Judith Barrow

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.

Links:

https://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77
https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6


.

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

Jessica Jarlvi

In the spotlight today is Jessica Jarlvi, having lived around the globe Jessica was born in Sweden, which is where she sets her mysteries.

When did you start writing, and why?

I’ve always been writing, but I don’t think it was until I did my MA in Creative Writing, that I started to take myself seriously as a writer. This is a great question actually, because I recently had to remind myself why I started writing! Once you have a publishing deal (and deadlines), there’s added pressure and I’ve had to reconnect with my initial passion. Luckily, I’m having fun writing again.

What motivates you to write?

I want to entertain the reader so I’m very character-driven, and I love suspense. But I also want to teach the reader something without this being overly obvious, whether that’s about mental health, human trafficking, being a swinger or having your first lesbian experience. I don’t write autobiographical novels, but I do immerse myself in my characters’ worlds and read a ton of books and articles on the subjects, as well as interview people.

What do you like to do to relax when not writing?

I like to have various freelance or teaching gigs on the go. The more I have to do, the more I get done. When I relax though, I love to read in my bed or a bubble bath, hang out with my husband and our four children, walk in nature or watch a great movie.

Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

I am especially fond of Iris in my novel When I Wake Up, who is a bi-sexual librarian living in an open marriage. She’s true to herself, she loves literature, and although she’s strong and confident, she allows herself to be vulnerable.  

Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

Iris’s husband (in When I Wake Up) because he’s a bit too smug, and doesn’t fully appreciate her.

Tell us about your last book…

What Did I Do? revolves around Kristin who suffers from OCD and has had a complicated upbringing. When she’s accused of murder, she runs away, not sure if she’s committed the crime or not, but she ultimately can’t run away from herself, and when she realises someone is on her trail, her inner world crumbles, making it hard to see what’s real and what isn’t.

What’s coming next…

I’m working on a dark comedy, but 2020 has not been a productive year for me!

Anything else you want to share?

Both my psychological thrillers take place in my native Sweden (a great place to set dark novels in!), while the second one also features Chicago where I lived for two years.

Links to my books:

When I Wake Up

What Did I Do?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jessica_jarlvi_author/


.

Jessica Jarlvi’s debut novel, When I Wake Up, was a Montegrappa First Fiction prize winner, in 2018 the bookshop Magrudy’s selected it “Fiction book of the Year”, while it also featured on bestseller lists in the US and Australia. Her latest psychological thriller, What Did I Do? deals with mental health and human trafficking. Born in Sweden, Jessica has lived in the UK, the US and the UAE, and has worked in publishing and PR. She’s also co-edited a prison anthology, and is currently teaching journalism and creative writing.

.
.


Thanks to Jessica for taking part in this season of introductions, I’m quite envious of the travel, my own experience of far flung places tends to be by book!

Tomorrow, we come right back home to Wales to meet with Judith Barrow

Thorne Moore

Another English immigrant to Wales, Thorne Moore is a fellow Crime Cymru member, who writes some great psychological thrillers and brings a real sense of family, community and of Wales to her writing.

When did you start writing, and why?

I can’t remember the time when inventing stories of imaginary friends and world evolved into attempts at writing books. I know it had happened by the time I was 16, because I was a prefect, preparing to take O levels, when I confided to a friend that I intended to be a writer, and I was so relieved when she didn’t laugh. A couple of years before, we had had what was laughingly called “careers guidance.” Girls were given two options. Lower streams were told to learn short-hand and typing or aim for shop work and girls in the top stream were going to be teachers. I was told I was going to be a teacher, so that was the point when I decided I was absolutely not going to be a teacher. But it was never really an option. Even when I was a child, children terrified me.

The only time when I seriously considered a career other than writing was at infants school, when I was torn between becoming a missionary or being a tight-rope walker. Later, when I was taking A levels, my headmaster, possibly influenced by my argumentative nature, advised me to study law. I rejected it because it would surely lead to a legal career, and I only wanted to be a writer.

So I wrote. It did take me a few more decades to get published, and I did have to do several alternative jobs to deal with the boring matter of earning a living, but I never had any other goal than to write.

What motivates you to write?

