Judith is another Crime Cymru member who moved from the Pennines to Pembrokeshire.
When did you start writing, and why?
I don’t remember a time I didn’t write. I was rather a loner as a child; When I was six we’d moved to a small estate in a village on the edge of the Pennines. We weren’t allowed to bring anyone into our house. I read a lot and kept a diary for years – bought for me by my mother each Christmas. But then, one day, my father read it; it was the day after there had been a massive argument between him and Mum – the repercussions of my writing about it were, shall we say, not good.
From then on, I wrote only about everyday events in the diary, and kept a separate journal in exercise books that I bought from the newspaper shop with my pocket money. I hid them under the mattress on my bed.
Up until that time, I often felt that I was watching life from the side-lines, but when I was around ten, I realised that my feelings and situations could be changed into stories.
I enjoyed my early years in school, especially the English lessons, and I was always encouraged to write short stories and poetry, which went into the school magazines. In my teens I sent many of these to competitions, with some success.
What motivates you to write?
I can’t help writing; it’s like making images on paper: of places, characters, constructing circumstances that bring these to life. I always have stories buzzing around in my head. Even whilst writing one book, other ideas come to mind that I have to write down before I lose them. All of which might explain the insomnia that plagues me – even as it gives me more time to write!
Which do you like to write, series or standalones? If you write both, what do you find the difference?
I never intended to write a series – it just seemed to happen. I wrote Pattern of Shadows against the setting of a disused cotton mill which was fashioned into a POW camp for German prisoners in WW2.
When the book was finished it didn’t feel … well, finished. Like life the aftereffects, the repercussions, from what happened in that story, carried on and needed writing about. The second and last of the trilogy moved the story – and the family – on through the decades until the late nineteen sixties when the next generation was still dealing with the actions of their predecessors.
Then the parents of the protagonist in the three novels, Mary Haworth, nagged me to tell their story; to explain how they reacted to the times they lived in; what made them into the people they were when the first of the trilogy was written.
I’ve completed one standalone book, The Memory. I knew from the beginning it was a story that didn’t need a follow on. It felt complete; I could walk away, knowing those characters would be fine and I could leave them to get on with their lives. Which, now I’ve written that, does sound rather odd.
And my next novel, The Heart Stone, is a story that stands alone. At the moment – but who knows what will happen to those characters in the future.
Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
Mary Haworth. Mary is the protagonist of all three books in the Haworth trilogy: Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns, and Living in the Shadows. She’s a strong caring woman who puts her family first in all situations… but one. And it’s that one choice that, through no fault of Mary’s, brings trouble throughout the next two decades
Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
Teddy Hampson, twin brother of Tommy – who is a friend of Arthur Dawson, the lover of Jessie Jenkins, the protagonist. Teddy is a vicious, spiteful man, the opposite of Tommy, and he is the cause of the biggest disastrous turning point in The Heart Stone.
Tell us about your last book
The Memory came out last March, the first week of the first lockdown. It’s a more contemporary story and run on two timelines; over twenty-four hours and also on a timeline that spans the decades from the nineteen fifties, when Irene Hargreaves, the protagonist, is eight years old and her sister Rose, a Down Syndrome child, is born. There is one memory that haunts Irene, something she sees when she is seventeen; Rose dies, an event no one in the family will talk about. Following the twenty-four hours timeline, when Irene is looking after her mother, who has dementia, things come to a head.
I’ve been told it’s a poignant story but with many light moments. I like to think it’s a positive story of love and endurance – feelings, that as a former carer for a relative, I’m glad shine through.
What’s coming next?
The Heart Stone. Published by Honno (as are all my books), it comes out on the 18th of February 2021. I’ve reverted to the historical family saga and the story has a background of the First World War, the Pals Battalions and the tight social and family constraints of that era. I’ve had good feedback on the book so far, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will be well received by readers.
Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for over forty years.
She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.
Thank you Judith, it’s surprising how many of us chose to come to Wales from England and find inspiration here.
Tomorrow our inspiration will come from Robert Scragg