Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Reading and Interview with Judith Barrow

Sally's Cafe and Bookstore

My guest today is author of the family saga that takes us from war torn Britain through to the 1960s following the story of Mary Howarth as she falls in love, marries and experiences drama and danger over the period of the series. I have read all three books and can highly recommend… I am looking forward to the prequel which is being released later in the year. Please welcome the lovely Judith Barrow who has been a great supporter and friend for the last four years.  She is looking forward to answering your questions and please leave them in the comments.

Firstly here is the official biography.

Although I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, for the last forty years I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place.

I’ve written all my life and have had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. But only started to seriously write novels after I’d had breast cancer twenty years ago. Four novels safely stashed away, never to see the light of day again, I had the first of my trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010, the sequel, Changing Patterns, in 2013 and the last, Living in the Shadows in 2015. The prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads will be published in August 2017. Hopefully then the family in this series will leave me alone to explore something else!

I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. I am also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong Learning Programme and give talks and run workshops on all genres.
Along with friend and fellow author, Thorne Moore, I also organise a book fair in September. This year we’ve changed venues. Here’s the link that tells all!! Narberth Book Fair

When I’m not writing or teaching, I’m doing research for my writing, walking the Pembrokeshire coastline or reading and reviewing books for Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT, along with some other brilliant authors and bloggers.

The Mary Howarth series by Judith Barrow

The latest review of for Pattern of Shadows.

Wonderful story! By Cathy Murray on 11 April 2017

Pattern of Shadows is a wonderful story set in the latter days of World War Two somewhere in the north of England. Mary Howarth is a nurse who is part of a medical team given the unenviable task of caring for sick and injured prisoners of war at the prison camp hospital. Mary starts a relationship with one of the guards at the camp, Frank Shuttleworth. The relationship proves difficult for Mary but Frank is persistent. Meanwhile, Mary’s home life is far from easy and she finds solace in her work.

As the novel evolves Mary’s life becomes increasingly fraught and complicated. To say more would be to give away an extremely well constructed plot which explores some challenging issues of the day. I’ve already read Silent Trauma by this author and know that Judith Barrow can write about difficult subjects with sensitivity and honesty. The writer displays that same talent again in this novel. The novel is well researched and the sense of time and place is established securely.

The author has created a group of characters who are very real and the dialogue and interactions between them are a strength of the writing. The romance element of the novel has a degree of predictability but when the concluding chapter is reached there is a sense of relief that what was anticipated has occurred. Pattern of Shadows is the first of a three part set which takes the story on further and it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens next.

Read all the reviews and buy the series

and Amazon US:

Also by Judith Barrow

One of the top reviews for the novel.

Judith Barrow wrote this book to bring attention to the trauma sufferered by the victims of the drug Diethylstilboestrol (DES), given to women between the years 1949 and 1971. It was prescribed to prevent miscarriage, but had a devastating effect on the daughters – and possibly the granddaughters – of the women who took it, meaning that they had miscarriages, too, cancers of the reproductive organs usually associated with older women, and other problems to do with that part of the body. Unlike with Thalidomide there has been very little publicity about it, and the women who campaigned for what they had been through and why to be recognised, faced many brick walls.

I think writing a novel about it is such a good way of letting people know about the ongoing tragedy; I would not read an article about it, but I read this. Silent Trauma follows the lives of four women affected by the drug, and the friendship that forms between them: Meg, whose daughter Lisa took her own life; Rachel, whose husband left her because of the change in their marriage due to her depression caused by several miscarriages; Avril, a recluse whose life was shattered by cancer in her teens; and Jackie, caught in a difficult and violent relationship with a woman, herself a product of a difficult upbringing.

Aside from the main purpose of the book, I enjoyed reading about the four women very much; it’s a well written, well planned story. The characterisation is terrific, and the situations so real. I’ve read Judith Barrow’s nostalgia orientated, warts and all family sagas set in the north of England during the 40s, 50s and 60s, but actually liked this more. I read it in one sitting. Speaking as one who has never had the urge to have children I cannot imagine how it must feel to want them so badly that you feel like less than a woman if you can’t reproduce, but all the emotions were painted so vividly that I felt everything the characters went through, and the situations were met with great understanding and sensitivity.

