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The Lightman System heads on Insta book tour

The Lightman System heads on Insta book tour

Roger Hyams’ debut novel The Lightman System went on an Instagram book tour thanks to @instabooktours.

Those reviewing the book found it a fabulous read. The tour began on July 19 and ran until August 5. 

We have gathered the thoughts of the bloggers right here and suggest you follow all of them, along with @instabooktours

Buy The Lightman System at


“This beautifully written novel explores mental health & the impact it has both on the individual & their families.”@instabooktours


“What a read! Superbly written with amazing insight into mental health and its often devastating consequences, not just for those suffering but for those around them too.

“I very quickly became fully engrossed in this character driven story of Ellie and her brother Colin as well as supporting characters. As the story unfolds it looks closely at the dynamics of a family struggling to cope with the psychological and emotional breakdown of one of their own.

“Poignant and heart breaking The Lightman System is a fabulous read and will speak to anyone who has had similar experiences.

“I will definitely be recommending this one and look forward to seeing what comes next for Roger Hyams.”@dems_book_den (19/07/22)


“The author conjures up a wonderful sense of time and place. I did not usually like books that deal with mental health as I find them either patronising or just without much understanding. This book is different. Roger Hyams deals sensitively and with great insight into the effects of mental health issues, not only on the sufferer but on the wider family.

“The author also manages to illustrate the complexities of family relationships, particularly those between siblings. The author has a deft touch and draws his readers into the story and makes them care about the characters. A beautifully written novel that I would highly recommend.” – @book_mouse2020 (20/07/22)


“Now I know I’m meant to be reviewing this book today, however, I have not been able to finish it in time. I am however most of the way through so I can give you my thoughts so far.

“Now this book so far is brilliant. Books that touch on mental health can usually be hit or miss but this one touches on it perfectly. I really like the writing style and it’s been so easy to get into. 

“I don’t want to speak too soon but so far it’s on track to be a 4/5⭐️ read!” – @chloejreads (21/07/22)


“I enjoyed this book despite having very heavy subject matter surrounding mental health. It did take me a little while to get used to the story flicking between Ellie and Colin, bit once I got used to the writing style this wasn’t a problem.

“I liked the fact the author used key actions for headings rather than typical chapters.” – @Felicitys_reading_corner (22/07/22)


“I really enjoyed the book as it was slow paced and easy to follow. It’s a very well written book. The characters have a lot of struggles which had me engrossed in reading to see how they were or if they could overcome them. It’s a very twisty romantic story with wonderful perspectives on different relations.

“I would highly recommend this book as it’s a non stop read. ****/5. ” – @louisereading_differentbooks (22/07/22)


“One thing about this read is that it really thrives on the relationships built into the pages. Although events can seem peculiar there’s a lot of detail given and the writing is absolutely beautiful. You get a lot from the senses with this so you can really imagine what the characters see, touch, feel etc. I loved that the book was split into parts and I love that the time frame with this was set in 1974.

“The twist it has on romantic relationships is wonderful because you get two complete different perspectives. Let along a brother and sister falling in love for the same girl. The concept was beautiful. There’s so much passion and desire in this. It’s wonderful, literally reading about all of the similarities yet all of the differences at the same time especially between the siblings. The author really gives you a spectacularly formatted entangled read. I wasn’t expecting the paths to completely change direction and I didn’t know how to deal with it until I continued to further read. The growth continued with emotions constantly changing directions making this a completely addictive read.

“I would definitely recommend this it’s an extremely unusual plot for the timeframe. Epic.”@twilight_reader (25/07/22)


“When I started reading this book I was taken aback with all the explicit language. Set in 1974, the story follows Colin and Ellie and their daily adventures. There are different characters in different chapters that build Colin’s character. The school stories are funny and reminded me of the Inbetweeners.

“There isn’t much of a plot or twists it’s a slow paced family drama with a bit of romance. The love life of Ellie and Colin are written very well with good characterisation.

