Motivations behind my work
I’m prompted to begin a work of fiction by my interest in social trends, attitudes and relationships. I take a situation and develop it along the lines of “What would happen if …” The idea that sparked my first novel Jam Today (published by Michael Joseph in 1968) was my experience of being taken out by various young men and given good meals on the understanding – theirs, not mine – that I’d repay them by letting them into my single bed. I wanted to be liked for my mind not my body. We were brought up to make life easier for others, especially for the men. Years later, I created a heroine, Louisa, who rebelled at this arrangement. The lurid book jacket which one of the editions sported made me hope that my parents would never come across it.
My second novel Moses was based on my working life as a copywriter at McCann Ericksson Advertising Limited in Fetter Lane, London. Peter and I met there. He was in the design department at the end of the corridor. I liked his floppy fair hair and even floppier sweater. Yes, it was blue. (I put in that to make those who know Peter smile). The other day he re-read Moses and found it as funny as he did the first time. I love hearing people laugh at something I’ve said or done. Hence, my cartoons.
Some extracts from reviews
Moses: “One of the wittiest novels I have read recently …” Derek Stanford, The Scotsman.
Noah’s Ark: “Ms Barrett has produced a delightful comedy of manners, astringent enough not to be coy and thoughtful enough not to be frivolous.” Francis King, Sunday Telegraph
Private View: “Highly professional and enjoyable.” Times Literary Supplement
Rubbish: “Ms Barrett is that rare bird – a good, modern, English comic novelist.” Liverpool Daily Post
I grew more serious after that. “The Beacon” was my sixth novel. It must have had some reviews but I’ve lost them. Next came Stephen and Violet –
“An appealing, moving book (which) I read with real pleasure.” Mary Wesley
“A psychological itinerary movingly traced with great insight and skill.” Patrick Leigh Fermor.
(I treasure that last comment).
In the mid 1980s Peter and I worked together on producing a book about the place, flora, fauna and generally life in Greece. “Travels with a Wildlife Artist – The Living Landscape of Greece” was published by Harrap-Columbus in 1986 and reviewed by Gerald Durrell:
“The sort of book you wish you had written yourself.”
(Another comment to treasure).
To continue describing my career:
I entirely lost interest in writing novels at the time of our Greek book and decided to train in the Montessori method of education and then in counselling and psychotherapy. I wanted to meet, and maybe help, real people instead of writing about them. I still practise as a counsellor. My appetite for writing returned with a novel called “Making a Difference”. This used my experience of spending a short time in Kosovo with John Demos, a photographer friend. I was writing it when I decided to take an MA course in creative writing at Bath Spa University. Was that a bad mistake? My aim was to learn how people write nowadays and try to imbibe “a younger style”. Was that like dying your hair when the face beneath the hair belies the colour? At least I have two very good writing friends – Clare Reddaway and Vanessa Kenyon – as a result of being in the same tutor group with excellent Nicola Davies.
Since then, I’ve written two more novels. The first of these – Take Care, Dear! – again didn’t find a publisher. It was a return to my ‘make-people-laugh-as well as-think’ style of my early novels. By then I’d realised how publishing had changed. So I spent hundreds of knotted-brow hours creating an ebook publishing website for other fiction writers who had either fallen off their perches like me or had failed to place their first novel. I enjoyed, in a miserable way, creating the website, WritersReadersDirect. I virtually-met a number of writers and made some lasting friends. The site was taken over by Magus Digital and is no longer operational.
Recently I discovered Createspace, which is a wonderful way for writers to get work available in paperback and on Kindle. White Lies, published 31.8.16, has adoption as a theme. Take Care, Dear! is following the same path, with a new title: A Home from Home. The third book I’ve produced recently is Alive in World War Two, a present day chronicle and memoir of the Second World War woven around family newsletters written at the time.
Details on ‘Novels and reviews’ page.