Jolly well done 🙂

Read the reviews and buy the book:

Read more reviews and follow Judith on Goodreads:

Now it is time to sit Judith down and find out more about her life and work.  Please leave your questions in the comment section of the post and Judith will respond over the next couple of days.

Welcome Judith and can you tell us about your chosen genre of books that you write and why?

I write family sagas mainly because the intricacies and varieties of families have always intrigued me. And also because there is so much scope when dealing with generics of families. I suppose they are also a cross genre with history because they are set in the past. My books have been described as gritty

What appeals to you about writing short stories?

I love writing short stories. I write both humorous short stories and dark tales. Getting the ‘feel’ of a story in so few words, compared to a ninety-five thousand-word novel, is a brilliant challenge. It’s like poetry; every word counts to create the plot, the characters, the setting, the ending.

What would you tell your 16-year-old self that might benefit them?

Ah, I would say, ‘have courage, believe in yourself. And leave home; make your own way in life.

Do you have a dream that is waiting to be fulfilled?

Yes, I do. Speaking as a member of my family, I would love for everyone, scattered far and wide through geography or temperament, to get together in harmony for one day and have a huge party.

Speaking as an author, and like many other authors, I would love for my trilogy to be filmed as a drama on television.

Judith has chosen two extracts from her upcoming prequel to the trilogy A Hundred Tiny Threads to share with us.

The first is set around Bill Howarth (the father of the protagonist in the trilogy, Mary Howarth and is part of the Prologue.

“The whistling in his ears faded. He listened to the silence as the seconds passed, measured by the laboured breath from his lungs. Slowly the sounds surrounded him; a hollow drip of water, faint groans, a shifting of props holding up the roof. And then a scream, a yell, echoing along the tunnel.

Despite the pain of the weight on his shoulders, pressing him into the ground, Bill Howarth knew he should stay still. He ran a gritty tongue around his dry mouth and swallowed, trying not to cough.

Squeezing his eyes tight against the dust, he then stretched them wide, staring in front of him. Nothing. Blackness.”

This second is from Winifred Duffy’s point of view (Mary Howarth’s mother)
“Before she could turn away he stopped her, still holding her hand. ‘So? So, I hear ya joining the Suffragette. Honora, thought ya ma had stopped ya.’

‘Winifred lifted her head, her face flushed with embarrassment. ‘I’m a grown woman. I can do as I please.’

‘Well I’m glad to hear that. And you’ll put yourself forward as a speaker at one of their meetings?’

‘I will.’ Winifred spoke without hesitation. ‘I’ve not done anything like that before but I’ll try. The thought terrified her but, after today, she was determined.

‘Will ya with us come to the next protest march?’

‘You go?’ Winifred felt her jaw slackens in surprise.

‘It’s not just women who think ya should have the vote, ya know. There’s some of us men believe we’re all equal.’ His mouth formed a tight line. ‘Believe all men are equal an’ all.’

Winifred recognised the frustration in him. Didn’t she feel it often enough herself? It must be just as bad, maybe worse to be a man who felt himself seen as lower than other men.
She’d barely acknowledged to herself the way he made her feel by his close presence; her stomach tied in knots. How she stopped herself from gazing at his handsome face, even from touching him, she didn’t know. She knew it was wrong to feel like that; it was sinful. But now she surprised herself; she realised that, in seeing a different side to him, as well as all those feelings, she actually liked Honora’s brother.

‘So?’ he said, ‘Ya will be there?’

She surprised herself by her forwardness when she squeezed his fingers and smiled art him.

‘Yes, she answered. ‘Yes, I will.’


What originally inspired you to write your series and particularly to set the first book in World War II?

Pattern of Shadows was inspired by Glen Mill, a disused cotton mill that became the first German POW camp in Britain which brought back a personal memory of my childhood. My mother was a winder in a cotton mill. 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 maneuvering trolleys carrying rolls of material. I remember the women singing and shouting above the noise, of them 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 sounded, announcing the end of the shift.

