Meet Judith Barrow, best-selling author of family sagas, creative writing teacher, social networker with the best jokes and someone I'm proud to call my friend.
"Hi, Judith, and welcome to the Plotting Shed."
"Thanks Alex, great to be here and fabulous garden, by the way."
I love Judith's broad northern accent. It's warm, friendly and inclusive and matches the twinkle in her blue eyes. "Thank you, it looks alright, if you ignore the weeds! Pull up a chair."
Judith sits down on my thinking couch. "Will do, cheers."
"Fancy a cuppa from my trusty thermos?"
Knowing my other job is in plant medicine, Judith replies, "Is it Fennel today… or Peppermint? Or a surprise?"
"My very ow Wake-Up tea is today's tipple; equal parts of Peppermint, Nettle and Green Tea. Are you warm enough? I'll turn up the heater."
"No, thanks, I’m fine; it’s lovely and cosy in here."
"Yep, The Plotting Shed is fully insulated. We'll be snug as bugs; in fact you might find a few under the settee, but don't worry about it. Now, let me ask you a few questions about your writing, Judith."
1. " Why do you write, Judith?"
grammatically correct but I hope you know what I mean. I’ve been writing forever. I’m not saying I’ve always been good at writing but I hope I’ve become better at it as the years have gone on. I do know I get very irritable if I go a couple of days without putting pen to paper of fingers to keyboard. Sorry, a bit of a long- winded answer; my husband says I write as I talk – too much!"
2. "Which is the best part of the process for you?"
"The start of any novel is exciting, and the research; that’s when I know that what I want to write will work. And that’s when the slog starts."
3. "Do you draw on personal experiences for your stories or do they need a lot of research?"
"I think it’s a third of the first and two thirds of the second. I’m a people –watcher, always have been. When I was a child I always tried to blend into the background. It was a rather turbulent time and I sometimes wish I didn’t have such a good memory. But it helps with the gritty parts of my books. As for the research; I love it. So much so that sometimes I lose hours going from one thing to another before I realise hours have passed. In the end it all comes in useful whether it’s giving the book a sense of place or a sense of the era that I’m writing about."
4. "Are all your books set in places you know personally?"
"Some; not all. The trilogy certainly is, although I’ve changed the names. All three books are set around a Lancashire town and a Welsh village; both of which I know well – but in earlier decades.
5. "Have you a preferred genre or do you write in more than one?"
"I write family sagas which are a cross genre with historical fiction, mystery and crime. Hmm! Saying that I’m not quite sure now what genre I write in."
6. "What do you enjoy reading?"
"I love reading sagas. And historical books. And crime fiction. And mysteries. Oh, think there’s a theme emerging here. I also review books on Rosie Amber’s team #RBRT and try there to get out of my comfort zone, so I have read cosy romance, fantasy and one, just the one, book that had vampires and suchlike in it. Not my thing at all!"
7. "How much time do you spending writing as opposed to social media and networking? You post the best jokes on Facebook, by the way."
"Too much time on social media. I promise myself I’ll write and then, before I know it, I’ve spent the last hour on social media. But I also go to craft fairs with my books, carry out book signings and give talks on research etc. to all sorts of groups (hint, hint here, just in case any of your readers belong to groups. Sorry, is that cheeky?). These are lovely because I get to meet actual readers and chat to them; find out what they like to read… and, of course whether they enjoyed my books. Or, if they didn’t, why not; it’s always useful to know and learn from people."
8. "I met you through the Tenby Book Fair you created about four years ago. What was it that motivated you to start this annual event?"
"I’d wanted to be part of a book fair ever since the first of the trilogy came out but hadn’t found one I was confident enough to join in on. So I decided to organize one for local and Welsh authors and it was accepted as part of the Tenby Arts Festival. At that time there weren’t many authors I knew; in fact the only one was a friend who writes children’s books, Sharon Tregenza. But I cast around and found you and Thorne Moore. Fortunately for me I was able to coerce… er … persuade you to help with the following year’s Fair and, as you know, it’s grown in popularity ever since. Your input has been brilliant; I can’t thank you both enough, and I think this last year’s Fair was our best ever. And we’ve also been lucky with being the first on the programme. This year it will be on Saturday the 24th September."
9. "Have you always wanted to be a writer? Have you worked in other roles along the way? Which was your best/worst job?"
"Yes, as a child I always thought I would be a famous author one day. I’ve settled for being moderately well known and enjoying what I do. In a former life I was always in the Civil Service. Grotty jobs? Well, since we moved to Pembrokeshire, I’ve cleaned caravans in the holiday season (which wasn’t that bad actually as I worked alongside some wonderful characters, hmm, people!) I’ve stitched suede slippers and bled all over them (that only lasted a day, my husband couldn’t stand the cries of pain!) Best job? Jobs really. First, of course, is being a wife and mother to three children and now a grandmother (a Nanna). A long time ago I qualified and taught swimming, which I loved. And I made novelty cakes for a long time which started out as a hobby and then I began to be commissioned for them. I still like to make the odd one for the family if it’s an occasion."
10. "Tell me about your current project."
"I’m writing the prequel to the trilogy; working title ‘Foreshadowing’. And I’ve finished the first draft of a book called The Memory, which is slightly different from the trilogy but still has a saga feel, I think."
11. "Where do you get your ideas from?"
"I don’t know. Things just occur to me. Then I remember something that happened and before I realise, it becomes an idea for a book."
12. "You also teach several creative writing classes, Judith. What do you tell your students are the golden rules of writing?"
"Write, write write. Practice, practice, practise. Then listen to me and learn from my mistakes. Hah!"
"Thank you for answering these questions, Judith."
"No, thank you for letting me into your wonderful Plotting Shed; I’m honoured and I’ve had a great time. Any more of that lovely tea?"
Judith's blog site: http://judithbarrowblog.com/
Judith's sequel of books in the Shadows and Patterns Saga:
Amazon. co.uk - Pattern of Shadows: http://amzn.to/1OpM6TIChanging Patterns: http://amzn.to/1PPmzki
Living in the Shadows: http://amzn.to/1PWBLiV
Amazon.com - Pattern of Shadows: http://amzn.to/1QyPHN6
Changing Patterns: http://amzn.to/1JOTMxc
Living in the Shadows: http://amzn.to/1PGK108
Amazon.co. au - Pattern of Shadows: http://bit.ly/1Xe67Nq
Changing Patterns: http://bit.ly/1QR3Hlk
Living in the Shadows: http://bit.ly/1VN2JrF
Amazon.ca - Pattern of Shadows: http://amzn.to/1UYJRWt
Changing Patterns: http://amzn.to/1O09wZb
Living in the Shadows: http://amzn.to/1QnrGG5
Amazon.nl - Pattern of Shadows: http://bit.ly/1Q3QFhd
Changing Patterns: http://bit.ly/1SEy7Lp
Living in the Shadows: http://bit.ly/1QR6afw
Judith is published by :
Honno (publishers): http://www.honno.co.uk/