Wrapped Up In Books #5: Anton Newcombe interview, ROOT-ed zine, Cath Barton talks novellas and more


Wrapped up in books

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a debut author or what Anton Newcombe thinks about reading then you’re in luck, because Getintothis’ Cath Bore has this and so much more, book talk galore. 

From debut authors, indie publishers to ventures to get you writing, it’s a diverse mixed bag in this month’s Wrapped Up in Books.

Cath Barton speaks about her debut novella The Bone Collector, the founders of new magazine ROOT-ed tell about their ambitions to make the art world and creative scene a more equal playing field for members of the BAME community.

It’s National Novel Writing Month in November, so we’ve got all the encouragement you need to start that novel you’ve been promising to write.

There’s music related book stuff too.

Back in March, former Veronica Falls‘ drummer Patrick Doyle died; the photographic book he was working on during his final months is finally published.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre this week play a show in Manchester. BJM‘s Anton Newcombe, who has a brand new album out with the tremendous Tess Parks, shares his reading habits.

ROOT-ed  founders Amber and Fauziya

ROOT-ed is a north west magazine for creative people of colour, the brainchild of Amber Akaunu and Fauziya Johnson. Issue 4 came out in September, but in addition to the publication itself, the two women put on events such a film screenings and workshops around Liverpool. They took time out of their busy schedules to tell all about the mag and what plans they have for it.

 Why did you see a need for ROOT-ed in the first place?

‘We realised we were the only two people of colour in our Fine Art degree, and simultaneously the absence of (PoC) tutors… the North West also has a huge lack of diversity and representation within the arts sector. So where there is a gap and lack of support, there is also a need to fill it. So that is exactly what we did.’

You held a fundraiser at the Unity Theatre, why did you go the fundraiser route for your first issue rather than, say, start out as a photocopy then work up?

‘As artists we both really take pride in the quality of our work and wanted the same for ROOT-ed Zine. We knew we wanted the zine to have a higher quality look to it than just photocopying. We also really love the physicality of a zine, and really wanted something to hold and distribute rather than just an online digital presence, which would have been much cheaper.

‘The fundraiser was also an excellent way to connect with the people and show off the crazy talent here in Liverpool. This is because our fundraiser, which was held in a respected institution…was a showing of what ROOT-ed does…We still do offer PDF versions of the zine which are cheaper than the physical copies.’

I’m interested in the name ROOT-ed and the tagline “revolution of our time”. What aspect are you referring to? The format, or content –or both? Or something else?  

‘The format is not revolutionary really, a lot of zines are A5 with silk paper, however I guess that the content …and the concept of it is quite revolutionary…we showcase creative people of colour from the North West, regardless of whether they have an arts education, or their arts experience in exhibiting… the people we show are the catalysts of the next age of art- the age where…you will be considered, respected and appreciated as much as your white counterparts…

‘The word revolution sounds a bit dramatic but it’s not, we really are trying to change the art industry for the better – inclusivity, acceptance… Not tokenism, and box ticking…’

Wrapped Up In Books – read more here 

 How do you co-ordinate and balance your message through social media and print?

‘We have a website, and we use that to publish our weekly articles that us (Fauziya and Amber) write about. We speak colloquially about our lives, experiences and do funny little reviews or something of similar sort.

‘In addition, we do a lot of workshops and meet ups regarding systemic issues such as…experiences of hair, and also about art in general…We believe our message is still filtered through into these events, as it’s asking the participants: what do you stand for as a person firstly, but also as a possible minority.’

What’s the ultimate goal for ROOT-ed?

‘Full, genuine representation, platform, respect and work opportunities for currently underrepresented groups who are creative within the North West of the U.K.

‘Furthermore, for people of colour to feel safe within their creative institutions, social circles, and media representation. Of course we don’t want racism or discrimination of any kind, but that issue truly has to start from the people at the top, the government and media outlets. We would also love to open up a gallery or a centre where we can further what we do now and have a safe place for people of colour in which they will always be a priority.’

For more information on ROOT-ed and further events, go to their website.

Max by Patrick Doyle (Makina Books)

MAX by Patrick Doyle (Makina Books)

  • A collection of photography by Veronica Falls’ drummer

Patrick Doyle was most notably drummer for Veronica Falls, he also played with Correcto and The Royal We plus made solo music as Boys Forever and Basic Plumbing.

Two years ago, the musician moved from the UK to Los Angeles to start a new life with journalist and publicist Max Padilla, whom he later married. After his husband’s death in 2017, Scottish-born Doyle started to put together a photography book in tribute to him.

MAX is a vivid glimpse of the couple’s lives together, shot in and around the couple’s Silver Lake home by Doyle on 35mm analogue film.