“The era moves to 1999/2000 and how Colin now has his own family. I will be honest I struggled with the book as the story is very slow paced. But I did learn a lot about Jewish family and traditions. It’s also a heartbreaking story of a brother and a sister.” – @pre4books (26/07/22)


This book dealt with mental health issues in a great way and the downward spiral that became of Eleanor and her brother Colin. 

“The book was beautifully written in a way that delicately balanced raw emotion within a family going through mental health issues and devastation, it gave a wonderful insight just how much mental health can affect both the individual and the family. 

“The book was slow paced however the pace really helped to capture the relatable characters and emotional issues well. 

“However I was left with many questions unanswered at the end, 
-why did Anna never go and see Ellie? They were meant to best friends!!!!! 
-did Colin get together with Pen?, 
-did Ellie ever pick up her Cello again? 
-what was the initial cause of Ellies breakdown? 

“A brutal family saga, beautifully written, heart wrenching read. 4/5⭐@Never_endingbookshelf (25/07/22)

It had some of my favourite things in literature- a wide timeline, a unique layout with chapter headings and segments, incredibly relatable and vibrant characters and a slow build. When a story deals with mental health or emotional issues, I like the pace and engagement between characters to slow to allow the issues space to breathe. Hyams does this incredibly well. 

Another particular strength this novel has is in its analysis and breakdown of family roles and relationships. If you’re a fan of family sagas or retellings of family trauma etc, you would also enjoy this novel. The relationships and their breakdowns are brutal but so delicately managed and narrated that the contrast again allows the actions to speak for themselves. 

A very special writer.” – @bookasaurusbex (27/07/22)

It originally took me a while to get into this novel, the focus on mental health interested me more than the romance aspect.

I lIked the focus on the family dynamics and how they coped with the breakdown of someone within the family.” – @mrsbookburnee (28/07/22)

This is a story about a family, their individual facets, and what happens when the thread that’s held them together is unraveled. It’s an overpowering book that captures you and doesn’t let you go. An extremely smart book that stabs you and leaves you bleeding. I could not put it down. I felt that if I closed my eyes I could almost hear the authors voice in each written word. 

From the very first moment on meeting Ellie I got the sense something wasn’t quite right. Like the feeling of watching a tightrope walker…wondering if the next step will be the last. Breath held and anticipating the worst. I really felt for Ellie as she had no control over her life. It was as if I, the reader, was watching a car crash in slow motion. It was utterly heartbreaking. 

Colin suffered in his own right. Seeming lost within the life of Ellie. Sadly, we miss out on his life…but, I feel that also parallels how he lived. Second to Ellie’s mental issues…the family dynamic with his parents was strained. And, because of this and other factors he never truly lived.” – @stratospherekawaiigirl (29/07/22)

Initially set in 1974, Ellie and her brother Colin are on holiday with their parents and both fall in love with confident, popular Anna. Ellie and Anna are both part of the National Youth Orchestra, Ellie playing the cello and Anna the violin, and are excited to go on tour to Paris. But Ellie is disappointed when the closeness they found on holiday doesn’t continue on the trip. As Ellie navigates her way around meeting new people and finding her place, Colin at home finds an interest in photography. The future is looking good for both of them until Ellie’s mental health changes everything for the family on her return home.

The book deals with mental health so beautifully and gives a real insight into how it affects not just the sufferer but the whole family dynamic. 

“I loved the relationship between siblings Ellie and Col, it reminded me of growing up with my brother. The delicate balance of getting along / winding each other up!

“I would love to know what inspired the cover of the book as it is so carefully understated it does not reveal anything about the mass of emotions that are in this beautiful book. A brilliant moving debut full of love and compassion.” – @5star.books (29/07/22)

“A very insightful and raw book showing the true nature of mental health breakdowns. I resonated with Ellie to my past, and I really felt for Colin for the way it affected him. 

