Today I would like to welcome fellow Honno author Judith Barrow back to my Blog. After our discussion last time about the pros and cons between being published and self publishing, this time I wanted to ask Judith more about her new book, ‘Changing Patterns’, which has just been published by Honno Press, and has been chosen as the Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month for June.
While ‘Changing Patterns’ is a stand-alone novel, it is also the sequel to Judith’s first book for Honno, the critically acclaimed ‘Pattern of Shadows’. If you’d like to ‘Pattern of Shadows’ first, it is currently on a kindle special offer of 94 pence here.
So I first asked Judith what inspired ‘Pattern of Shadows’?
Pattern of Shadows was inspired by my research into a disused cotton mill in Oldham, Lancashire and its history of being the first German POW camp in the country. I was lookingfor information in the Oldham Local Studies and Archive for general background for a story I was writing. The history of Glen Mill brought back a personal memory of my childhood. I was side-tracked.
My mother was a winder (working on a machine that transferred the cotton off large cones onto small reels (bobbins), in order for the weavers to use to make the cloth). Well before the days of Health and Safety I would often go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school. I remember the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into a great wooden door. I remember the rumble of the wheels as I watched men pushing great skips filled with cones alongside the winding frames, or manoeuvring trolleys carrying rolls of material. I remember the women singing and shouting above the noise; whistling for more bobbins: the colours of the cotton and cloth – so bright and intricate. But above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease – and in the storage area – the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales and the feel of the cloth against my legs when I sat on them, reading until the siren hooted, announcing the end of the shift.
When I thought of Glen Mill I wondered what kind of signal would have been used to separate parts of the day for all those men imprisoned there. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill. There would be no machinery as such, only vehicles coming and going; the sounds would be of men, only men, with a language and dialect so different from the mixture of voices I remembered. I imagined the subdued anger and resignation. The whole situation would be so different, no riot of colour, just an overall drabness. And I realised how different the smells would be – no tang of oil, grease, cotton fibres; all gone – replaced by the reek of ‘living’ smells.
And I knew I wanted to write about that. But I also wanted there to be hope somewhere. I wanted to imagine that something good could have come out of the situation the men were in. And so my Mary Howarth and Peter Schormann came to life.
Congratulations on the publication of ‘Changing Patterns.’ Did you enjoy writing a sequel? What were the challenges of returning to the characters?
Ah, the sequel. ‘Changing Patterns’. What a learning curve. I’ve found it difficult to say the least. The fact that I had to make it a stand-alone novel but also a continuation of the character’s story was something I’d not done before. And I didn’t help myself; I attempted initially to write the book from Mary’s sister, Ellen’s point of view. It didn’t thrive. My first draft was appalling; the kindest thing the Honno editors could say was “it needs work”. So I slogged on, draft after draft after draft – until, finally, I was happy with it and sent it back.
Another challenge was that I had to change editors through no one’s fault, it was just necessary. But, as we know, every editor has subjective views besides the professional editorial – so I had to adjust to that.
The most valuable and memorable piece of advice I had from Honno was about the viewpoint; the editors advised that I go with the character my heart is with. And that undoubtedly is Mary Howarth. I’ve lived and breathed with that woman for years. Changing Patterns has to be her story; ultimately, whatever else happens within the family, she’s the lynchpin, the fulcrum that all the other characters relate to. And yet they also live their own lives and I’ve enjoyed going along with them all.
And how did it feel to hear that ‘Changing Patterns’ is the Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month for June?
I was thrilled – and awed. I’ve been diverted from writing as a full time job for years by life. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point. To receive this accolade; to know this august organisation has chosen Changing Patterns as the Book of the Month, is gratifying to say the least.
Thank you, Judith – and good luck with ‘Changing Patterns’! My copy has just arrived in my hot little hands. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since finishing ‘Pattern of Shadows’ – so excuse me while I put the kettle on and take the phone off the hook …..
You can learn more about Judith and follow her blog here: http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk/
You can also follow Judith on Facebook here
And on Twitter here
In May 1950, Britain is struggling with the hardships of rationing and the aftermath of the Second World War. Peter Schormann, a German ex-prisoner of war, has left his home country to be with Mary Howarth, matron of a small hospital in Wales. The two met when Mary was a nurse at the pow camp hospital. They intend to marry, but the memory of Frank Shuttleworth, an ex-boyfriend of Mary’s, continues to haunt them and there are many obstacles in the way of their happiness, not the least of which is Mary’s troubled family.
When tragedy strikes, Mary hopes it will unite her siblings, but it is only when a child disappears that the whole family pulls together to save one of their own from a common enemy.
Sequel to the acclaimed Pattern of Shadows:
“Judith Barrow has not written an ordinary romance but a book that deals with important issues which are still relevant today… an excellent debut novel and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading.”
Fenella Miller, Historical Novels Review
“Judith Barrow has written, with great intensity of emotions, an absorbing saga wich charges along, tempting the reader from chapter to chapter.”
Beryl Thomas, http://www.gwales.com
“Barrow beautifully evokes those raw and edgy days with this well-paced, gritty love story”
Steve Dube, Western Mail