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.
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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…

 

 

 

At Last…I’m Going to Fettle my Posts in 2017 #blogging. January Result!

stock-photo-crossroad-signpost-saying-confused-uncertain-perplexed-bewildered-disoriented-unclear-concept-390307111

For the last year my blogs have had a ‘scatter-gun’ approach; erratic, inconsistent and varied; without a theme, sometimes with neither rhyme nor reason … except for the sharing of reviews, interviews and other authors’ good news. Mostly, I think I’ve been lazy, relying on other bloggers and authors to do the work.

 This year will be different! This is not a New Year Resolution; this is me taking me in hand.

 So I said at the beginning of January. Did I succeed? Well… on the whole. I still get carried away when I see a post I like and reblog.

 But I’m well on my way with the editing of the prequel. Cover reveal coming soon!!

The Memory is almost ready to go to my Beta Reader

I’ve posted another Holiday Lets talehttp://bit.ly/2klXhmR

Posting and sharing reviews of other authors’ books on my blog on Sundays as #SundayBlogShare has been a bit erratic as we’ve been away most Sundays.

 I have two reviews to post in the next week and am halfway though a third.

But… I have interviewed Seven#familysaga authors and will be posting those over the next three months. These are fascinating writers with brilliant books so I’m looking forward to spreading the word about them.

So… all in all, not a bad start, I think.

 

sevencandles

 Seeing a little light

Now for February!

 So… what started all this?

It was Tina Frisco’s question, “Tell us what you envision for your blog in 2017, ” that made me stop and think. This is what I wrote in answer to http://bit.ly/2iJWGdz

 Tina’s question made me remember Hugh W. Robert’s post in 2015:  http://bit.ly/2jcwdSA. I’m embarrassed to show my reply but here’s an edited version:

 Each day I come here to write my WIP … but I keep popping back to emails to see what I’ve missed of  my favourite and most friendly bloggers.And then I’ve shared randomly. It’s been a problem, But today, your post has made me think…’

Hmm…

But, in May 2016 I was still doing the same things even after I read Rosie Amber’s Wednesday Wing – #TwitterTip Part 3 Retweeting and Post Sharing #wwwblogs @TerryTyler4  POSTED ON MAY 4, 2016   http://bit.ly/2iReO5t,   

 Here’s a section of what Terry and Rosie said:

“A few tips on post sharing:

  • Don’t automatically share every single post that comes into your email inbox. Check them out first to make sure it’s something you actively want to share.

  • Overkill: if virtually all your tweets are shares of others’ posts, be aware that these will get re-tweeted rather than tweets about your own posts/books, most of the time. If you’re happy with that, that’s okay!”

How some people manage to write Daily Posts yet still write books is beyond me. I am a slow writer/ thinker/ reviewer.

 SO,THIS IS IT! I HAVE A PLAN:

Notebook, Plan, Dates, Coffee Cup, Break

Yes, it has taken coffee and chocolate and messy doodling in my diary to decide.

Here goes:

 I need to say first and foremost that  I will editing the prequel to my trilogy during these next months. The working title is Foreshadowing but this will probably change. Anyway it’s due to be published in August by http://www.honno.co.uk/, the publishers of my other books

Pattern of Shadows by [Barrow, Judith]

                                                                 http://amzn.to/1onvi4R ,

Changing Patterns by [Barrow, Judith]

http://amzn.to/1JPSOuX ,

Living in the Shadows by [Barrow, Judith]

                                                                                                          

                                                                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                   http://amzn.to/2fFqUfE

 

I’m also tidying up the last book I have written, called The Memory, which is due to be looked at by a couple of author friends of mine before I send that off to the publishers. Oh, and I have another half-finished saga which has been on the back burner for two years.

RIGHT… NOW FOR THE BLOGGING:

In 2017  I will be  getting up to date with reviews of books I have read. I will also read and write reviews for Rosie Amber’s Team (http://bit.ly/2hYNbYG ) #RBRT. I love being part of this group and have read some wonderful books (both Indie and traditionally published) over the past two/three years. 

I will be posting more blogs about our Holiday Lets (here’s one post on that: http://bit.ly/2hYOHdc ). I’d like to get these into a short anthology sometime. But, for the time being they’ll stay as posts.

In February and March, I’m looking forward to interviewing other authors who write in the same genre as me: family sagas. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

 Around July, I’ll be starting my usual interviews with the authors who will be attending the annual book fair that I organise alongside my friend and fellow author, Thorne Moore   (http://www.thornemoore.co.uk/).  Alex Martin ( http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2)  was with us in the past but has been taken over by’real life’, unfortunately.  It’s a lot of work but great fun and will take place on the 23rd September. This year we’ve changed to a bigger venue so will be hosting around forty authors at the Narberth Book Fair. There will be talks, free workshops and readings. And the whole event will be filmed by http://showboat.tv/

I tutor creative writing three days a week, and every now and then, I post something one of my students has written. 

I will post and share reviews of other authors’ books on my blog on Sundays as #SundayBlogShare.

 Reading back on this, it does all seem slightly ambitious. But, as I said to Tina, as long as I can manage on four hours sleep each night, who knows; I might succeed in doing it all.

 What I do know is that I will be more organised. The housework can wait!!