I’m a big fan of women’s historical fiction and I first read and loved Judith Barrow’s Pattern of Shadows years before I began blogging and reviewing, so I’m slightly star struck to have an interview with Judith on Linda’s Book Bag today.
Pattern of Shadows
Mary is a nurse at a Lancashire POW camp. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling. Soon, she meets Frank, a guard who has been watching her for weeks. But Frank is difficult to love and it’s not long before Mary decides to break it off. Matters come to a head when Frank puts two and two together and realises that Mary is about to embark on an affair with one of the camp’s German doctors. Frank is not the kind of man who will take no for an answer and pretty soon, Mary’s secret threatens to destroy not just her happiness, but her life itself.
The war is over, but for Mary the danger isn’t…1950: Mary is living in mid Wales with Peter, a German ex-POW, and working as a nurse, though she knows her job is in danger if they find out about Peter. When her brother Tom is killed, Mary is devastated, especially as nobody will believe that it wasn’t an accident. Her best friend Jean is doing her best to get Mary to leave Peter and come back to Lancashire. Mary is sure this will never happen, but she has no idea of the secret Peter is keeping from her.
Living in the Shadows
It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria.
Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire.
At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so?
An Interview With Judith Barrow
Hello Judith. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.
Hello, Linda, thank you so much for inviting me here.
Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?
I live in Pembrokeshire, West Wales; we moved here almost thirty-eight years ago from a village in Saddleworth, at the foot of the Pennines. So we went from the moors to the coast – both have glorious scenery.
I have an MA in Creative Writing, a B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. I am also a Creative Writing tutor and run workshops on all genres.
When I’m not writing I’m researching for my writing or reading (I’m on Rosie Amber’s Review Team, #RBRT), or walking the Pembrokeshire coastline. I also organise the letting of our holiday apartment Saddleworth House.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
I don’t think I ever thought of myself as a writer, it was just something I always did but I never shared it with anyone for years. Even when I had poems and short stories published I treated it as a hobby. It was after I had breast cancer and decided to get the degree and MA that I knew I wanted to be a ‘real’ writer.
How do you carry out the research for your novels?
Initially, for the trilogy, it was in the Oldham Archive and History Library. After that, it’s always libraries locally, the internet and reading books on the particular era I’m researching.
Three of your novels (Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows) focus on WW2 and its aftermath in the next couple of decades. Why does this era hold such an attraction for you?
I find recent history fascinating, there have been so many changes over the last hundred years; it’s history but it’s still– just–within living memory. But how these books started is a pure coincidence. I was researching for another novel when I came across some information on Glen Mill, the first POW camp for Germans in WW2; a disused cotton mill in Oldham. I’ve spoken often about my memories of my mother being a winder in a cotton mill when I was very young and Glen Mill caught my interest. I wondered how those prisoners would feel; what would their lives be like, how would they interact with the locals, if indeed they did. One thing led to another and, before I knew where I was I was researching the whole of that era. I wanted to write about that time and of a similar place. I knew there had always to be a hospital in every camp and I wanted there to be a female protagonist.
At first I was told there wouldn’t be a civilian nurse there but I went to the Imperial War Museum and found out there was one. And so Mary Howarth came to life and I was hooked on her, on her family and their story. Pattern of Shadows was the result. The sequel, Changing Patterns, seemed a natural follow-on. But then I knew that the next generation would also be affected by the actions of their elders in one way or another, so Living in the Shadows, set in 1969, came out in 2015. But this family won’t leave me alone and my WIP is the prequel, set between 1910-1922, the story of Mary Howarth’s mother and father.
(Oh, brilliant – I can’t wait for the prequel to come out.)
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I think the easiest is the plotting and then planning the time line of the story. The most difficult is when the story refuses to fit the timeline and I have to do a massive juggling around of where the characters should be – and when.
How has being a creative writing tutor impacted on your own writing?
I love tutoring and I seem to be doing more and more of it as the years go by. I’ve just signed up to tutor five weekend workshops at a local guesthouse which holds craft and Interest holidays. The only downside, these days is the lack of time for my own writing. But sometimes I come away from the classes buzzing with enthusiasm and start to write as soon as I get home.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I’m lucky enough to have a study. It’s an L-shaped room and the shorter side is where I paint and the longer length is where I keep all my files for my tutoring. And books- lots and lots of books. I’m usually up at five in the morning to write; it’s when my brain works best. But, often, I wake up in the early hours and write then.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I’ll have a go at most genres. But, if a book bores me or the writing is particularly bad, unless I’m reviewing a book for #RBRT I’ll only read for the first fifty pages – or around thirty percent if I’m reading on kindle
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
I paint. I probably would paint more.
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
Walking. Walking the Pembrokeshire coastline is so glorious and it’s inspiring for a lot of my poems. And watching people walking by gives me ideas for characters and plots.
Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?
Mary Howarth. I love her strength, her belief in herself, her loyalty.
If one of your books became a film, which would you choose and why?
I would love to see Pattern of Shadows as a film. Or maybe a TV drama. Oh, if only someone could see this too!
You have your own blog and you’re on Twitter and Facebook. How important do you think social media is to authors in today’s society?
I think it’s a necessity.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that one of your books should be their next read, what would you say?
‘Please believe me, this is a book that will change the way you think about …’ Hmm, is that cheating?
(Possibly, but it’s also intriguing!)
Is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?
No, I don’t think so; these have been brilliant questions
Thank you so much for your time, Judith, in answering my questions.
Thank you for your time, and for this opportunity to appear on your blog.
My pleasure Judith.
About Judith Barrow
Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, near Oldham,has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for thirty four years. She has BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University and a MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. 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.