“The book is split up into two parts which showed the first part of the mental breakdown and the lead up to it, and the second part was the aftermath. I just could not put the book down.” @courtney_in_a_book (01/08/22)

💫 Truly spectacular. It is such a fantastic yet heartbreaking novel about mental health. I do however think this topic is very taboo, but the author has put across this story line so well done and very delicately. 

“The characters are so wonderfully written, i thoroughly loved the details, the storytelling, everything about it. 

“There was so many emotions through this, from funny, to heartbreaking. 

“It is a wonderful book, and I would highly recommend this to everyone.”@penfoldlayla (01/08/22)

📚 Don’t let this unassuming cover fool you!! Beautifully written in prose this novel follows the decline of Ellie’s mental health and the effect it has on her family and younger brother Colin. It gives insight into the effects the struggle with mental health can have on the family members aswell. I felt that the writing, in Ellie’s parts of the book especially, really got across the confusion, the emotions and the struggle Ellie was feeling at the time. 
A beautiful book 💚
@craftandbookjunkieni (02/08/22)

Beneath this unassuming cover, is a bold story waiting to be told. A fever dream tale, patchwork snapshots of the lives of a family as they move through time, people growing apart, together and older in their own ways as the years fade away. The prose style was striking, vivid and kept me in a suspended, unsettling haze throughout.

The characters were strong, distinct and clearly complex –  but personally the jumping, dream-scape style of the story kept me from getting too attached the characters. A very unsettling, non-linear, disjointed style of storytelling means this book is definitely not for everyone, but it’s definitely well-written and will deeply resonate with some readers. 

Delving into the complexity of family, the dangers of obsession and the quiet ways that mental health issues can sneak up and take our lives down without us even noticing. From the first few pages, we know something is looming over the pages, just waiting for the fog to clear and to see things clearly. 

Emotional, impactful and evocative – you will not forget the Lightman siblings any time soon.”  – @frombethanysbookshelf (02/08/22)

“I really loved this book. It made me uncomfortable and ripped my heart out in places but that’s why I loved it. I commend the author for writing about mental illness in such a raw and honest way, showing the reality of having a family member and going through manic depression. I personally would have liked more insight into Ellie’s time in hospital. I found Colin to be a hard character to pinpoint. I felt empathy for him however I also found at times he could be selfish. However justified he may have been and I could understand his strive to want to have a life of his own I did find his view of his sister hard to reconcile with at times. This is a great novel and one I would recommend to someone wanting to get their teeth into a powerful and thought provoking read.”@Chapmanschaptersandpages (04/08/22)

“It’s the summer holidays so naturally I’m at Champneys living my best spa life. 

“Today I’ve been devouring The Lightman System by Roger Hyams. I was soooo excited to read this as EVERYONE has been raving about it and they totally should have been – it’s amazing. 

I adored the setting of 1974 England, having played the cello as a child I could completely relate to Ellie’s childhood and I admired the difficult family dynamic and tact shown when describing Ellie and Collins relationship as siblings. 

The book is beautifully written and completely sucked me in. It’s both heart breaking and fabulous. 

I am usually a sucker for a good cover and typically would not have picked this book up based purely on this but there is so much to this book and it’s a stunning debut novel.” – @girls_who_hike_and_read (05/08/22)

“The Lightman System is a beautiful book which you definitely need to take your time over and couldn’t devour in one sitting. The intricacies of the relationships made this book absolutely gorgeous.