Doyle’s eye for capturing the magic of everyday moments makes the images come alive with a sense of fun and warmth. While Doyle doesn’t appear in the photographs himself, there’s an unmistakable sense of his presence throughout, whether in Padilla’s sly smile, Doyle’s can of beer that’s been briefly abandoned to take a photograph, or the boner in Padilla’s boxer shorts.

After Patrick Doyle himself died a few months ago, London-based publisher Makina Books worked with Veronica Fallsbass player Marion Herbain to finish the publication.

The book celebrates gay intimacy and sexuality, and is a poignant look at the lives of two beloved people who are gone too soon. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Los Angeles LGBT Center, who provided invaluable support to Doyle.

The Plankton Collector by Cath Barton (Rarebyte/New Welsh Review)

  • The Plankton Collector by Cath Barton (Rarebyte/New Welsh Review)

Cath Barton started writing fiction seven years ago. She originally intended to explore travel writing but caught the fiction bug upon winning a short story competition. Her stories and flash fiction have been published in a number of publications across the world. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and this month sees The Plankton Collector, her debut novel – a novella, published.

What is a novella? It’s a short novel. The English word ‘novella’ is derived from the Italian novella, which means ‘new’. The official word count for the form is up for discussion; it can vary.  George Orwell’s 1945 classic Animal Farm is a novella, its word count just under 30,000 words; Julian Barnes‘s The Sense of an Ending (2011) boasts 43,869. But a novella can contain as many as 70,000 words.

Cath, a mentee of the Literature Wales Mentoring Scheme 2018, told me all about her book and the positives of becoming a debut author in her sixties.

What The Plankton Collector about? 

‘The Plankton Collector is the story of a family, all of whom carry a burden of sorrow. The eponymous Plankton Collector appears to each of them in a different guise, and helps them.’

Why did you write it?

‘I wrote it for the same reason I write all my stories, to make sense of a senseless world. And particularly to look at the time of my childhood and adolescence, that sunny post-war time. Which of course was not all sunny…’

Why did you choose the novella format, or did it choose you?

‘A friend in a local writing group said, unexpectedly, at the beginning of 2015 – “Who’s going to write a novella this year?” I found my hand going up, though I hadn’t thought about it until that moment!’

How did your book deal come about?

‘I submitted The Plankton Collector for the New Welsh Writing Awards AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella last year, and won! The prize included publication by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint.’

You said on Twitter that “I could not have written it earlier – I had to live all this time” in relation to your book, what did you mean?

‘I’m 68 and have decided to embrace early old age! I do think that it’s only now, in the last few years, that I have truly become myself. That doesn’t mean I no longer have anxieties, but I’m now – at last! – largely content with who I am, and that’s the place from which I write. And I have a lot of experiences to draw on for my stories.

‘Incidentally, many women writers responded to the tweet in which I made that comment, saying they feel the same.’

What would your debut have been like if you’d written it, say, in your 20s or 30s?

‘Embarrassingly bad, probably. I had an English tutor at University who encouraged his students to write stories as an alternative to essays. I cringe when I think of the work I submitted, not because it was badly written, but because I laid bare my feelings, unmediated. He taught me about the need to put my own experience into a different context.’

There’s much emphasis on younger debut novelists in terms of prizes, awards, bursaries and so forth How can we level the playing field for writers of all ages?

‘Well, first of all, no age limits in competitions. (Author and journalist) Joanna Walsh does a lot to champion that. People debut at any age, and that’s particularly true for women. It wasn’t family responsibilities that held me back, but I know that is so for some women. So more sponsored opportunities for women to take some dedicated writing time would be great. Sponsored mentoring too, in person or online, there could be more of that.’

  • NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month. On Nov 1, participants start to write the initial draft of a novel, to be completed by the month’s end. The target is 50k words over the 30 days, which works out as roughly 1,700 words per day.

NaNoWriMo is free to take part, there’s support online and in person, with meet ups in towns and cities all over the world. Sign up here and get writing!


Hollie McNish (photo credit: Peter Goodbody)

  • Chester Literature Festival takes place Nov 10 – Dec 1 and features poets Hollie McNish and Lemn Sissay, flash fiction expert Vanessa Gebbie and many more.
  • Wirral poet Eleanor Rees has a new collection due next year. The Well at Winter Solstice will be published by Salt.

  • Earlier this month, Topshop cancelled a partnership promoting an anthology of feminist writing Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) edited by Scarlett Curtis at their London Oxford Street store. A pop-up shop and display was dismantled hours before the shop was due to open, shortly after Arcadia Group chairman Philip Green viewed it. The book is published by Penguin in partnership with UN charity Girl Up which provides girls and young women with leadership development training.