I like weaving stories. I am not sure why writing something down makes it more real, but it does. What prompts the stories? All sorts of things. Sometimes it’s just an image, a picture, a derelict cottage, as with my first book, A Time For Silence. Or it could be a news item. That was the source of my second book, Motherlove, when I caught the story of Maria Eugenia Sampallo Barragan on the news. She was an Argentinian girl, taking her supposed parents to court when she discovered the regime had given her to them, as a baby, after taking her from her real political dissident parents. I was intrigued by the question of how people would react if they discovered the people who brought them up were not their parents. In my third book, The Unravelling, the story was prompted by memories of the estate in Luton, where I grew up in the early 60s, and the monsters of my childhood imagination. In Shadows, it was something overheard on the TV again – a ghost-hunter programme, late one night, in which a woman, said to be a psychic, was busy detecting a presence in an old house, and she had such a wonderfully down-to-earth Mrs Miggins attitude. I couldn’t help thinking that if I were able to feel supernatural things that others couldn’t, I wouldn’t feel down to earth at all. I’d feel totally deranged.

But beyond all the triggers that set me off on a book, I always want a theme, something meaningful to dissect. Parenthood, guilt, generational divides, the patriarchy, justice, God… you know, that sort of thing.

Which do you like to write, series or standalones?  If you write both, what do you find the difference?

I’ve always said, emphatically, that I only want to write stand-alone books. If I flog a theme to death in one book, it’s done. I don’t want to keep repeating myself. I want to move on to something else. But then I keep thinking not about what would come next, but what came before. Where did a story and its characters come from? That is always more intriguing to me. So I have written two books that work as prequels rather than sequels. The Covenant sets the stage for A Time For Silence, and Long Shadows explains the past mysteries that have left their imprint on a house in Shadows, so they do count as a sort of series.

However, having reached an age of extreme perversity, I now have an overwhelming desire to write an entire Science Fiction series. So ignore everything I said before.

Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

Leaving aside my science fiction, which has my favourite characters by a long mile, I think my favourite is Leah in my latest book, The Covenant. I like my protagonists to be believable, and therefore flawed, so they all have aspects that I would probably find less attractive in real life, and I think it wouldn’t take Leah long to rub me up the wrong way. She’s a strong woman, denied the right to be recognised, expected to do everything and be credited for nothing, so she is definitely unsympathetic to weakness in others. Were she born today, she would be free to walk away from the chains that bind her, and probably be running a company, if not the country. But it’s an historical novel. She does get a mention in A Time For Silence, but only as a name.

.

Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

Least favourite character – that’s difficult. I have created some very nasty people, men and women, but villains always have a certain fascination, or at least interest, even when they are being unspeakable. After all, who gets the reader’s (and probably the writer’s) sympathy in Paradise Lost? Unpleasantness is usually a sign of weakness, and that always grabs my attention as an interesting characteristic to explore. What happened to produce that weakness? Often, they are really just sad.

If “least favourite” means, who would I most like to punch in the face, there are a couple of fathers in Long Shadows that I would happily send to the guillotine. But again it’s an historical novel – or rather a collection of 3 historical novellas – and they are, I hope, men of their age (14th and 17th centuries), which is enough in itself to qualify them as nasty.

Tell us about your last book…

My latest book, The Covenant, is the prequel to my first, A Time For Silence, in which contemporary girl Sarah Peterson comes across Cwmderwen, the cottage where her grandparents had lived, and she discovers that her grandfather, John Owen, was murdered there in 1948. In The Covenant, I follow the life of the aunt, Leah Owen, who brought John up. The story covers the years from 1883 to 1922, and it centres on the farm of Cwmderwen – all twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches of it. It is land rented from a wealthy absentee landlord, but in the eyes of Leah’s father, it is land bestowed on them by a covenant with God, and they are dutybound to hang onto it, no matter what the cost.  Tragedy, bigotry and hatred gradually weed out Leah’s relatives, friends, lovers, hopes and dreams, but she is determined to hand on the land to her nephew John. It is the only goal that she is allowed. But how high a price is she prepared to pay to make it happen, and is it really worth it?

What’s coming next…

Well, the first of my Science Fiction books is going to be published sometime this year, but I have two more crime books ready to go. One is set in Pembrokeshire and is as much about grief as about crime. The other is set in Oxfordshire and Cornwall and is, according to my agent “compelling, dark and twisty.” I am waiting to see where it goes.

Anything else you want to share?

I am very much looking forward to the first Welsh Crime festivals, with Crime Cymru: on-line in 2021, and up close, personal and in Aberystwyth in 2022.

website: https://thornemoore.com/
FB Author page: https://www.facebook.com/thornemoorenovelist
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThorneMoore
Amazon author page http://amzn.to/1Ruu9m1


.

