I’m very pleased to be joined by Freya Barrington today as she answers my Author in the Spotlight questions. Freya has written two books with a third due out later this year. You can buy Known to Social services by clicking here and Gozo Is The Grass Greener by clicking here
First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?
Hi Joanne, thank you for inviting me to be your author in the spotlight, I am delighted to take part.
I grew up in the North of England and had a happy but fairly uneventful childhood. I think my mother despaired of me as I was a animal mad tomboy, who preferred being up a tree to being ladylike! I attended a girl’s grammar school, where it must be said, my behaviour was less than exemplary, though I did manage to gain a few respectable exams, before leaving at the age of 16 to work with horses in a national hunt racing yard. I continued along this path, taking many British Horse Society exams and eventually running my own equestrian yard.
I had a shift of career in my 30’s when I decided to pursue a career as a social worker. I attended the University of Derby, qualifying as a social worker in 2001 with an award for excellence in practice – my old teacher’s would not have believed it! I worked for many years as a child protection social worker before giving up work full time in order to write.
I currently live in Brittany, France with my husband Steve and our rescue dog Merlin in a one hundred year old house, which we are in the process of renovating. Prior to this we lived on the lovely island of Gozo in Malta for five years.
When I’m not plastering or painting I love to cook, go for long walks with Merlin, spend time with friends and family, read, listen to music, eat pain au chocolate from our local boulangerie – oh and I sing!
What inspired you to start writing?
One of my earliest memories as a child was rushing to the newsagents with my pocket money and buying a new book (usually Enid Blyton). I would then go home, wrap myself up in my duvet and devour it in one go. There is no doubt that reading books was my earliest inspiration, though I never imagined I would be a published author.
I have always enjoyed expressing myself through the medium of writing. I worked for a while with children who had emotional and behavioural difficulties and was inspired to write some poetry in that regard. I progressed to more serious writing when working as a child protection social worker. Social Work is often portrayed in a very negative light in the media, and I was motivated by the desire to raise the profile for social workers and highlight the very demanding, complex and often dangerous work they do on a daily basis. I often came home from a challenging day at work and said to my husband, “I could write a book”. One day he simply asked, “Why don’t you”? and so began my writing career.
Tell me about your journey to publication
Like many new authors, I found it almost impossible to gain a foothold in the highly competitive arena of writing. I received several offers quite quickly, but they were “Vanity Contracts” where I was expected to pay thousands of pounds up front to the publishers. I declined these as I felt the book had merit and would eventually be picked up by a reputable publisher. I had agreed with my husband that I would try for a year to find a publisher, and after that I would go down the road of self-publishing. By chance, I was speaking to a friend in Gozo who is a children’s author. They told me about their publisher – Faraxa Publishing – a Maltese based publisher with a presence in the USA and Europe. I sent my submission to Faraxa and it was accepted. I recall getting the email of acceptance – I sat rooted to the spot for many minutes, unable to take in the fact that I had finally been offered the chance of seeing my work in print. It was a very special moment and I am grateful to Faraxa for the opportunity. They have been highly supportive and pro-active.
To date, I have written 3 books. He first titled Known to Social Services about the life of a social worker, was a winner at the 2015 London Book Festival and received an Honourable Mention at the 2016 Paris Book Festival. The second book titled, Gozo Is the Grass Greener? About our lives in Gozo, received an Honourable Mention at the 2015 London Book Festival and won its section at the 2016 Paris Book Festival. My third book is due out soon.
I think my most difficult task was coming up with the pen name Freya Barrington!
In a nutshell, what are your books about?
Known to Social Services was my debut work. It is a fictionalised and gripping narrative detailing the life of a social worker, based on my own experiences in that profession. The central character is a social worker called Diane Foster. The book follows Diane as she goes about her day to day life as a social worker and shows the almost impossible task she is up against in trying to protect the most vulnerable children in our society. Using themes common to social work, such as child abuse, domestic violence, paedophile rings, neglect and much more, readers will gain a frighteningly realistic insight of what the work of a social worker is really about. The book charts Diane’s battle with red tape and bureaucracy as well as the struggles she has in her personal life as she tries to juggle work and home. The book culminates in a tragic event, which sees Diane brought to the brink of despair.
Known to Social Services has been the number one social work book on Amazon UK several times and is on the reading list of many UK Universities.
My second book Gozo Is the Grass Greener? is an account of our move from the UK to Gozo – ideal summer reading!
How did you come up with the title for your books?
The title was obvious. Each time there is a child death or tragedy, the media seem to delight in headlines, which announce, “The child was known to social services”. This then feeds into the generally accepted and wholly unreasonable notion that individual social workers and not the child’s parents or carers are responsible for harming the child.
I named the Gozo book “Is the Grass Greener?” to ask the rhetorical question in relation to moving to another country, and also to new relationships as Steve and I have both been married before.
How did you celebrate publication day?
Oh it was champagne all the way!
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yes, I have just finished the sequel to Known to Social Services; a novel titled Caught in Traffick. Set in Thailand, the book is about the harrowing underworld of child trafficking. It is due for release later this year, 2016. It follows 2 main families, one from the UK and one from Paris, both of whom have children abducted in Thailand. There are other stories running alongside, but the plight of these 2 children and the fight to find them and overthrown the gang of traffickers is the main storyline.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
Can I count the Game of Thrones series as one?
Plus I have loved The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman. I’m afraid I’m a sucker for anything to do with The War of the Roses or the Tudors.
My all time favourite “laugh out loud” book is The Tent The Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy. I was reading it on the plane and had to put it away as people were turning to stare at me as I was laughing so much.
What are you reading just now? (May 2016)
I usually have more than one book on the go. Currently, I am reading The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb and Help for Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde – as our rescue dog Merlin is highly anxious and some guidance was needed!
Tell me about your reading habits: book or kindle, bed or bath, morning or evening?
Definitely Kindle; I used to travel a lot in my capacity as a social worker and the Kindle was just so convenient when travelling. I tend to read in bed at night, if I can stay awake!
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I love to hear from my readers
I have my own website www.freyabarrington.com
I have an author Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/FreyaBarrington/
Find me on Twitter; @freyabarrington
I also write several blogs, which can be accessed via my website. I also have a brand new blog about our life here in Brittany; www.breakfastinbrittany.blogspot.com
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Hmm, that’s a tricky one. I think I would be Ruby Lennox from Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. Born to a neurotic mother and disinterested father, Ruby’s journey through life is both hilarious and tragic. When she discovers the secret her mother has been keeping from her for years, she begins a new journey of discovery and finally finds happiness. One of my all time favourite books, which I read again and again.