Michael Barrington, an international author from Manchester, England, spent his teen age years at a boarding school in the Lake District. After joining a French Order of Catholic Missionary priests, he spent ten years in West Africa, several of them during a civil war when he was stood up to be shot. He lived for a year as a hermit in Northern Ireland. After teaching in Madrid, Spain, he spent four years in Puerto Rico as Director of an international student program for Latin America. He now lives near San Francisco, is completely fluent in several languages, is an avid golfer, and academically considers himself to be over-engineered with three Masters’ Degrees and a Ph.D. On his bucket list is to pilot a helicopter, become fluent in Arabic, and spend a week’s retreat at Tamanrasset in the Sahara-desert.
He has always been a writer and professionally published articles on philosophy and theology in probably long since defunct and dusty magazines. His first book, The Bishop Wears No Drawers (2016), is a memoir of his time spent in Africa. He has written four novels. His most recent book, The Baron of Bengal Street, will be published on Jan 30th. He is currently working on a fifth novel set in France and in his favored genre of historical fiction. He has published numerous articles/short stories in the US and UK, of both fiction and non-fiction. He is a feature writer for the Mt Diablo Gazette.
As a Board Member of the California Writers Club Mt Diablo Branch, he facilitates a Writers Connection group where writers can simply socialize and ‘shoot the breeze’ for a couple of hours each month.
Michael is married to a beautiful French lady, Annie Jacquemet, who after a successful career as a psychotherapist is an accomplished painter in oils and designs the covers of his books. They live with their rescued and spoiled Tibetan terrier Cezanne.
- Why do you write?
Because I have to! I have so many ideas and characters in my head just fighting to get out. My problem is lack of time. It also gives me great pleasure. My very first full length book was an autobiography. It has never seen the light of day. My wife and I went to Aruba for a vacation, and on the spur of the moment I decided to write. Having no materials, I went to a local beach store and bought six children’s notebooks and several ball point pens. Eight months later it was written in draft form, 100,000 words which I had transcribed into my computer. However, a good friend and published author who read it advised me I would get sued if I published it! It is still in my closet, but out of it I created a Memoir The Bishop Wears No Drawers covering the ten years I spent as a missionary priest in Africa, three of them during a civil war.
- Tell an anecdote about an interaction between you and one of your more articulate fans.
In two of my novels, I decided on an epilogue describing what happened to the main characters later in life and after the story line. A fan, an educated man, admonished me for sharing sensitive and top-secret government information from the CIA, M16 and CSS. He totally believed in my characters who of course were fictional.
- What does your writing space look like?… like do you have a crazy mess of a desk full of notes and post its? Or is it a quaint chair at a coffee shop?
I write mainly in my study in silence surrounded by all my stuff. It looks messy with post its and books everywhere, but I’m actually quite well organized and I know where everything is. When I travel, I can block out noise with my headphones and write almost anywhere. I am not one of those people who write in a group. I am very much a loner and locked into my own world once I sit down to work.
- What feeds your process? Can you listen to music and write or not… can you write late at night or are you a morning person… when the spark happens, do you run for the pen or the screen or do you just hope it is still there tomorrow?
I cannot listen to music and write. I need to hear my own thoughts! However, I often listen to background music while I do research. I sometimes wear headphones that block out all sound and I can hear myself reading out loud. I can’t ever remember having writer’s block. I have the reverse problem. Occasionally if I have an inspiration while jogging, I always carry a small notebook, I will jot something down. Also, if I have conflicting ideas or too many options in a scene I go for a jog with the dog and almost every time I get the solution. I particularly love writing in the evening or late at night when the whole house is shut down and asleep. I am a night person. On long red-eye flights I can hunker down and write the whole time.
- How much time do you spend writing each day?
It took me five years to write my first book, I was working full time. Once I retired, I knew I wanted to write so I plan my days as if I am still working. I usually spend at least eight hours a day either doing research or actual writing. Ideally, I like to write about 5,000 words a week since I do take breaks and occasionally watch some sport or a movie on the TV. My wife is a painter, and has produced most of my book covers, so she too needs long blocks of time for her work,
- If you didn’t write, what would you do with that time? Do you feel compelled to write or choose to?