Thorne Moore grew up in Luton, and studied history at Aberystwyth. Nine years later, after a spell working in a library, she returned to Wales, to north Pembrokeshire, to run a restaurant with her sister, and a miniature furniture craft business. She took a law degree, through the Open University, and occasionally taught genealogy, but these days, she writes, as she had always intended, after retiring from 40 years of craft work. She has had four novels published by Honno and two by Lume, all psychological crime mysteries and three of them historical.

.


Thank you Thorne, always a pleasure, and best of luck with all future books, whatever the genre.

Tomorrow we will be meeting Jessica Jarlvi.

Louise Mumford

Today’s guest is the lovely Louise Mumford from South Wales, a fellow member of Crime Cymru

When did you start writing, and why?

I’ve always written. When I was a child, I loved Anne of Green Gables and so all of my stories were of plucky young orphans and grumpy aunts! I completed a creative writing element as part of my English Literature degree and then wrote various novels whilst teaching full time. Why did I write? Because I loved it, because the characters and the worlds I thought up were a fun escape from my everyday life. They still are an escape. Most days I get to hang out with these fascinating people and try to tell their story in the best way possible.

What motivates you to write?

The characters who come to me and keep whispering in my ear until I write them down. I could be shopping, or doing the washing up, and they tap me on the shoulder and demand to know why they haven’t been included in a story yet. Though, I guess what motivated me to try and become published was something much different – my approaching fortieth birthday! I’d been teaching for fifteen years and knew it was a now or never moment to see if I could make my dream a reality. My own insomnia motivated me to write Sleepless – I knew I could describe the main character’s desperation because of her lack of sleep with some accuracy…

What do you like to do to relax when not writing?

Before the pandemic, I used to be a regular at all sorts of gym classes. Boxercise is good fun and it has made me feel like I could defend myself… as long as my attacker stayed still and I had a certain musical track playing! Obviously right now I don’t go to the gym so it’s all running and doing virtual online classes. Exercise is important to me. I think it’s vital to get out of my head and away from my desk, otherwise, on some days, I would never leave it!

Who is your favourite and least favourite of your characters?

Vivian is my favourite character in Sleepless. She is my main character’s mother and I wanted to write a woman in their late sixties who is vital and fun and fiercely independent. I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by a plethora of strong female role models in my mother and my battalion of aunts and I wanted to pay homage. I don’t have a least favourite, not really – all of the characters are fascinating to me… even the ones who are not that likeable.

Tell us about your last book…

Sleepless is my debut book and is a thriller inspired by my own insomnia. It is published by HQ Digital as ebook/audio and paperback.

Thea is an insomniac; she hasn’t slept more than three hours a night for years.

So when an ad for a sleep trial that promises to change her life pops up on her phone, Thea knows this is her last chance at finding any kind of normal life.

Soon Thea’s sleeping for longer than she has in a decade and awakes feeling transformed. So much so that at first, she’s willing to overlook the oddities of the trial – the lack of any phone signal; the way she can’t leave her bedroom without permission; the fact that all her personal possessions are locked away, even her shoes.

But it soon becomes clear that the trial doesn’t just want to help Thea sleep. It wants to control her sleep…

Sleepless has been in the Top 50 overall Kindle Store and a No:1 bestseller.

What’s coming next…

The paperback of Sleepless is to be reissued as a mass market publication in July and then I am already writing another book which will be published in 2022. Lots of authors say writing the second book is tough, but luckily, I pretty much had it written before Sleepless was published so it just needs tweaking and improving. I can’t wait for everyone to meet the new characters!

Anything else you want to share?

A Californian production company has snapped up the television rights to Sleepless which is very exciting and the marketing team at HQ have won a Book Marketing Society award for Guerrilla Campaign for their inventive work in the promotion of Sleepless.


.

Louise Mumford was born and lives in South Wales. From a young age she loved books and dancing, but hated having to go to sleep, convinced that she might miss out on something interesting happening in the world whilst she dozed. Insomnia has been a part of her life ever since.

In the summer of 2019 Louise was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival. She lives in Cardiff with her husband and spends her time trying to get down on paper all the marvellous and frightening things that happen in her head.

.
.


Thank you, Louise, good to know I’m not the only one who get character nag! Best of luck with the production of Sleepless – thrilled for you.

Next up tomorrow will be Thorne Moore.

Jenny O’Brien

Today, met thriller writer Jenny O’Brien with her sea swimming and stories set in my chosen homeland of Wales. And on the plus side she’s a member of Crime Cymru too.

