Today, I’m excited to interview Judith Barrow on my blog, repaying the favour after she interviewed me for BookSmart on Showboat TV. I met Judith two years ago when I attended what was then the Tenby Book Fair, which has now flourished into the Narberth Book Fair, hosting over 40 authors and their books.
Let’s meet Judith and find out about her writing, and a little of what makes her tick…
1 How do you write? Is everything plotted, planned to perfection? Do you ever change tack as you go along or always stick to a pre-made plan?
I have vague plans for my characters but, as I’m sure many authors have already told you, Wendy – and you know yourself – they take a life of their own and won’t do as you planned. Usually they know what they’re doing, so I go with the flow.
2 Do you have a writing ritual? Meditation, certain cup for your tea, writing trousers?
No, I don’t really have any rituals. I think this comes from years of snatching moments to write or scribble ideas in notebooks: as a child, as someone with a career in the civil service, as a young mother of three children under three (no, we weren’t careless, we had the lovely surprise of twins second time around), and then as a working wife and mother, and later as a carer for my aunt. It became a habit to fit writing around my life. Must admit, though, some days now, if I’m not teaching (I’m a creative writing tutor for our local council) I write all day in my kaftan and don’t get dressed.
3 Aside from writing, what makes you tick? Tell us 5 things about yourself we probably don’t know.
Being proud I survived a…let’s say…a difficult childhood and turned into a reasonably ‘normal’ adult. I would love to buy a camper van and just go off travelling (seriously – so who knows!) I love painting seascapes – in pastels or watercolours. I used to make novelty cakes (did it for years for my own and friends’ children – made it into a business for a while but totally uneconomical) I am a qualified swimming teacher
4 If you were stranded on a desert island with shelter, food and water, what 5 items would youwant with you?
May I take four ten thousand page notebooks and an everlasting pen? No? Okay, If not, then my husband because he’s a great handyman and will keep everything ship-shape? Right, being serious…hmmm…obviously a pencil/pen and notebook, a wind-up record player (there is no electricity or batteries?) and a recording of Swan Lake, because it was the first record my favourite aunt (who lived with us for many years after we moved to Wales) bought for me at the age of twelve. A full set of Dickens books (am I pushing my luck here? There are thirty editions and I’m only through two thirds of them. How many is that?) Toothpaste and brush – count that as one? Just had a thought though – if I could take Hubby, he’s another person, so he could take his five things? Yes? Right – that’s easy then – all his photography equipment to record our days for posterity – and for us to look back on in our old (er…older) days, after we’ve been rescued. Have to say here, he takes wonderful photos and will do nothing with them…like frame and sell them at craft fairs (been nagging him for years to do it.) Yes, I do know I’m rambling. And five things, you said, Wendy? As you can see, I’m no good at sticking to rules
5 On said island, what 5 books would you take and why?
Oooer… the set of Dickens – which, if I counted it here would mean I get an extra item above at question four? Sapiens – which might… might…make me understand the human race. Set of all Shakespeare plays? Which leaves me with three books? Or two? Anyway, back to childhood: The Tree that Sat Down. (Never did find out who wrote it but it was in my stocking one Christmas and I woke up and found it at two in the morning – yes, I have always been a poor sleeper!) Anyway, I’d read it by torchlight by the morning and had to spend the next few days pretending I was reading it for the first time. How many is that? Last, but not least, any book by Catherine Cookson because, I think, it was her who set me off loving family sagas.
6 Off the island now, which famous person would you like to have dinner with?
Aphra Behn. She was a working playwright, author and poet in the middle of the seventeenth century who broke all sorts of barriers in such a male orientated literary era (and was accepted by some more free-thinking poets and writers). She was also a spy for Charles II. She got into all sorts of political trouble and debt at various stages of her life. A fascinating woman to chat with! Would we really have time to actually eat?
I studied her play, ‘The Rover, written in 1681 for my degree (I was a mature (well sort of mature) student, twenty something years ago. I remembered and dug out a quote from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Yay!!
7 Your current writing projects?
At the moment I have a manuscript with my publishers, Honno (https://www.honno.co.uk/), waiting for editing and I’m fifty thousand words into my next family saga. I’ve also plotted out my next two novels.
8 Other published work and links….
I do have a book I’ve Indie published, Silent Trauma: http://amzn.to/2kXIvRe.
I was involved with the UK charity for some years and then the USA charity. The book was the result of being asked to write something that the general reader would understand and be interested in.
Here’s the blurb: “When Meg Matthews gives an interview on the local radio station it leads to a friendship with three other women. They share a terrible secret. Together, can they find the strength to expose the silent trauma they have endured all their lives?
The story is fictional: the facts are real.”
The UK charity was disbanded through lack of funds and publicity. Despite writing many times to successive Governments, help/aid/support was not forthcoming, Unlike Thalidomide; the damage caused by DES is not immediately obvious. It usually comes to light in the teenage years of (mostly) young girls. The results are devastating to both daughters and mothers (and the guilt, totally unwarranted, of the mothers, is heart breaking).
I give talks to women’s groups about DES, whenever I’m asked.
Here’s a small explanation of the charity taken from the USA website: https://desaction.org/
In 1938, DES (diethylstilboestrol) was the first synthetic oestrogen to be created. DES was prescribed to millions of pregnant women, primarily from 1938 – 1971, but certainly not limited to those years, in the mistaken belief that the drug prevented miscarriage and ensured a healthy baby. But it didn’t work. Instead DES harmed the mothers who were prescribed it, the children born of those pregnancies and now possibly their grandchildren and beyond.
Never patented, DES was cheap and easy to produce, so hundreds of drug companies made it all around the world. DES was marketed under numerous brand names.
I also have written an anthology, Secrets, a collection of stories about the minor characters in the trilogy. http://amzn.to/2swOWgg
This is the blurb:
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…
“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)
It’s been lovely having you here, Judith…I’m not good at sticking to the rules either! If family sagas are your read of choice, do check out Judith’s books here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6