“I wasn’t immediately drawn to the book by the cover but as soon as I read on the synopsis that a brother and sister fall for the same girl, I knew I had to read it, and I didn’t bother reading the rest of the synopsis. There is something so innocent about the characters and I really enjoyed the story; a great exploration of mental health.”@Duckfacekim09 (05/08/22)

Buy The Lightman System at



Wrecking Ball Press publish the debut novel from Roger Hyams – The Lightman Systemon June 27, 2022.
Roger Hyams was an actor for twelve years, appearing with the RSC, the English Touring Theatre and the Oxford Stage Company, Birmingham Repertory and the Traverse. He started working at the BBC as a script-reader, then a script editor, and after a couple of years as Head of Drama Development at Talkback Productions, began to work freelance. Along with his script consultancy he is a screenwriter, a filmmaker and a Visiting Lecturer at the London Film School and Central Saint Martins. He has written the book and lyrics for two musicals, co-directed two baroque operas and coached opera singers on performance. The Lightman System is his first novel, and he’s writing another.
We caught up with Roger to find out more about the novel and his writing.
Describe The Lightman System in a sentence?
A brother and sister struggle to come to terms with the fallout of her psychotic breakdown.
What prompted you to write The Lightman System?
It has roots in my own family’s experience. It’s fair to say that there was a need for catharsis, but that had to come from inquiry. There are mysteries that are unlikely ever to be solved, but the attempt is the point.
Who is the book for?
It will speak directly to those who have had similar experiences, either as the sufferer of mental storms or those close to them. But I think the last couple of years has laid bare the fact that this is not an exclusive group. So there’s something here for everyone who has had difficulties with their mental health, everyone who’s known someone who has, and anyone who’s interested in the way minds try to deal with the unmanageable.
What experience do you want your readers to have?
It’s a cliché to say I want them to laugh and cry, but it’s true. This is a tough story, but a human one: there’s no intention to create misery, just to portray it. I also want them to come away from the book feeling that their understanding of mental states, from the extreme to the apparently-normal, has expanded.
What is the importance of place to you as a writer?
Very important. A lot of my writing comes out of places; their special atmospheres, their existence outside human presence, especially those that are built entirely by humans. I’ve made several short films that explore this in one way or another. In The Lightman System, there’s particular attention to the magic and disturbance of places; from the texture of the Lake District to the temperature and light inside a psychiatric unit.
Music, and a cello, are constants in the book – what’s the importance of this?
For a musician like my character Ellie, her instrument is a way of both showing her skill and expressing her inner life. When psychological and neurological damage make it increasingly hard for her to handle the instrument, those vital outlets are choked. So the cello, which also has a humanoid shape and an exquisite sound, becomes a repeated motif in the book. Apart from gathering dust, the instrument stays pretty much the same throughout decades; yet the characters, over the same span, change in quite extreme ways. Music is a life-force for Colin, too; it speaks to him rather than through him, but it reflects and provides an outlet for his emotional life. It’s notoriously difficult to write about music, so I’ve had to confront that in successive drafts.
How would you describe yourself?
I write scripts and prose (and sometimes lyrics) and make films; I’m also a freelance script editor, and a visiting lecturer at the London Film School and Central St Martin’s. I used to be an actor, I’ve worked as a director in Baroque Opera, I’ve written the book and lyrics for two musicals and a short story for BBC Radio.
As a novelist I’m writing about things that delight and disturb me. I try to do that in the simplest way I can, as closely as possible to my characters’ experience. I feel the need to draw the reader into that experience, however limited, because that’s the way we live; limited by our selves as they are from moment to moment.
What was your route into writing?
Long and winding. When I was a kid I liked messing around with words, then wrote poems when I was at primary school, then love poems, then song lyrics – school bands etc. – and then I was an actor, so I had to be very sensitive to words. Typography, too, has always fascinated me. Later, while I was working as a script editor at the BBC, I began to write scripts. Nothing got picked up, but it led me towards screenwriting and filmmaking. And I began concurrently to find things in my own experience that suggested prose. I wrote a first novel, which has gone back into the figurative bottom drawer for now, and then embarked on The Lightman System.