When I thought of Glen Mill as a POW camp 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.

I actually didn’t intend to write a trilogy but this family wouldn’t leave me alone; the characters insisted on continuing their stories. So Changing Patterns, set in 1950/51 is the sequel. Then, a generation later, in 1969, Living in the Shadows reveals the consequences of the last generation on their grown up children.

And , still insisting on being heard, the first generation of the Howarth Clan clamoured for words on paper. So I wrote the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, which is to be published by in August this year, 2017.

What are the key elements to consider when writing an evolving family drama over multiple books?

Well… definitely a family Tree complete with dates of birth for everyone, marriages, divorces and deaths.

Who had relationships with whom.

Making notes of what happened to whom and the repercussions and results of those events.

How characters evolve as they grow older as people do in real life.

All this besides keeping to the correct era of each book; the ever-changing background of society, politics, World news, fashions in all things, all means of transport and technology. In other words lots and lots of research

Can you tell us about the Book Fair that you are organising on 23rd September 2017 and how we can get involved?

I can. I started the book fair as part of the Tenby Arts Festival six years ago. It grew in success with many authors taking part. Initially Alex Martin, an Indie writer and Thorne Moore, a friend and fellow Honno author joined me after the first couple of years to help with the event. Alex, unfortunately, has had to drop out but we have a small group of volunteers now.

This year we had so many authors applying for spaces we decided that we needed a larger venue. We were lucky to obtain the Queens Hall in Narberth, a nearby town, renowned for its arts platform. We have around forty authors attending of all genres.

We will be having book talks, workshops and activities for children, writing workshops for adults, panels of authors of various genres for people to join in with, a book trail around Narberth shops, and various competitions.

What has really pleased me is that various authors who attended our original book fairs have taken up the challenge and organised book fairs in their own areas. Could I mention John and Sarada Thompson who had their first book fair in Carmarthen last year, as did Colin R Parsons who organised the Rhondda book fair? And also Christoph Fischer, who actually ran his first two book fairs last year and with the help of a voluntary committee, bravely organised an Arts Festival in Llandeilo. So much going on in Wales!

May I also give a mention to the people who run the Queens Hall in Narberth? Their support and help has been outstanding for this, our first year with them. We hope to be holding our book fair there for many years to come.  Here are some links for those of you who would be interested in visiting the fair.

Link to Narberth Book Fair:
Link to the Queens Hall:

My thanks to Judith for sharing all her news with us and you can connect with her on these links.

Facebook :

Thank you for dropping by and don’t forget those questions for Judith…thanks Sally

91 thoughts on “Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Reading and Interview with Judith Barrow

  1. Pingback: Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Reading and Interview with Judith Barrow | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. Pingback: Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Reading and Interview with Judith Barrow | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  3. Pingback: Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Reading and Interview with Judith Barrow | Judith Barrow

  4. You bring back a lot of memories, Judith. Though mine are of the woollen mills, the sounds and smells must have been much the same. It was not an easy life in the mills, was it, even in our childhood, but there was a sense of cameraderie and a readiness to ‘muck in’, that seems lacking these days. x

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for dropping by, Sue. And, yes, perhaps you’re right; we all seem to be more isolated these days, even when out. Think it’s those darn mobiles; the number of times I see families having an outing with them all tapping away on their ‘phones.But then I think of my mum and dad and their working long days in the mills… I was left much to my own devices.And this last week in Manchester I see how everyone came together and I have hope. x

