why!

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

The characters always hijack the story. I’m in control for the first page of the first draft, but the moment the heroine requires a sister, friend, or even random passer-by, they’re off on their own path, and it’s anybody’s guess where we’ll end up. I just follow, bemused, feebly trying to keep them in order (unless they try to wander of into zombie territory, which my readers would not like at all, so then there’s trouble).

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

I can make a pretty mean hand puppet with nothing more than a few bits of cloth and plenty of sequins (I used to do puppet story-telling workshops with children).

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

A touch of dry humour in unexpected places. It happens in both books and serials. I can’t help myself.

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

I love gardening, and walking my dog in the Welsh hills where I can also indulge my passion for photography.

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

My day job is as an academic proofreader, mostly for students whose first language is not English. There are sometimes some very inappropriate expressions (usually down to the spellchecker) in the middle of a thesis. I’m afraid they are not repeatable, and the question is always whether to explain why you can’t say that sort of thing in polite society, or quietly brush it under the carpet…

Give us a random fact about yourself.

Before I had a dog, I rode a green lady’s bicycle, with three gears, all over Snowdonia. It didn’t half annoy the proper cyclists (especially as I unashamedly got off and walked at the slightest hill).

 Juliet Bio

Juliet Greenwood is published by Honno Press. Her books are set in Wales, London, and Cornwall in Victorian and Edwardian times, and follow the lives of strong, independently-minded women struggling to find freedom and self-fulfilment. Her novels have reached #4 and #5 in the UK Amazon Kindle store, while ‘Eden’s Garden’ was a finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’. ‘We That are Left’ was completed with a Literature Wales Writers’ Bursary. She also writes serials and stories for magazines as ‘Heather Pardoe’.

Juliet’s great grandmother worked as a nail maker in Lye Waste, near Birmingham in the Black Country, hammering nails while rocking the cradle with her foot. Juliet’s grandmother worked her way up to become a cook in a big country house. Their stories have left Juliet with a passion for history, and in particular for the experiences of women, so often overlooked or forgotten.

Juliet lives in a traditional cottage in Snowdonia, and loves gardening and walking. Despite being halfway up a Welsh mountain, she grows delicious black grapes from a cutting from the Hampton Court vine.

LINKS

The White Camellia’, Honno Press, 2016

myBook.to/TheWhiteCamellia

 The White Camellia visual small (1)

‘We That Are Left’, Honno Press, 2014

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we that are left

‘Eden’s Garden’, Honno Press, 2012

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 edens garden

Blog:                http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/

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

Titleband for Narberth Book Fair

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting interviews with the authors who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

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

All free!!

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

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

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

 

judith, showboat2

 

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

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

 Me: The ability to become lost in another world

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

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

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

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

Me: What do you think makes a good story?

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Yanks

Since Pattern of Shadows was published I’ve been back to my roots to an event called  YANKS ARE BACK IN SADDLEWORTH:    http://bit.ly/2sN1661. This film was made around the group of villages that are known as Saddleworth in 1979. Yanks Back in Saddleworth is great fun. Everyone dresses up in Forties clothes or various uniforms of the British, German, American services of that era and there are so many things going on over the weekend; A Vera Lynne singer, A Churchill lookalike, forties fashion stalls, military memorabilia stalls, a dance, a procession with all kinds of military vehicles, a fly-past of WW2 warplanes.

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

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

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

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

 Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

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

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

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

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

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

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

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

Give us a random fact about yourself.

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

 Well, that was fun… I think!

Book Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2klIJzN

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2s8hGiB

Honno: http://www.honno.co.uk/

 My links:

Website: https://judithbarrowblog.com/about-me/

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/barrow_judith

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/judith-anne-barrow-02812b11/

Pinterest: https://in.pinterest.com/judithbarrow/

 

 

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

 

Front of Secrets

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

 

 

 

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!#MondayBlogs

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Well, yes.looking back down the years and now we no longer let the holiday apartment attached to our house, I know it was worth it. We loved letting, despite the unexpected. It  brought us many friends; visitors who returned year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We loved seeing them again. And we were fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there were downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the Sports Fanatic.

Before I go any further I think I should mention that although we live along a quiet lane we are only a five minute walk to the village. In the centre is the local Co-op. The frontage is very old fashioned; it’s an old building. For years there’s has been talk of building a new store on the outskirts  (actually about five hundred metres behind the existing one, on the edge of common land) but nothing has come of it. In winter the place trundles sleepily along; goods not available because of snow somewhere up country.  the odd garbled message over the tannoy that everyone ignores, staff huddled in corners exchanging local gossip, wandering around, trying not to make eye contact in case you want to ask them something. It’s a place to meet up with local people who haven’t been visible all summer due to being too busy keeping holiday visitors entertained.

Which, as an aside, reminds me of a time I asked Husband to go and buy a red cabbage from the Co-op.

After half an hour he returns, empty handed and looking stunned.

No red cabbage?’ I enquire.

‘No, couldn’t find one. Asked an assistant. She said cabbages were on the veg stall and there  was red food colouring in the baking section.’ He shook his head. ‘You couldn’t make it up!’

In summer the place comes alive: more than one assistant on the tills, lots of bustle, filling up shelves,assistants eager to help. Lots of happy visitors always glad for a natter, which inevitable ends with the comment,”you are so lucky to live here.’

I don’t argue… we are.

The visitors! (Should add here there is a sign asking customers not to shop in their nightwear) Apparently beach wear is acceptable. Nowhere else have I seen people shop half undressed: men in shorts (even Speedos … don’t think too long on that image; not nice mostly), bare chests and nothing on their feet, accompanied by shoals of similarly dressed and bare-footed children.  All very  jolly… until someone runs over toes with a trolley. Or they step in something.

