Today I have Judith Barrow on my blog taking about all things Wales. It’s also the book launch day for her latest book, THE HEART STONE, which I can’t wait to read. Over to you, Judith.
My Wales. My writing. My latest book.
Walking the Pembrokeshire coastal path has been one of our greatest pleasures since we came to live here forty years ago. Our favourite walk is from Porthclais to St Non’s Chapel. Narrow in places and often very windy, it’s exhilarating, with breath-taking views. Standing high on the cliffs, looking down at the sea, watching the far out ripples of water grow into towering waves until they crash, white foam, over the jagged dark rocks, is mesmerising. The chuffs swirl and cry above us; this is their place, not ours. We can only watch, take photos, make memories.
Often I sit and make notes, try to capture the scene in words whilst my husband captures the bay in photographs.
The freedom to write whenever I liked was something that came as a surprise after we were married. Previously, writing was something I’d done in secret; pronounced a ‘waste of time’ by my father, it was easier if he didn’t see it. My new husband was equally surprised to be asked the question if he minded.
Not being allowed to stay on to the sixth form, I left school when I was sixteen to go into the Civil Service. It wasn’t until I was forty that I took my A level in English Literature and completed various creative writing courses. I took a script writing/drama course at Swansea University, and started a BA degree course with the Open University. This took longer than I expected due to contracting breast cancer halfway through the course. During those years I had short stories and poems published, a play performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea and one play filmed. Eventually I gained a MA degree at what was then, Trinity College, in Carmarthen.
Shortly afterwards I was asked if I would tutor some creative writing classes for Pembrokeshire County Council, under an adult Lifelong Learning Scheme. Something I’m still doing. I will be so glad to get back to the classrooms once we can carry on in ‘real’ life.
I write family sagas which crosses various genres, and, over the last twelve years, I have been published by Honno, the longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK.
Many years ago, when someone asked me what I wrote about, I would say, ‘people and their lives’. By which I really meant families. So the main genre I write in is family sagas. But there are many sub genres within that: Romance, Historical, Crime.
My stories delve into family situations, the frequently underlying current of vying for position in a family; the clashes of personalities. Crime doesn’t only happen on the streets of towns and cities. Despite the love that is threaded through most families, there can be jealousies and resentments, suspicions and distrusts. Whether historically from past generations, or from situations that arise, these emotions can lead to crime in some form or another.
My Haworth trilogy: Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows, is preceded by the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads (despite the fact that it was written last – due to the characters, the parents of the protagonist of the trilogy, Mary Haworth nagging at me to write their story). The years covered in these books span from the early nineteen hundreds to nineteen sixty-nine.
My last book, published in 2020, The Memory, is more contemporary. Written in two parallel timelines, it is set around a memory that haunts the protagonist, Irene Hargreaves: the death of her siter, a Downs Syndrome child. Something the family will never talk about. Available here
My next book, The Heart Stone, is due to be published on the 18th February. Again, an historical family saga, set around the time of WW1. I love writing about this era because it reminds me of my grandfather who volunteered to join the local Pals Battalion with two of his friends, although they were all underage, and it’s something I’ve researched both for my degree on The First World War and for my other books.
1914. Everything changes for Jessie on a day trip to Blackpool. She realises her feelings for Arthur are far more than friendship. And just as they are travelling home, war is declared.
Arthur lies about his age to join his Pals’ Regiment. Jessie’s widowed mother is so frightened, she agrees to marry Amos Morgan. Only Jessie can see how vicious he is. When he turns on her, Arthur’s mother is the only person to help her, the two women drawn together by Jessie’s deepest secret.
Facing a desperate choice between love and safety, will Jessie trust the right people? Can she learn to trust herself?
CRIME CYMRU FESTIVAL: Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival.
I’m a member of Crime Cymru, an ever-growing group of crime writers in Wales. It’s an eclectic collection of authors who create stories from investigative thrillers, domestic noir, to historical crime and cosy mystery genre.
The Spring of 2022 will see the launch of Wales’s first crime festival, the Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, a weekend-long event in Aberystwyth,.
Because of COVID 19, between April 26 – May 2, 2021 there will be a smaller online festival: Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol.
It’s FREE and tickets are available on the website: www.GwylCrimeCymruFestival.co.uk
Check out Crime Cymru on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @GwylCrimeCymruFestival and @Crime.Cymru.
Thank you, Judith and best of luck with your book.
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.