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mobiles are wonderful things, when kept in their proper place…which, all too often, they are not. My gandmother and great granny were mill lasses, going right back to the 1890s. Even listening to their tales you could see how life had changed and, in so many ways, eased. I don’t think human nature has changed all that much, just the way society isolates us…until, as you say, something happens to bring us together. I just wish it was not so often tragedy that did so.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Lovely to see Judith here today, Sally! And Judith, your book covers are divine! I can’t wait to read all of them! Good luck with your newest! What a lovely saga your have going! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  6. So much to appreciate that you have contributed to this world of writing, Judith! ❤ You write of life here on this earth, with mastery. Do you believe there is intelligent life in other parts of the Universe? If so, do you believe there is, has been or will be contact for you?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for being so kind and for such an interesting question, Annette. I’ve always thought there has to be more than us in this Universe. But more than that I think there is more on this Earth than we can see. or understand. I was part of a craft and well-being fair last year and there was a spiritualist there. She called me over and said she had someone who needed to speak to me but that I shouldn’t speak- just listen to what she said. She talked about my mother’s father who died when I was only five but knew quite a bit about through my mum. I have to say it was uncanny – I wasn’t brought up in Wales and didn’t know this woman but what she said was true. She said my granddad was sending huge sigh’s of relief because he’d been trying to get through to me for years. At the time I was going through some problems and the sense of contentment I felt after that was brilliant. Some would be sceptical but it was very strange ad, as I say, I think there has to be more than this world we inhabit… at this difficult time of so much trouble, I hope so. J xxx

      Liked by 2 people

  7. A wonderful interview. I love family sagas and am impressed with the amount of research you would have had to do to write these stories from different eras. Can you tell me how you do your research? I have put your books on my TBR list, Judith.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A lovely post about Judith and her books, Sally. The book Silent Trauma really caught my interest. My sister is struggling to fall pregnant and I have watched and sympathised with a number of friends and acquaintances as they go through the struggle of fertility treatment to fall pregnant. The subsequent pregnancies often seem to be fraught with difficulties. I wonder, Judith, how you came to find out about this drug. I have never heard of it at all. Did you know someone who used it or did you come across it by chance?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Robbie. I became involved with the UK branch of DES a long time ago because a relative of mine had been affected by the drug. At the time they had a newsletter and they asked me to write an article in it. They then asked if I could write a story that people not affected by the drug would read. That turned into the book Silent Trauma. It involved a lot of research and, of course, sensitive talk/ communications with the mothers and daughters that Diethylstilboestrol had damaged. I was given permission by many to quote them at the beginning of each chapter. Because I was aware how important it was to get everything right and not to upset anyone, before I published the book I sent copies to the USA branch (the UK charity had folded through lack of funds) to ask if they were ok with what I had written. They were pleased with it and happy for me to publish it. My publisher wouldn’t touch it because they thought they might be sued by the pharmaceutical companies so we put our house in my husband’s name and I Indie published it (I worked on the premise that if they tried to sue they would be accepting culpability and so all the women affected would be able to sue them). Many have been successful in the USA but only one in the UK got close to suing and they settled out of court on the understanding she didn’t go public. We’ve written to the Secretary of Health in successive Governments here but all they say is that it’s a historic problem and it wouldn’t be right to resurrect it. Jx

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for your response, Judith. You absolutely did the right thing in publishing this book. At the very least, people can learn from the mistakes made in the past. I am definitely going to read this.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Wonderful interview, Sally and Judith. Congrats on the great reviews, Judith. I liked learning about how you came up with the idea of Pattern of Shadows. I think “places” carry memories and we often can’t help but tune into them. Your description of building family trees and defining relationships sounds fascinating and fun (my writer’s brain kicks in and goes “ooooh.”) Happy Writing!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Great interview and, having enjoyed the trilogy, I’m delighted to know the prequel will soon be out. I’m looking forward to it.
    Judith, are you likely to write anything else like Silent Trauma to highlight DES? Do you know if any other authors have written about it? Are people still battling or have the drug companies won?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Mary. I was so pleased that you enjoyed the trilogy so I’m hoping the prequel doesn’t disappoint. I don’t know that I will write any more about DES; I found it so stressful and draining because, even though the story is fiction, I knew I was dealing with the lives of so many real women who were/ are living with the damage this drug caused. There is one brilliant book called From Anger to Action written by the founder of DES, Pat Cody. She died around five years ago and was involved for many years. People are still battling in the USA and succeeding. And now there are court cases with the mothers who took the drug because a lot of them have contracted breast cancer and are managing to make cases. Unlike in this country where the Government has refused to have any more correspondence about it – and, unfortunately, the charity here has folded long ago