  • Wirral Bookfest runs throughout October. Events take place in libraries around the peninsula and include talks by Carys Bray, and crime author Martin Edwards. Full listings can be found here.
  • ROUGH TRADE BOOKS is a new publishing venture from Rough Trade Records. Launched over the summer, books and pamphlets feature writings from creatives, poets, musicians and artists. Notable names so far include Submarine author Joe Dunthorne, and poet Salena Godden.
Anton Newcombe (photo credit: Thomas Girard)

Anton Newcombe (photo credit: Thomas Girard)

  • Bookworm of the Month: Anton Newcombe, musician

What is your favourite book, and why?

‘My favourite thing about life, is the fact that I don’t have to have a favourite anything… I can just discover things and enjoy them for what they are, to learn from them, or to let them provoke my mind into thinking about something unexpected…and hopefully this new experience fits nicely somewhere in my being and is useful in some way.’

You’ve been living in Berlin for some time now, has that shifted your reading habits? Are you enjoying more European books?

‘I view myself as a being on earth and the geography isn’t so important… to be honest, I’ve been trying to be as productive as possible now that I’ve reached that certain point in my life where I get the distinct feeling that I may only have 20 years of that to work as hard as I do physically. I can’t imagine myself playing all the tracks including drums at 71 years of age.

 ‘I find that I read mostly on tour…I have a 5-year-old, Wolfgang, so my time is pretty limited and sleep precious.’

What are you reading at the moment, or what’s your most recent read?

‘A friend gave me a silly book called Blitzed about drugs in Nazi Germany (by Norman Ohler).

‘That, and this Adam Curtis documentary The Century of the Self (manufacturing consent) that made me wonder what sort of magic is afoot at the moment in the use to make people so docile and ok with the clearly not ok.’

You gave an interview to Vice a couple of years back about how you were aiming to dive into more fiction. Has that happened? 

‘Not really, I simply have not had the time… I would like to go backwards and read all the Philip K Dick and see how that feels.’

What non-fiction books do you enjoy the most, subject wise – and why?

‘I am very interested in the naughty esoteric books that the naughty boys study in their fraternal organisations and why they should feel the need to know all of that historical theology and / or practical magic among other things… it’s like, why does a captain of industry need to study the real Cabala or highest level Indian magic?’

You’re a parent – how do you encourage reading? 

‘I’m fortunate that Wolfgang loves learning, we buy him books but unfortunately the outside world creeps in… on the one hand he’s taught himself German by watching cartoons, on the other hand he’s now in love with super heroes and all that pop culture vomit. 

‘I tried to start reading the A. A. Milne books because I enjoyed that stuff as a kid but the pace is a little slow for a 5 year old so I think I will wait a few more months to pick it back up…kids really value the effort and the closeness I think, but you have to find something that interests them.’

Why do you think sometimes boys are reluctant readers? Were you a reluctant reader as a child, and if so when/how did that change?

‘Why are boys fascinated with spectator sports? Who knows… I was very lucky in that someone had given my mother loads of these strange books and encyclopaedias – things like American heritage that included paintings and pictures along with the history and I loved it all.’

What’s the first book you read, and what’s the first one you remember enjoying? What did you get out of both?

‘I remember loving 1001 Nights (Arabian Nights) and even the concept that this clever woman would create these tales to keep the sultan from taking her life… in retrospect the book taught me that your imagination is a powerful weapon and it also sparked a lifelong interest in other cultures and world history.

‘For instance my favourite book actually might be a large collection of translations of poems by Hafiz Kabir… it’s interesting that many of his poems are listed as Hafiz – a hafiz is someone that can recite the Quran – it’s confusing, but he’s a Persian Sufi.

Does reading influence your songwriting?

‘I’ve been playing music with people for 40 years… I’m not sure that anything influences me…except the love of playing music… I remember watching Robyn Hitchcock play a few years back and listening to the words of Old Man Weather … I think his way with words influenced me to think about my own process.’

Do you read your own press?

 ‘When it comes to my attention yes… but I am over any of the excitement that one could hope to gain from seeing myself in print… I want to do great things with my life… taking stock of the past is meaningless to me.’

The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s latest album Something Else was released in June. Anton Newcombe‘s second collaborative album with Canadian singer and songwriter Tess Parks, eponymously titled, was released on Friday.

BJM tour the UK this month:

Oct 16 – Birmingham, O2 Academy
Oct 17 – Glasgow, Barrowlands
Oct 19 – Dublin, Academy
Oct 20 – Manchester Academy
Oct 21 – Newcastle, Institute
Oct 22 – Sheffield, Leadmill
Oct 23 – London, Forum