Yorkshire Lasses in Wales: When Jessie Met Judith Barrow

Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, near Oldham, and on the wrong side of the Pennines but still in Yorkshire

Judith waited for me in a department store while I waited for her in Cardiff Library.  Would the meeting take place? Neither of us had thought to share our phone numbers prior to the meeting.  

Judith emerged from the lift, in Cardiff Library, wearing a silk purple top that was co-ordinated with her fabulous lilac hair.  I warmed to her instantly! Her beaming smile lit up her face and I knew she’d make me laugh.  She travelled from Pembrokeshire to take part in a panel on agents, traditional and Indie publishing and agents at the Crime Cymru event, and her huge canvas bag bulged with goodies for the day ahead.  I was lucky to grab some time with her.

We almost didn’t meet at Cardiff Library

Judith: At last, I thought you’d got lost in your handbag. I waited in the department store and realised I had no contact details. After I finished my mint tea, I asked three strange women if they were Jessie.  They thought I was mad.

Judith’s Yorkshire accent and mischievous blue eyes instantly made me giggle. Great to meet someone who spoke the same lingo.

Jessie:  I’m so sorry but I thought you’ be able to read my mind. Couldn’t you hear me calling you in my dulcet tones across the streets of Cardiff?  Don’t ask me why I didn’t send you my mobile number and confirm the meeting.  I also approached a couple of potential Judiths but the real Judith is much better. So pleased, I found a representative of Honno Press and she had your number.

We laughed and grabbed some coffee from a coffee station in Cardiff Library.  The staff set up a couple of chairs for us to conduct the chat.  Having spilt the coffee all over my hand, we settled down to chat about Judith. 

Jessie:  Judith, tell me what a Yorkshire lass is doing in Pembrokeshire.

Judith:  We went on holiday to Pembrokeshire, loved it and never returned to Saddleworth.  We bought a half-built house and renovated it.

Jessie:  Do you miss Yorkshire?

Judith Barrow – Secrets

Judith:  Pembrokeshire was a great place for our kids to grow up.  I miss Yorkshire stone, craggy landscape and the meandering moors. I love our house, in Pembrokeshire, but I always expected I’d live in a stone cottage in my old age.  As you can hear, even after forty years in Wales my accent hasn’t changed – I’m still a Yorkshire lass.  People say they can hear my voice in their heads when they read my books.  Lucky them!

Jessie:  Obviously, people love your voice as you have written eight books.  How did the writing start?

Judith:  Well, I hope they do. As for the writing, I’d written since I was a child but never done anything much about it. Then I went to night school with my daughter. I finished A Level English and went on to gain a degree through the Open University. Whilst studying for the degree, I had breast cancer, and this made me see life differently.  I decided to follow my dream to become a writer.  Initially, I had an agent but she wanted me to write as an author of Mills and Boon so I parted company with her.

A place that inspired the setting of Judith’s novels

Jessie: That’s ridiculous; your books are not of that genre.  The books are historical fiction with engaging stories of the Howarth family. The books have complex plots and characters.

Judith:  I write people driven, gritty dramas and wasn’t prepared to adapt my writing.  Eventually, I got a contract with Honno Press – an independent publisher in Wales- and found their approach personal and supportive.  My first book ‘Pattern of Shadows’

Jessie:  What’s Pattern of Shadows about?

Judith:  It’s the story of a nursing sister, Mary Howarth, and her family, during World War Two and is set around a POW camp located in a disused cotton mill in a Lancashire town.  When I was a child my mother was a winder in a cotton mill and I would go there to wait for her to finish work; I remember the smell of the grease and cotton, the sound of the loud machinery and the colours of the threads and bales of material.  Pattern of Shadows was meant to be a standalone book, but the characters wanted me to carry on with their lives. Eventually, it developed into a family saga trilogy. My recent book, the prequel, is A Hundred Tiny Threads. The two main characters, Winifred and Bill, are the parents of the protagonist in the trilogy, Mary Howarth. They wanted me to explain their, how they had become what they are in the trilogy. I was happy to; I think, as we get older, we are made by our life experiences.