When did you start writing, and why?

I started writing about 13 years ago. The twins were 3 and I found that my life revolved around being a mother and working as a nurse – I wanted to reclaim a little slice back for me. I didn’t have time to write. The truth is I should have had more sense but there it is. I carried a small notepad in my scrub pocket, most nurses do the same as an aide-memoire but, instead of nursing stuff it quickly filled up with the story of a little boy who was being bullied. I wrote the story during my 15 minute coffee breaks at work and typed it up late in the evening when the kids were in bed. After six weeks I had a rough first draft of Boy Brainy, which I eventually self-published. I still work as a nurse but now the kids are teenagers and time isn’t quite as pressured. Looking back I must have been mad.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

That’s an interesting question because my answer has changed over time. I started off writing for children, then romances. Now I write thrillers. In the early days I never thought I’d write about crimes against children and yet my first police procedural, Silent Cry, is just that. I suppose it’s not what I write about but how. I don’t write graphic novels. Yes, there does have to be an element of detail to support the story, but my writing isn’t gratuitous. It’s also not cosy – rather somewhere in the middle.

What do you like to do to relax when not writing?

I’m an avid reader and always have a book or three on the go. I don’t just stick to reading thrillers though. I dip in and out of most genres apart from sci fi, which I don’t really get. I’m also an all-year-round sea swimmer, which I’ve been doing now for about four years. Some days I think it’s the only thing that keeps me sane.

Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

I’m going to have to say Detective Gaby Darin. She’s a second-generation, Liverpudlian copper who’s short, round and feisty. Her downfall isn’t alcohol – it’s chocolate. I like her because she’s down to earth with a snappy line in dialogue, which I wouldn’t dare to repeat in real life. She features in my Welsh set police procedural series of which there’s six, 3 published and 3 in the pipeline. The first is Silent Cry, set in and around St David’s. Here’s the link Silent Cry: An absolutely addictive crime thriller with a shocking twist for fans of Angela Marsons and LJ Ross (Detective Gaby Darin, Book 1) eBook: O’Brien, Jenny: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?

That’s a difficult question for a crime writer but I’m going to choose a character from my very first book, Boy Brainy. A bully called Guillim. I wrote the book to expunge some ghosts from my own childhood where bullying featured but in a way to put a positive slant on the experience. The book, through fiction, tries to raise the self esteem of children going through bullying. I’m not sure if it does but it has had some positive reviews. Here’s the link. It’s permanently free. Boy Brainy: (Mystery fantasy book for kids age 7-13 years) (Dai Monday 1) eBook: O’Brien, Jenny, Orme, Natasha: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

.

.

.

Tell us about your last book…

My last book to be published was called Fallen Angel. It’s book three in my crime series. Set in Llandudno, it’s centred around an historic case: the body of eighteen-year old Angelica Brock found dead on the Great Orme wearing someone else’s nightdress. It’s a complex case with a sneaky double twist at the end.

Blurb:

Eighteen-year-old Angelica Brock is found dead at a local beauty spot, dressed in a pure white nightgown, her white-blonde hair arranged around her. For years her death is a mystery, her killer the one who got away for a whole generation of police.

For DS Gaby Darin, it’s not just any cold case – the victim is intimately linked to someone close to her, and emotions are high. But just as the team finds a breakthrough clue on Angelica’s nightdress, another case crashes into the station. Could they be linked? After all this time, can Gaby finally discover what really happened to Angelica?

What’s coming next…

Gaby Darin’s next case comes out in eBook in May, paperback in July. I don’t have a title or blurb that I’m allowed share as yet. My books don’t seem to follow a pattern although there’s usually a dead body or two. This one is about a ten-year old girl, Elodie Fry, who runs away from home only to join forces with a troubled teenager in a road trip across Wales. There’s also an issue at the local crematorium for Detective Darin to look into…


Born in Dublin, Jenny O’Brien moved to Wales and then Guernsey, where she tries to find time to write in between working as a nurse and ferrying around 3 teenagers.

In her spare time she can be found frowning at her wonky cakes and even wonkier breads. You’ll be pleased to note she won’t be entering Bake-Off. She’s also an all-year-round sea swimmer.


Thank you Jenny, am impressed with the sea swimming – mostly because I know how cold the waters around the British Isles are and I’m not about to go jumping in there, you are a brave soul.

Tomorrow we’ll be meeting Paul Waters.