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry – but not surprised – the government here has refused any more correspondence about it. It must be so hard and soul destroying to keep battling on and getting nowhere. I’m glad to hear things are moving more positively in America.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful interview, Sally and Judith. I especially enjoyed learning why you write family sagas, Judith. Since you love writing short stories, have you considered writing a children’s ‘family saga’ book? ♥♥

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I enjoyed this lively and interesting interview immensely. great extracts- I thought you captured the dialect really well and Silent Trauma looks like a deeply moving book. The whole thing was a great read.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Paul. If you mean the Northern accent then it wasn’t too difficult; I’m afraid it’s the way I speak normally. If you mean the Irish, then it’s thanks to my grandparents. But your comment means so much to me; I try to be as authentic as possible with the characters and the settings. Silent Trauma was difficult to write because I knew I had to be honest but sensitive to the mothers and daughters affected by the drug/x

      Liked by 2 people

      • Beautifully and sensitively put Judith.
        I know this sounds weird but I couldn’t consciously tell the accent because it was so seamless I wasn’t really reading their words… it was like spoken dialogue unrolling in my head. There was no point where I stepped out of the narrative to think that is a good northern accent or that is a good Irish accent… like when watching television, you don’t think that person has an accent.. the accent is simply part of the character within the narrative you are immersed in.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Short Story Fest, Stevie Wonder, Lord Byron and a cast of thousands | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  14. Loved your interview and all the comments. Your books are on my TBR! My mother was a college coed during WWII and it was one of the major events of her life. She told me many stories about the times (we’re in America) I would love to come to your party but Don’t’ you think parties are more fun when there is a bit of disharmony? A bit of spice and excitement and eye rolling and rib punching and heavy sighs? I will supply the embarrassing moments! All the best to you

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you, Jena. I thought for a moment you’d actually been to one of our family parties in the past! Haha! It’s kind of you to drop by. I wondered if you’ve thought to write your mother’s stories down? It’s an era that fascinated me for so many reasons; the adaptability of people, the humour, the courage, the stoicism. I do hope you enjoy my trilogy when you have the time and they rise to the top of your TBR pile. Judith xx

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, so fantastic to see Judith here today Sal. I’ve read the first in that series and have the others in the series awaiting my eyes. I promise I’ll get there eventually Judith. ❤ And I loved your advice from a 16 year old. My sentiments exactly. Now I do have a question. I've noticed several authors writing prequels to their book series, some well after their books have been published. My thinking used to be a prequel comes before the books. What made you decide to write a prequel after the series was published? Is it mostly to give the series a boost? Thanks Judith. ❤ xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Debby, how lovely of you to take the time to comment. Whenever you find the time to read my books I’ll be honoured; I know how time-stretched you are. Ah … the prequel…. well this family wouldn’t leave me alone! They mostly wanted me to know why Bill, Mary’s father, was/is the man he is. I’ve tried to explain that.And why Mary’s mother, Winifred, despite everything , loves him. I followed my heart. I’m afraid I’m not very commercial minded – which is probably why I’ll never make a living out of writing. LOL. much love. Judith xxx

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lol Judith, I love your honesty. Thank you for replying. And of course I’m adding the new book as now I’m hooked on the characters and do indeed want to learn what made Bill such a louse and Winifred so adamant to stick around! Congrats on the book my friend. ❤ xo

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore Update – John Fioravanti and Judith Barrow | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  18. Lovely to see the lovely Judith here today, Sally. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Judith a few times. We had a ball when we were sharing a table at the Llandeilo Christmas book fair. Judith’s humour is second to none and she’s one of the nicest people you could ever meet.
    Here’s my question for you, Judith. When your trilogy gets filmed for the BBC (Note to Producers –
    because it needs to be!) who would you like to play the main characters, and where would you like filming to take place?

    Hugs to you both.

    Liked by 1 person

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.