Laura Barton talks about Twenty-One Locks

Written for The List (issue 663)

Born and raised in Lancashire, Laura Barton migrated south a decade ago, and found gainful employment with The Guardian. ‘I started writing a music column [Hail, Hail, Rock ‘n’ Roll] in a style that was quite different to most journalism at the time,’ she recalls. ‘The response was, and is, amazing. I knew that if I wrote like that in a novel then it would find an audience somewhere.’ She describes that novel, Twenty-One Locks, as ‘a dreary northern love story’. The main character, Jeannie, lives in a small town in north-western England, having stumbled into her job and about to drift into wedlock, when an encounter at the train station sends her life off-course.

‘Not a great deal happens, in a lot of ways, but that was the kind of book I wanted to write,’ Barton says. ‘I wanted to write about the lives of people I knew, rather than something splendid and high-energy and fantastic.’ The result is a novel only a northerner could have written; ten years as an honorary southerner have done little to dull Barton’s sense of the place.

‘My family still lives in the north, so I do visit,’ she says. ‘But I also feel as if I’ve been storing up a lot of these things – observations about the railway station toilets, or the department store perfume counter, or bus journeys through the town, or whatever – for a long, long time.’

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