Hundred Tiny Threads. The two main characters, Winifred and Bill, are the parents of the protagonist in the trilogy, Mary Howarth

Jessie:  I’m reading One Hundred Tiny Threads. I’m about a third of the way through.  It’s a great read.  The opening is engrossing with Winifred waking up to another day in the shop. The characters are so real, and I love getting inside their heads.  I’m shouting at them all the time. The way you thread the characters’ attitudes towards women is brilliant.  I’m fascinated by the Suffragettes in Leeds.  For some reason, I always imagined the movement to be concentrated in London.

Judith:  Researching the Suffragettes opened up my eyes.  I wanted to tell their story through the voices of the characters and show how women, in the society at that time, were ready for the change. Stories draw people into to the political background of the era, and life was certainly a challenge then.  People say my books are dark.  Have you got to the gory bits?

Jessie:  Well, there has been a murder.

Judith:  No, I’m thinking of scene after that – you wait.  Bill’s a bastard but it’s his background.  I don’t know why Winifred married him.

Jessie:  Oh no, what was Winifred thinking of?  I’m furious with her, as I haven’t read the terrible news yet.  I’m intrigued as to why she didn’t marry the love of her life and scared for her.

Judith: oh ‘eck, hope I haven’t I haven’t spoiled it for you, Jessie.  But, you must understand Bill had a terrible life as a child with his father.  And then he was a soldier in the horrendous First World Wars. He was also one of the Black and Tans when he returned from the Front. He’s a bastard but didn’t have it easy.  As I said, our lives shape us.

Jessie:  I agree and people interest me too.

Judith:  Yes, well your novel, You Can’t Go It Alone, is also character driven and could become a family saga.  I can see it now.  I want to know more about Luke and Rosa and their parents.

Jessie:  I plan to do that, and you have inspired me to complete historical research.  I would have to look carefully into the eras the generations were born into.   Thanks for your advice.

Judith:  No problem, I teach creative writing in Pembrokeshire, so I just can’t help myself (some would say it’s interfering!!).  Writing is like looking at the world through the eyes of a child and I love it. I watch folk walk past my window, at home.  It’s hilarious how people walk. I can’t stop people watching and passing it on through my books.  I never stop watching and am always so busy.

Narbeth book fair – a great book fair for readers and worth a visit

Jessie:  I notice you also organise Narberth Book Fair.

Judith:  Yes, I organise it with a friend, author, Thorne Moore.  It started in Tenby, but we had to move because we outgrew the venue with so many writers wanting to take part. I think it’s so important to attend these events; to get out there and meet the readers.

Jessie:  What advice would you give to fledgling writers?

Judith:  Get a professional editor and be prepared for a slog.  The first draft of the book is the best bit. I always cry when I get my editor’s comments.

Jessie: Tell me, what have you got in your handbag today?

Judith handed me a copy of Pattern of Shadows and a book entitled Secrets; an anthology of short stories of the minor characters in the trilogy. She proceeded to let me in on the secret life of her handbag.  She had some very colourful reading glasses, pens, more pens, bookmarks, a spare blouse, her mobile and an agenda. 

Judith:  As you can see I do love a bit of colour. I try to be organised and I absolutely love writing.  I want you to place these books in your handbag and let the Howarth family keep you company. You’ll love some of the family and dislike some of the other – but that’s life!

Judith is fabulous fun, and I had a blast meeting with her.  Meeting face to face is so much better than communicating on line.  I delighted in her humour, straight-talking and infectious sense of fun.  Judith is a natural storyteller, and this translates in her animated dialogue.  She told me she is ‘living each day’.  She thrives on her writing and engagement with authors.  Her generosity was evident in her willingness to share the benefit of her experience.