None of this, by the way, has anything at all to do with the Sports Fanatic.

The couple arrived late one Saturday evening. The man struggled out of the car and walked, wincing, slowly along the drive, using two sticks, irritated-looking wife marching in front of him.

‘He’s sprained his ankle,’ she said, tilting her head towards him and without introducing herself. ‘happened yesterday. I came home from work and there he was, lying on the settee, bandaged up. Apparently,’ she stressed the word, ‘apparently our neighbour took him to hospital.’

‘Good of him,’ her husband said. ‘Nice chap.’

Wife snorted. ‘Fine start to our week,’ she said.

‘Mrs Morris?’ I asked. I knew they were down for a family reunion. Her family reunion.

She ignored me. ‘This way, is it?’ Pointing towards the apartment door and stomping off.

‘She’s a bit cross,’ her husband offered. Struggling with sticks he held his hand out to Husband and shook it. ‘I’m Simon,’he said, ‘you got Sky Sports in there?’

sports-mad

The following day it was the the reunion. The husband apparently had hardly moved from the settee in the living room of the apartment. 

Mrs Morris was no less cross than before. ‘He’ll have to stay here,’ she said. ‘he says he’s in a lot of pain and can hardly stand.’ She stared at Husband. ‘I’ll be out all day. Would  you go in and see if he’s okay every now and then, perhaps give him a cup of tea. I’ve left sandwiches on the coffee table for his lunch.It really is a nuisance.’

Husband was clenching jaw, the ears were giving off warning signs..

‘It’s fine,’I said, hurriedly. ‘Don’t worry.’

Half an hour after she’d driven off Husband went in to the apartment ‘ I can’t find him, he said.

‘In the loo?’I offered.

‘No! Anyhow, he’s not supposed to be able to move around at all.’

The implications of that suddenly struck us.

‘I’m not bloody clearing up after him if anything happens,’ Husband says.

I don’t answer but I knew it wouldn’t be me, either.

We searched around the apartment, then the garden.

‘He won’t be out here,’I said. ‘He can’t walk.

Just then Mr Morris came running around the corner of the house, a pack of six cans of pale ale in his arms.

We stood and looked at one another

Then, without an ounce of shame, he  said, ‘can’t stand her family. Anyway, there’s loads of sport on the telly I don’t want to miss.’

sports-fanatic

And with that he grinned, walked past us and into the apartment.

Not quite sure what happened the rest of the week but Mrs Morris left on the Friday and the last we saw of Mr Morris was him trudging off the drive, carrying his suitcase, to make his way to the railway station on the Saturday morning

 

 

 

 

The Tenby Book Fair is moving and Being Renamed…The Narberth Book Fair. Ta dah!!

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Welcome to the first post of the Narberth Book Fair.

Just to let you know that we have decided we have outgrown the Church House in Tenby.  Having searched around for a suitable place we have found the perfect venue. So the Tenby Book Fair will no longer be held in Tenby. In fact it will no longer be the Tenby Book Fair but the Narberth Book Fair. We are quite excited  to be having a new challenge and I’m sure we will be bigger and better… just in a different hall. In a different town.

From now on the Book Fair will be held at the Queens Hall there. Check out their website    https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/. As you can see it’s a vibrant and busy venue in a bustling little town full of interesting shops, antique places, cafes and restaurants. And there is a large nearby car park. But, sorry… no beach.

The date will be Saturday, the 23rd September. 10.00am to 4.oopm.

I’ve been to a few craft fairs at the Queens Hall with my books and always there is plenty of footfall.

A little information on Narberth; the former capital of Pembrokeshire boasts one of the best high-streets in the county. It’s a gorgeous little market town in the east of Pembrokeshire. Multi coloured Edwardian and Georgian buildings line the high street which has developed quite a reputation as a shopper’s heaven. many of the cafes, pubs and restaurants are award winners..

Transport:  Narberth has a railway station about a mile outside of town. And there are quite a few taxi firms based around and in Narberth. And, I’m sure, one or two of the authors who would be willing to pop there to meet stranded fellow authors 

Accommodation: Check out this website: http://bit.ly/2grbFXY. But I’m sure there are more dotted around

The History of Narberth:

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The town has grown around the walls of its stone castle, but the name is older than the castle. Narberth is derived from ‘Arberth’, the pre-Norman name for the district (or commote). This Celtic heritage is also represented in the myth and legend of the Mabinogion – ancient Welsh folk tales that were written down in the 14th century, originating from an earlier tradition of oral storytelling. Two branches of the Mabinogi in particular are centred on ‘Arberth’, which was reputedly the court of Pwyll, Prince of Dfydd.

So.. we have already had many of our usual authors wanting to take part in our inaugural book fair in Narberth. But we’re always thrilled to welcome new authors. Those interested in taking part please contact me: judithbarrow77@gmail.com 

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I’ve Decided To Go Wandering For A While… At Least In My Head #amwriting

So many things have happened over the last year (and some are still ongoing) that have stopped me from writing. So now I’m giving myself a break and I’m going a wandering. I need to finish/tidy-up/sort out the prequel to my trilogy

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Its working title is Foreshadowing.

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And it’s been languishing on the PC for far too long.

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 I’ll be popping back every now and then to post one of the eight reviews of books that have toppled off my TBR pile- and that, I am ashamed to say, have been neglected.

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I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has been such a support over the last few months – friends both in the ‘real’ world and friends who I might never meet but who I appreciate.So, before I get too maudlin… cheerio for now.

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As someone once said…”I’ll be back.”

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http://bit.ly/1p0UA8H

http://bit.ly/1RZ6njq

http://bit.ly/1QAQL6r

http://honno.co.uk/