Is that your real name?
I’m often asked, ‘Is Julia Jarman your real name?’
When I was born, a very big baby, I lay without a Christian name for three whole weeks.
My parents were so convinced I was going to be a boy – who they were going to call William – that they hadn’t even thought of a girl’s name.
Eventually I was named Julia after a character in a book my mum was reading. I wish I knew which book but my mum couldn’t remember.
When I started writing I wondered whether to use my maiden name, which was Julia Hudspeth, but decided to use my married name, Julia Jarman, because I like alliteration.
When were you born?
I was born on the 28th March 1946, just after The Second World War had ended.
My parents called me their peace-baby.
I am peace-loving and I try to be peaceful, though my star sign says I’m fiery Aries, a ram who’s always bumping into things. Don’t think I believe in astrology but I am rather clumsy.
Where do you live?
I live in a village north of Bedford, about sixty miles north of London, England. I bought my house because it was next door to a farm with pigs on it. I wanted my children to have a rural childhood – and I like pigs. They’re intelligent and friendly and much cleaner than most people think.
When the farm was sold to a builder, who destroyed it and built an enormous house on the land, I was upset and wrote a book called THE GHOST OF TANTONY PIG. It’s about a phantom pig who haunts the new house, but I really like the people who live there now.
Who do you live with?
For forty years I lived with Peter, my husband, who sadly died fourteen years ago, and our three children till they all grew up and left home.
Peter was my complete opposite but our different talents complemented each other and our marriage worked well. I’m fascinated by people. Peter loved machines of all kinds – his traction engine, his miniature steam locomotive, his Morgan sports car, his computer and mine. When it went wrong he could usually put it right. The photo here shows me driving his loco.
I live alone now, except for Penny my cat, but my grown-up children and my five grandchildren, who have inspired books like Big Red Bath and Kisses are Yuk, visit often and keep me up to date. They say my books are good but my roast dinners are excellent.
Fortunately, my son Sam is good with computers, just like his dad, and he visits me a lot. He has created this website and helps me keep it up to date.
Do You Have Any Pets?
I had been without a feline companion since the lovely Perdita died three summers ago. I didn’t think I’d ever find another cat with her sweet nature. But friends were more optimistic. I got a phone call. A home was needed urgently for Penny whose companion Ethel had sadly died. Would I go and meet her?
It was love at first sight. Within minutes Penny was on my knee purring. She didn’t much like the car ride back to mine, but as you can see she quickly made herself at home.
I like dogs too. I walk Teddy, a friend’s poodle every weekday, and I sometimes look after Daisy, my son’s Cocker Spaniel. She comes to stay with me when Sam is away working. Penny tolerates her.
Have You Written Any Series?
Yes! About a Time Travelling Cat!
This is a picture of me – a while ago! – with Oscar, also known as Mr Grey who inspired the series.
His real life exploits – he used to keep disappearing – made me think, ‘Where does he go?’ But Ka the cat in my stories is a composite of three cats who have owned me, Mr Grey, Mrs Ginger Bits and Ms Mitten. Ka has the best qualities of the three of them, and their colouring mixed together. I decided to make her female as Topher who finds her is a boy.
You can read about their Egyptian adventures in “The Time Travelling Cat and the Egyptian Goddess”, which is read a lot in schools. I get lots of letters from children saying how much they enjoy it and go on to the read the rest of the series,
Their second journey takes them to Elizabethan England, their third to Roman Britain. Their fourth to the time of the Aztecs and the fifth to Anglo-Saxon England when it was terrorised by Vikings. The sixth to Victorian times.
What do you like?
Pigs and plays- I love the theatre – cats and computers, food, books, wine and gardening. My garden is in the picture at the top of the page. The flower garden is semi-wild with lots of wild life. My vegetable beds are tidier.
I love growing food and cooking and eating it! I especially like trying out new recipes.
What did you like best as a child?
Reading – anywhere that I could find peace and quiet. I was the youngest of three children. We lived in a small house and I liked to find a secret place where no one would disturb me, up a tree or in the churchyard – or on the loo!
I loved going to the library – to find more books, sometimes twice a day, despite a ferocious librarian who used to turn me away because I went too often. Librarians are kinder now and much more fun! The grumpy librarian said I couldn’t take books out in the morning and return them in the afternoon, because I couldn’t read them so quickly. But I could and did!
I also adored staying with my Grandma, a brill cook, and being spoiled.
What did you hate most?
Washing up and tidying my bedroom. Boring!
What was your favourite book?
What was your favourite book when you were a child?
There were three at least. Ned the Lonely Donkey – a Ladybird book by Noel Barr.
Little Women (and all the sequels) by Louisa M Alcott. I became a writer because I wanted to be like Jo March in all these books. Jo March became a writer.
Bows Against the Barons – a brilliant book by Geoffrey Trease.
It’s about a boy who joins Robin Hood’s band of not-always merry men. I loved all Robin Hood stories. Fighting for a fairer world. He’s one of my heroes.
How did you become a writer?
First of all by reading and identifying with Jo March.
That sowed the seed of wanting to be a writer, and feeling I was one. But, like Jo again, I became a teacher first – after studying English and Drama at Manchester University, in my case.
Then I got married and had children. One day I told my daughter, Josie about something very naughty I’d done as a child and she said, “That’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever said in your whole life. You should write that down. You’ve always said you wanted to be a writer really.”
So I did – in WHEN POPPY RAN AWAY.
Through writing it I discovered my Writing Recipe.
Mix together Real Life and What If?
What Advice Would You Give to Aspiring Writers?
Read read read
Write write write
Spend some time doing nothing at all every day.
If you would like to know more, see Stephanie Nettell’s author profile, Authorgraph 147 at Books for Keeps.
If you would like to cook up a story, why not try the Writing Recipe?