 I should add that I will be one of the authors at this year’s Narberth Fair: http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/narberthbookfair/

About Judith:

Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, near Oldham, and on the wrong side of the Pennines but still in Yorkshire, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for forty years.

She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen, a BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University and a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She has had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and has won several poetry competitions. She has completed three children’s books.

She is also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council.

Contact Judith at:
Email: Judithbarrow77@gmail.com
Twitter: @judithbarrow77 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3

Amazon link to her books:

Secrets
A Hundred Tiny Threads

Secrets

Winifred is 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’s troubled childhood 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 daughter of a Lancashire grocer. The girl he determines to make his wife. Meeting Honora’s intelligent and silver-tongued medical student brother turns Winifred’s heart upside down and she finds herself suddenly pregnant. Bill Howarth reappears on the scene offering her a way out.

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my website and blog at JessieCahalin.com.

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AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED #thursdaythoughts @Pembrokeshire #humour

Some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work. Here is a piece written by Trish Power (you may remember her as one of my students whose previous work, Enigma, I posted here

As you will see, this is the same exercise that inspired  Alex Abercrombie’s poem  here .

mansion-160425__340

 

AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED

We study the expansive hall, wood buffed to a mirrored finish reflecting the framed dignitaries set at precise intervals around the walls. At the start of the tour we had chatted and laughed in between our guide’s flawless documentary. But a hush has fallen over us now as we take in the enormity of the events leading to this point. Joleen assesses us. Practised as she is in her art, she is attuned to our mood and knows when to intervene.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, shall we move on?’

She walks ahead towards the end of the hall, stopping at one of the wall panels. When everyone is assembled and she has our attention she reaches out an immaculately manicured finger and pushes on a piece of the gold scrolling.

There’s a collective intake of breath as that section of the wall swings silently inwards exposing a carpeted stairwell lit by bright, rectangular lights recessed into the edge of the ceiling.

‘Please hold on to the rail; the treads are quite steep.’

She takes a step back and ushers us ahead with a sweep of her arm.

We arrive at an area where the lighting is dimmer. Six doors lead off from a central square. There is a shuffling as we make way for Joleen to move through us to the middle door on the right. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

We enter in total silence.

In front of us is a large, rectangular table surrounded by leather chairs. In front of each chair is a file of what appears to be documents. Behind us is a huge, wall-mounted screen.

At the head of the table is a taller chair with a studded back and embellished on top with a golden eagle. There are four phones in different colours set in an arc around a rectangular metal box containing a keypad and a large, red button.

There are other things in the room but for now our focus is on that button. The red button.

‘As you all are aware, ladies and gentlemen, this is where the Secretary of Defense and a united cohort of military advisors attempted to dissuade him from his plan of action. They pointed out the likely consequences for the world but were silenced by his declaration that he was Commander-in-Chief and outranked them all. He wasn’t going to stand by and let someone say things like that about him, even if they were an ally.

‘The video cameras were checked to make sure that they were still running as he insisted on the codes being tapped into the keypad.

‘Again, he was urged not to carry on.

‘But, like a child determined on having his way, he gave a triumphant grin and stabbed a stubby finger down on that button.

‘There were sighs of resignation but the way forward was clear now. He had failed their test and proven himself to be a danger to the free world. The Secretary of Defense gave a nod and two men approached, one of them carrying something rolled-up under his arm. They slipped behind the still-smirking president, reached forwards and slipped his arms into the straightjacket.

‘And so, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the most powerful country in the world was taken into protective custody in order to safeguard our planet – and this is the room where it happened.’

 ©Trish Power 2018

AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED #thursdaythoughts @Pembrokeshire #poetrycommunity

As some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work.

Here is a piece written by one of my students after I set them an exercise which ended with the last line, “And this is the room where it happened.”

