The Writing Life of: Judith Crow
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Judith Crow, who will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her new book ‘Honour’s Rest‘, which was released on 11th October 2021, and answering a few fun questions. This post contains affiliate links.
Judith Crow was born in Orkney, grew up in Lincolnshire and now lives in the far north of Scotland. Her work draws inspiration from folklore, experience and the natural world.
The Backwater, Judith’s debut book, was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2019, and her most recent novel, Honour’s Rest, was a finalist in the Eyelands Book Award.
When she isn’t writing, Judith is a teacher at a primary school in Caithness. She sometimes finds that writing gets usurped by crafting, music, and being a generally doting spaniel owner.
1) Did you enjoy writing when you were a child?
Yes – I’ve always loved writing. When I was about six, my parents got a word processor and I wrote three novels on it. Well, I say novels… one of them was about three pages long and the other two maybe made it to two pages! I still have one of them, a Viking saga which includes such wonderful quotes as “I used to be a warrior but now I am a busy man” and “you are strong but not in wisdom” – classic!
2) Which author shaped your childhood?
Thinking of one author is very tricky. I think really it was the Ladybird Children’s Classics which had the most defining impact on me. I fell in love with so many stories that way, and then proceeded to explore the original versions to find out whether I still enjoyed them!
3) What motivated you to begin your first novel?
Almost all my family love to write, so I wanted to explore that too. My first full-length novel was a high fantasy epic which I started as a ten/eleven year-old. It’s not great, but it gave me a huge sense of achievement. The first novel I completed as an adult was Honour’s Rest, which was published by Crowvus in 2021. I wrote it in two months in Spring 2016.
4) Do you plot your book, or are you a pantser?
I love to plot! I always have an exercise book for every story. I start by working out how long I intend the book to be, then I write a little synopsis, then do character profiles, and finally I do a thorough chapter-by-chapter plan. I also get little snippets of the books (usually speech) in my head and then use the exercise book to jot down those ideas.
5) What is your average writing day?
My writing week is Wednesday-Sunday because I teach on Mondays and Tuesdays. The best works-in-progress are the ones which you think about the moment you wake up, so I’m probably already mulling it over by the time I go downstairs for breakfast! I have songs which I associate with certain stories and characters, so I’ll put those on to get me in the right frame of mind, then I sit down and just go for it! Usually, I’ll get distracted by reading online about people or places which come into my stories.
6) What is the best thing about being an author?
Losing myself in other worlds. During the past couple of years, I’ve started dabbling in historical fantasy too, so I love thinking about how I look at the same sun. Moon and stars as the people I research and write about.
The Rite Way Book One
Publisher – Crowvus Choughs
Pages – 281
Release Date – 11th October 2021
ISBN 13 – 978-1913182311
Format – ebook, Paperback
“So, it’s – what – like magic?”
No, according to Pen’s uncle, the Rite is not magic at all. But, if it’s not magic, then how could Pen push the school bully into a pond while he was really studying alone in the library?
When Pen’s family realise he has the Rite, he is sent to live with his Uncle Napier, who can help him control his ability.
But Napier has other duties. He is the Rendelf, in charge of the Rite in the UK, and he has gathered many enemies over the years…
…enemies who would be delighted to use Pen against him.
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7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
There wasn’t really a lot of research involved to begin with. I was writing from observation and experience, so I just got it all down as quickly as I could. I enjoyed researching different myths and legends and then tweaking them slightly to form the backstory for a couple of my characters. I also did a lot of research on poisons, so I did that author thing of spending a while being very worried that the police might be after me!
8) How long did it take to go from the ideas stage to writing the last word?
Not long at all! I came up with the idea for the story late in March 2016, and the final word was written on 18th May 2016 (I know because I email each chapter to myself as soon as it’s complete – I’ve learnt that’s the best way to avoid losing work!)
9) What made you choose the genre you write in?
Magical Realism is a great genre because, for the most part, you’re writing about people just like yourself and the ones you meet. Then you can change one tiny little – almost believable – thing and send them on weird and wonderful adventures! I love that I really feel like I could meet my characters, because they exist in the same world as me.
10) How did you come up with the name(s) for your lead character(s)?
My main character is called Pen because I wanted to name him after King Arthur and “Arthur” just seemed too normal. Naming him “Pendragon” didn’t just add to his own character, it told me who his parents were too, and the relationship between his dad and his uncle. There’s a big backstory in my head about why he’s called Pendragon too, but it’s just a name which fits him perfectly (even if he hates it).
I wrote a guest blog all about my different character names, which you can read here: https://laurasbooksandblogs.com/lots-in-a-name
11) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
They all love each other a great deal but, in typically British fashion, sometimes struggle to demonstrate that love. Even the “baddie” in Honour’s Rest was once loved by two of the other characters.
Read it while listening to “Too Much Love Will Kill You” and it may enhance the experience!
12) How did you feel when you had completed your book?
I immediately got going on Book Two (which will be released in October this year) and completed that in the space of about four months. After that, I started Book Three, but that was much harder to complete and took me about four years! Once that was finished, I felt very bereft! To combat those emotions, I wrote a sort-of-sequel as a short story and that was published in the Spring 2021 edition of Paperbound Magazine.
1) Do you have a favourite quote?
When I was at college, I was obsessed with The Beatles, and I discovered that John Lennon once said (or sung), “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I claimed it as my favourite quote and it’s still one I love. In fact, I think it makes more sense the older you get.
2) Do you have any pets?
Yes! I have two beautiful spaniels! We got Orlando (the white and brown one) when he was 7½ weeks old in 2013. He became a big brother to Jess on 5th March 2022. Jess is nearly four, but she behaves like a puppy and Orlando is still acclimatising to having her in his family. You can already see that they’re getting more and more used to one another.
3) What are you currently reading?
I try to support other writers by reading and reviewing books, so the next one of those I have coming up is Honey Harvest by Elissa Kerr. It’s a great way of finding new books and also for paying back into the Writing Community.
I also like to have something by a member of my family and, at the moment, I am reading Red Rose – a first draft of a novel by my sister, Clemency.
Other than those, I’m promising myself a re-read of Dracula at some point and I’m always dipping in and out of different non-fiction – especially anything about graveyards!
4) Your book has been made into a movie, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what will you be doing?
I’d be on a train. Pen is always watching people when he’s travelling – just like I do! I’d be one of those people who looks very normal but has a wonderful backstory which is just hidden from sight.
5) If you could travel to a fictional world from any book for the day, which would you choose?
Dianna Wynne Jones’s world of Chrestomanci. One of the most fabulous series of books – not one of them disappoints, even The Pinhoe Egg which was written so long after the others. That is a world I could commit to losing myself in!
6) There’s a penguin sitting in your chair, what’s the first thing he says to you?
Probably “why am I missing a wing?” Orlando has two toy penguins and has chewed a wing off each of them! He might go on to question why my laptop is so small when I use it primarily for typing. Good question, Penguin – I just didn’t read the specs when I ordered it!!
A big thank you to Judith Crow for sharing her writing life with us and a wonderful interview.