Thank you, Christoph. And thank you for inviting me here. I feel we’ve known one another quite a while on-line but it was lovely to actually meet you in person at the Tenby Book Fair.
Very likewise, Judith. First up, please tell us about your connection to Wales.
I was born and brought up in a village at the base of the Pennines but I’ve lived in Pembrokeshire for the last thirty-eight years. We came to Tenby on holiday, fell in love with the county, saw a half-built house in a field and, throwing caution to the wind, bought it. Best move we ever made even though we eventually moved in on one of the coldest days I can remember in November, to a house with no electricity, no heating and three children under three. We all got colds!
Tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person.
Being a little isolated where we lived, I both read and wrote a lot as a child (earliest story I can remember was of a teapot that fell of a table, broke its spout and died– hmm!) In the past I’ve had various poems, stories published and a couple of plays performed. But it took me until six years ago to pluck up courage to send out one of the books, Pattern of Shadows, to Honno, my publisher.
Why did you decide to write in your chosen genre(s)?
I don’t think I did the deciding; it chose me. I write family sagas (love stories, life stories) which have been described as gritty, sometimes dark, but with humour. Not sure what that says about me–or about how I view life. I do write humorous poetry sometimes though.
Outside my own writing, I tutor creative writing, either privately on day workshops or in classes for Pembrokeshire County Council. I also give talks on various aspects of writing and on the research I’ve done for my books (people seem especially interested in the research I carried out for the background of my trilogy, on prisoner of war camps during the Second World War )
Our three children are all adults now but I love when they visit with their children (and relish in the peace when they’ve gone–but don’t print that–hahaha)
Other than that I potter in the garden; giving instructions to my patient husband (who takes no notice whatsoever!), I read a lot, enjoy walking the glorious Pembrokeshire coastline, and looking after our holiday apartment which we let all year round these days.
What makes me laugh? My husband; we’ve been together for forty-five years and share the same kind of humour–the ridiculousness of life, silly jokes and quick-wittedness. Which is also something I treasure in my friends. What makes me cry? Cruelty, mostly; to children, to animals, to people who can’t fight back, injustice on all levels, including personal injustice. On the same level, it also makes me angry.
Which Welsh person would you like to invite for dinner and what would you serve?
Oh… Firstly, Shirley Bassey; wonderful singer, feisty lady, with a taste in clothes only she could carry in her younger days. Lynn Davies, the athlete, because he once came to the primary school where my children attended (I can’t even remember why and perhaps it was a publicity stunt his agent made him do) but he was so grumpy and bored it upset a lot of the kids. I’d want him to be there to tell him what effect he’d had on them and to see if he is actually quite a nice person and was just having a bad day! John Humphries–funnily enough he makes me laugh because he doesn’t suffer fools easily and he’s quick-witted. I’d put him next to Lynn Davies because he’s so tenacious he’d soon suss him out. Rob Brydon, all-round entertainer. We saw him once in the small theatre in Tenby called the De-Valance. He was hilarious and at one point said it was the first place he’d performed in that was named after a piece of bed linen. Gillian Clarke, poet and playwright, because I love her work and because she also once came to our children’s school and she marked a poem (which I’ve still got) by our youngest daughter, with kind and encouraging words, and I’d like to thank her for the smile she put on our daughter’s face for days. Sorry, I’ve gone on a bit there.
As for food; I’d ask them all what was their favourite dishes, put the answers in a hat and draw one out. I have to say, I’m not a bad cook, so whatever it was, they’d enjoy it! They would … they would…
What is the best thing about Wales?
Growing up I loved the moors and the vast expanse of sky above the Pennines. But I have to say I think the coastline and the countryside of Pembrokeshire is unsurpassable. Also, for me, it’s the peace and quiet around here and the friendliness of the people– best place to have brought up the children.
I’m working on the prequel to the trilogy. When I wrote Pattern of Shadows I never intended it to be the first of a trilogy but as I was finishing it I realised I wanted to know what happened next, so I wrote the sequel, Changing Patterns. It seemed natural then to finish off with the last book, Living in the Shadows, which was published in July this year. Although they are all stand-alone books, they have the same characters and are also linked. As I wrote the last paragraph of Living in the Shadows, I realised that this family was not going to leave me alone; that there is another story to be told. So it’s a work in progress and its working title is Foreshadowing.
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
Best aspects? The actual writing – I could write all day if it wasn’t for domestic trivia.
Worst? Having to stop writing to do domestic trivia.
In the same way I tell my students; always remember it’s someone’s subjective opinion. And never answer it–unless it’s your editor–and then it’ll be constructive– so then you listen.
You can connect with Judith here:
@barrow_judith – Twitter