This is a poem by Alex Abercrombie. 

owls

 

You’re shaken awake from a jittery nap and

The mantelpiece clock shows a quarter to two.

The dog on the mat and the cat on your lap and

The owls in the attic are wakeful too.

There’s a rattle of chains and a loud ringing rap and

A creak of a door and a hullabaloo –

By the light of the moon on the cold foggy dew

A leathery, whiskery, rogue of a chap, and

A girl in a plain cotton smock and a cap and

A red woollen petticoat, float into view.

 

They say the wench brought the man down with one slap and

A knife in the ribs – though whether that’s true

Or a tall tarradiddle, I haven’t a clue.

But there are some things’ll make anyone snap and

Commit bloody murder and all – and I do

Say it’s not very nice of a toff to entrap and

Abandon a poor village lass. Don’t you?

When all that she got was a dose of the clap and

A bun in the oven (which turned into two)

And this is the room where it happened.

 © Alex Abercrombie 2018

 

 You may also like to see a prose piece on the same subject written by another student,  Trish  Power   https://judithbarrowblog.com/2018/01/17/and-this-is-the-room-where-it-happened-thursdaythoughts-pembrokeshire-humour/here

My Series of Author & Poet Interviews at Narberth Book Fair. Today with with Sarah Jane Butfield

Titleband for Narberth Book FairI’ve posted interviews with most of the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

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

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 was a poetry competition (now closed) which is being judged at the moment.

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 . 

Our latecomer to the interviews is a favourite at our book fairs, the prolific author, Sarah Jane Butfield.  It’s a short but sweet interview. To find out more about Sarah Jane do please drop in to the book fair… and question her thoroughly!!

sarah ajane

I’ll just add a little about Sarah Jane below

Author Sarah Jane Butfield was born in Ipswich and raised in rural Suffolk. Sarah Jane is a wife, mother, ex-qualified nurse and now an international best-selling author. Married three times with four children, three stepchildren and two playful Australian Cattle dogs she an experienced modern day mum to her ‘Brady bunch’, but she loves every minute of their convoluted lives.

The roving Florence Nightingale, has had a successful career as a nurse and used her nursing and later teaching qualifications to take her around the world.

Welcome, Sarah Jane, could we start by you telling us  what you were like at school and were you good at English?

I enjoyed English at school but became better and more proficient in college.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I became an author accidentally, hence my nickname the Accidental Author, however I aspire to continue to share my personal experiences of parenting, family life, travel and nursing anecdotes to inspire readers to follow their dreams.

sereis

 

Which writers inspire you?

I find Lisa Genova books not only inspirational, but very moving.

So, what have you written? Where can we buy or see them?

Untitled design

 

Ooh Matron! books2read.com/OohMatron

Bedpans to Boardrooms books2read.com/Bedpanstoboardrooms

Sarah Jane’s Travel Memoir Series:

Book One: Glass Half Full: Our Australian Adventure books2read.com/GlassHalfFull

Book Two: Two Dogs and a Suitcase: Clueless in Charente books2read.com/TwoDogs

Book Three: Our Frugal Summer in Charente: An Expat’s Kitchen Garden Journal books2read.com/ourfrugalsummer

Sarah Jane’s Travel Memoirs Boxset books2read.com/MemoirBoxset

 

The Accidental Author books2read.com/AccidentalAuthor

The Amateur Authorpreneur books2read.com/AmateurAuthorpreneur

The Intermediate Authorpreneur books2read.com/IntermediateAuthorpreneur

 Sarah Jane will be launching her latest book at the fair:

bedpans and boardrooms

Bedpans to Boardrooms is the sequel to Oo Matron

And that’s all she tells me today, folks, but as I say, do come along and chat to Sarah Jane about all her adventures. She may say she became an author accidentally – but her books are great reads.

AnneMarie Brear Author of sweeping historical family dramas and modern romantic novels, plus the odd short story!

 Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Hundred Tiny Threads by Judith Barrow

My guest today is author, Judith Barrow. Her latest novel A Hundred Tiny Threads, is out this month. It’s a wonderful story set in a fascinating period that includes The Great War and Suffragettes. it’s a story about love and making sacrifices.

A Hundred Tiny Threads

It takes more than just love to make a marriage…

It’s 1911 and Winifred Duffy is a determined young woman eager for new experiences, for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter ruled over by her domineering mother.

The scars of Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood linger. The only light in his life comes from a chance encounter with Winifred, the girl he determines to make his wife.

Meeting her friend Honora’s silver-tongued brother turns Winifred’s heart upside down. But Honora and Conal disappear, after a suffrage rally turns into a riot, and abandoned Winifred has nowhere to turn but home.

The Great War intervenes, sending Bill abroad to be hardened in a furnace of carnage and loss. When he returns his dream is still of Winifred and the life they might have had… Back in Lancashire, worn down by work and the barbed comments of narrow-minded townsfolk, Winifred faces difficult choices in love and life.

Praise for previous novels in the Howarth family series:
“Not… an ordinary romance but a book that deals with important issues which are still relevant today” Historical Novels Review

“Barrow’s thoughtful and atmospheric novel shines a light on the shadowy corners of family life” Lancashire Evening Post

ISBN: 9781909983687
Language: English
About the author: Judith Barrow has lived in Pembrokeshire for thirty years. She has published poetry and short fiction in various anthologies, winning several poetry competitions, as well as writing three children’s novels. Her play: My Little Philly was performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea. Judith grew up in the Pennines and has degrees in literature and creative writing. Pattern of Shadows is her first published novel. For more on Judith see her website. www.judithbarrow.co.uk.

My Series of Author & Poet Interviews at Narberth Book Fair. Today with with Helen Lewis

Titleband for Narberth Book Fair

 

 I’ve posted interviews with most of the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

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

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 was a poetry competition (now closed) which is being judged at the moment.

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 . 

Our latecomer to the interviews is an author whose book I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed; Helen Lewis.

Version 2

 

Welcome, Helen, could we start by you telling us who is your favourite author?

Do I have to have one? I’m greedy I’d like a few, obviously Joanne Harris, David Mitchell, Audrey Niffenegger, Roald Dahl

So what do you think makes a good story?

Just a little bit of magic. Unorthodox and quirky use of language. Strong characters that you are interested in; worried about their fate

 What book that you have read has most influenced your life

Surely it has to be the bible, forget religion (if you want to), that book is packed with intrigue, murder, fantasy, jeopardy, shall I go on? I think the route of all stories ever told or to be told are planted within those covers.

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

Just the one so far, The House With Old Furniture. It is, by far my favourite!

The house with old furniture

 

Here’s my review of Helen’s novel: http://bit.ly/2wf4El2 

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

The House With Old Furniture is a story of love, loss and betrayal – where no-one can be trusted to tell the full story, and nothing is as it seems. One son dead and the other grieving, Evie is banished to Wales, her world falling apart. She survives in part due to the presence of the mysterious Alys and her son Nye, who reminds Evie of her own lost boy.

OK so I copied the blurb, but the hardest thing, I have found about this writing malarkey, is having to define and summarise the tens of thousands of words you have just spent years scribbling. I think it’s a must read, because even though I have read it now about seven times, at least, maybe eight or nine, I still get lost in the tale, it still grips me even though I know the ending!

 What was the inspiration behind The House With Old Furniture

I literally stumbled upon the inspiration for this story shortly after my family moved to Pembrokeshire twelve years ago. Whilst on a walk with our two boys in the woods that surround our home, we discovered the remains of a cottage. If we’d been in a hurry, and I hadn’t got my boot stuck in the stream, we would have completely missed it. Only parts of three walls remained, ferns, moss and ivy rendered most of it invisible and at some point a huge tree had fallen straight through the middle of it finishing off most of what was left. It took a bit of imagination to picture a cottage amongst the undergrowth, almost like staring at one of those coloured dot pictures trying to find the hidden image. Whilst the boys waited for me to free my boot, they scrambled over the ruins of the little house unearthing all kinds of everyday treasures: the rusty end of a bedstead, a rotten milk churn, and old bottles to name but a few.