My only other real interest is golf; I play every week and I am in a very active Writers Club where we occasionally socialize. I can’t imagine what I would do if I wasn’t writing. I have travelled all of my life so don’t have that urge. Am usually writing a novel but sometimes I will take a break and work on an article. I like to pre-publish some of my novel material as articles or short stories. Knowing what I know now, if I had had the luxury of time and money, I would have started writing many years ago. I also am a voracious reader and normally have two, sometimes three books I am enjoying simultaneously. It’s a good break from writing or doing research.
- Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?
I have two favorites, both are women. Henriette in Let the Peacock Sing is a wealthy, widower and owner of a French Chateau. She is also the head of several Resistance groups (World War II). She has unrequited love for the abbot of a near by monastery, who is also in the Resistance. I had no idea who she really was when I first started writing, but she slowly revealed herself to me and I discovered this amazing, multi-faceted character. I am five chapters in my new novel, and it too is historical with a similar background, World War II France, but the protagonists are identical female twins.
Marth Paxton was one of the many ladies my grandfather wined and dined, and she is in my latest novel The Baron of Bengal Street. She was a real person. After his young wife died suddenly, Martha became his lover for a time and the surrogate mother to my own mother and her sister. The girls begged him to marry her, but he refused. I neither knew my grandfather nor Martha nor do we have any photos of her, so together with what few historical documents we have, my imagination had to fill in all the blanks. Always dressed as a gentleman, self-educated, wealthy, with strong black and white values, stubborn and opinionated, he robbed the rich to give to the poor. He needed a strong beautiful lady as his companion and Martha surprised me with her vitality, strength and ability to match him blow for blow. He definitely should have married her!
- If a movie was made of your book, who would the stars be?
Let the Peacock Sing. This book is currently being reviewed for a potential miniseries by BBC in the UK. My niece is a professional actress and I want her to play the role of the thirty-five-year-old female agent dropped into France by parachute, a highly trained saboteur, weapons expert, radio operator and a trained killer. I would like Marion Cotillard (Midnight in Paris) to play Henriette the classy, sophisticated head of several Resistance groups and in love with Père Luis. As Abbot of the local monastery, he often dressed as and impersonated a German officer and escorted downed allied airmen over the Spanish border. He gets seriously wounded and Henriette nurses him. It’s the closest she will ever get physically to him. Matt Damon would be perfect. If not maybe Ben Affleck.
- Where would your dream book signing occur?
Later this year the Shamrock Inn in Manchester, England will be remodeled. My Grandfather was the owner for 32 years and my most recent novel The Baron of Bengal Street is his story. I would love to be there for the formal opening and a book signing as it is a historical and protected building in the center of the city and huge media coverage and activities are planned. It’s also my hometown where I have very deep roots.
- When did you first write a story? What was it about?
I was usually the unfortunate kid that the teacher called out in front of the class to read the story they had written. My first real story that I can remember well, was about a very remote village in Italy revisited by a man who had left thirty years previously. Nobody had told him that it was deserted except for two old couples. Drought had destroyed everything. It was called “Visit to Nowhere.” I was in boarding school at the time, 10th grade, and this was an exercise we had to do every week. I loved writing even then. I did some professional writing over the years but nothing I wish to remember. My first published short story was several years ago in a UK magazine. It was entitled The Barn and is an elegy about a farmer and his wife who have just been informed their son was killed in action. A man unable to verbally express his emotions, when he sees the morning sun slowly shine on the new barn extension he had recently built with his son, he shakes his fist at the sky and emits a primordial scream into the howling wind, “A son should not die before his parents,” and is finally able to mouth the words, “I really loved him.”
4 thoughts on “Welcome to international author Michael Barrington who spent ten tumultuous years in West Africa after joining a French order of Catholic missionary Priests, was a hermit for a year in Northern Ireland, taught in Madrid, and spent 4 years in Puerto Rico as director of an international student program. What rich material to write from!”
I read and reviewed The Bishop Wears No Drawers. It didn’t disappoint. I loved it.-Marlene Cheng.
What an interesting, interesting interview. I clung to every word and now I must read something by Michael Barrington. Thank you for sharing this. Marlene Cheng–author.
Thanks, Marlene. I shared your comments with Michael!