You couldn’t help but feel that you were trespassing in someone’s home, although the building was barely recognisable as such the sense of what it must have been like to live there was so strong in my mind. I felt I could hear the last inhabitants crunching through the dead leaves towards us. It was as if some fragment of their being had evaporated into the air around us and become a part of the place, ingrained, like the scent of wild garlic, in the very trees around us.

As we all walked back home through the woods I knew there was a story to be told about that little cottage. So in some down time – broadband down time – telephone wire down time, you know what it can be like living in rural Welsh Wales! I began stitching together this tale, creating the characters that live in it, Jesse, Finn, Andrew and Evie. I wanted my characters to unpick the mystery within The House With Old Furniture for the reader, and decided to introduce an old journal that would slowly unlock the secrets. Bizarrely the idea for the journal came from a very old and decrepit cookery book that once belonged to my Nan – ‘The Diary Book of Home Cookery’. When Nan died, Grandpa, determined to remain independent and ‘carry on’, treated it a bit like a bible. And somehow I have now inherited it. It’s full of his notes, scribbled all over the printed recipes, on how things should really be cooked and it’s packed with his own concoctions jotted down on the backs of old yellowing receipts and envelopes. I love it. It’s a real treasure of mine even though the spine has fallen and most of the photos have turned blue and green. And I’m thrilled that some of Grandpa has made it into the novel, I used his actual hand-written recipes for bread and dumplings as backgrounds on the chapter divider pages. I can hear him chuckling about that!

 How long did it take you to write it?

Forever! Five, very long years.

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

I have heard from some of them, and it’s been lovely. I love the questions I’ve been asked, it’s made me look at the book in different ways. I still find it surprising that people are actually reading something that I have written.

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

Absolutely none. Sorry. I fully intended to be a ballerina until the age of 16, I had about six lessons a week and taught as well, unfortunately it wasn’t to be. But that is hardly an uncommon talent.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I couldn’t come up with an answer to this question so I (stupidly) asked my husband and teenage sons who just happened to be sat around the kitchen table where I am doing this. So unhelpfully they came up with “You can’t spell.” Thank you husband. “You’re not very good, ha ha.” Thank you teenager two. And “I don’t know what a quirk is.” Brilliant teenager one (who’s not actually a teenager now, but still behaves like one). I haven’t really answered that have I?

Hahaha… families!!

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

Run, as far and as much as I can, I’m addicted. Also started open water swimming which is the most awesome, relaxing, stress busting thing invented for humans to do.

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

Again I deferred to the same male audience mentioned above, and according to the teenagers the funniest thing I ever did was whilst eating chips at the New Inn Amroth, I tried to put sauce on them and, you’ve guessed it already, the lid flew off covering everything in sauce. If I remember rightly, I found that more annoying than hilarious, which I mentioned to the teenagers. “That’s the point,” they said, “No sense of humour.”

Note to self: never ask your family about the most amusing thing that’s happened to you…it’ll normally the most amusing thing they think happened to you!

Give us a random fact about yourself.

I am utterly, totally, completely terrified of heights. 3m off the ground and I’m jelly on the floor.

 Helen’s links:

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2xK2DLP

 Twitter: http://bit.ly/2wG32C4

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk:  http://amzn.to/2vLv9f1

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2iFnnSg

Helen is published by Honno, where her book is also available: http://www.honno.co.uk  

new honno_logo

 

 

Mutterings by author, Thorne Moore

 Monday, 28 August 2017

Judith Barrow coming full circle

I have written four novels and each has been independent – different settings, different characters, different themes – but I have begun to feel the allure of keeping a story going, beyond the last page of a book. I have written short stories that accompany my novels, but I’ve never yet been brave enough to take on a whole series.
That is what Judith Barrow has done, with her Howarth Family trilogy, covering the decades from the Second World War to the late sixties, and she has completed it now with a prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, covering the early decades of the 20th century. I am hugely impressed.

Pattern of Shadows is the first of the Howarth family trilogy. Mary is a nursing sister at Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling, life at home a constant round of arguments, until Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the camp turns up. Frank is difficult to love but persistent and won’t leave until Mary agrees to walk out with him.

Sequel to Pattern of ShadowsChanging Patterns is set in May 1950, Britain is struggling with the hardships of rationing and the aftermath of the Second World War There are many obstacles in the way of Mary’s happiness, not the least of which is her troubled family. When tragedy strikes, Mary hopes it will unite her siblings. Will the family pull together to save one of their own from a common enemy.

The last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows is set in 1969. There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way they can escape their murderous consequences.

And so to the prequel: A Hundred Tiny Threads: Winifred is a determined young woman eager for new experiences. 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’s troubled childhood 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 daughter of a Lancashire grocer.

For the record, in my opinion, this is a great book, that places two people in the midst of some of the most earth-shattering and horrifying events of the early 20th century but shows it all through their very individual eyes, coloured by their own uniquely troubled situations. And, of course, knowing how it ends in the following trilogy adds a piquant regret to the tale.

Judith, like me, has lived in Pembrokeshire for many years and, like me, came here from a distant galaxy long ago and far away – Well, Yorkshire in her case and Bedfordshire in mine. Here, she tells how she came to Pembrokeshire.
We found Pembrokeshire by accident.
With three children under three, an old cottage half renovated and a small business that had become so successful that we were working seven days a week, we were exhausted. David, my husband, thought we should get off the treadmill; at least for a fortnight.
Pre-children, cottage and business, we always holidayed in Cornwall. But we decided it was too far with a young family and an unreliable van. We’d go to Wales; not too difficult a journey from Lancashire, we thought.
Once that was mentioned, David was eager to see Four Crosses, near Welshpool, where his grandfather originated from.
‘We could stay there,’ he said.
‘But the children will want beaches,’ I protested. ‘And I’ve heard Pembrokeshire has wonderful beaches.
We agreed to toss a coin and Pembrokeshire won. We’d call at Four Crosses on the way home.
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. It sounded just the place to take children for a holiday. 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 10 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, lavatory stops and throwing bread to the ducks whenever our eldest daughter spotted water. I’d learned to keep a bag of stale bread for such times.
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 50 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.
I woke early. Leaving David in charge of our exhausted and still sleeping family, I crept out.
The sun was already warm; a soft breeze barely moved the leaves on the oak tree nearby. Skylarks flittered and swooped overhead, calling to one another. 
Although the caravan was one of four in the farmer’s field, we were the only people there. It was so quiet, so peaceful.
I walked along a small path. Within minutes I was faced by a panorama of sea. It seemed so still from the top of the cliff, but the water blended turquoise and dark blue with unseen currents, the horizon was a silvery line.
Faint voices from two small fishing boats carried on the air.
The sandstone cliffs curved round in a natural cove. Jagged rocks, surrounded by white ripples of water, jutted up towards the sky.
I fell in love with Pembrokeshire.
I’d always liked living so close to the Pennines. The moors, criss-crossed by ancient stone walls, were glorious with wild rhododendrons in summer, heather in the autumn. Even when brooding under swathes of drifting mist or white-over with snow, I was happy there.
But Pembrokeshire has a powerful glory of its own.
Within months we’d thrown caution, and our past lives, to the wind and moved here, much to the consternation of our extended family; as far as they were concerned we were moving to the ends of the earth.
But it was one of the best decisions of my life.