Could you tell us more about your other work as a screenwriter and script editor?
Film is very important to me, so it’s thrilling and daunting to be writing it. The obvious distinction between that and what I’m trying to do in prose is that you can’t explore directly, except in voice-over, the internal movements of someone’s mind. And since I’m really interested in that, I have to find other – visual, aural, textural, dynamic – ways to express it. So I’m a bit obsessed with point-of-view; how it changes what the film looks like, how it suggests where the camera should be, and a lot more. I can go on about this, frankly, and I often do when I’m working with other writers. But my work with them is also a way of exploring. We have a conversation about their film that expands to theme and closes in on a single moment; we’re as likely to be talking about the writer’s own experience as we are with the rhythm of a dialogue exchange or a cut from scene to scene. With luck, this sometimes-sinuous path leads to greater clarity for the writer.
Was there a significant person in your life that encouraged you to write?
Several. My mum did, and I had a couple of very good English teachers at secondary school who were really alert to the fact that I was excited by language. Then, years later, I was working at the BBC and having a conversation with an agent who was also a writer; a fairly unusual combination. He told me quite bluntly that I should get on with it and write, and I’m very grateful to him. The producers Brian Eastman and Alex Thiele have put a touching amount of trust in me. Latterly, among all the many encouragements that I’ve received from friends, the one that pops out is from a writer called Albyn Leah Hall. I might not have written The Lightman System without her nudging.
Could you tell us something about your creative process?
I try to write enough that I don’t leave my desk annoyed at myself. That doesn’t necessarily mean a number of pages (though it’s always gratifying); it can just mean that I’ve done something I know will be useful. That could be some background exploration, such as notes on a character, or research, or it could be a walk – to let my thoughts reverse out of a cul-de-sac and wander more freely. Actually a lot of the little, significant realisations arrive when I’m cycling.
Who are your favourite writers? And which writers are you influenced by?
This is one of the most welcome and most difficult questions anyone could ask. The list, obviously, is much too long.
The writers I keep coming back to, the ones I believe get closest to the world as I understand it, are Chekhov, W.G. Sebald and George Eliot. George Saunders is, to me, a new but big discovery. I also admire Anne Tyler enormously, and during lockdown I discovered Sherwood Anderson. Geoff Dyer makes me laugh aloud. I want to go on. Actually I will go on for a second, because there are playwrights: Chekhov again, Shakespeare – as an actor I’ve been lucky enough to live with several of his plays for a lot of performances, and I kept hearing new things. And screenwriters, who tend to get lost behind the director’s name – so a quiet shout for Kôgo Noda, who worked with the great Ozu.
And lyricists! John Prine, Bob Dylan, Gillian Welch, Aimee Mann, Andrew Phillips, Cole Porter and Randy Newman.
As far as influence goes, with the understanding that influence isn’t necessarily discernible either in style or talent, I guess you could say that Hemingway was there before I read it. And Anne Tyler for sure: trying to stay simple so you don’t get in the way of the important things.
What is your favourite novel?
Another impossible question, but I’ll say Middlemarch and The Rings of Saturn because they both expanded my view without seeming to try. At number 3, I might say American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I know it was supposed to be just one, but sorry.
Why The Lightman System, now?
The simple answer is that I had to write it. A friend suggested that The Lightman System is ‘the story of a quest for understanding’, and that goes for me as well as for the characters.
I also think that, as terms like ‘mental health’ have become so much a part of everyday language, it’s timely. I wanted to write my way into the complex experience of two people whose lives are being changed, radically, subtly, by internal storms. Like any fiction, it doesn’t offer answers, but I hope it affects perceptions. On a similar note, I had great help in my research from an eminent psychiatrist, who described the book as being an incidental portrait of the development of modern psychiatry.
Do you have any thoughts about your experience of independent publishers?
Wrecking Ball is my experience, and it’s revelatory. Apart from sharing their name with a great song by Gillian Welch, they have a seriously intelligent view of book design, which is more than refreshing.
What else are you working on and what does the future hold for you?
I’m halfway through the first draft for a new novel, I’m hoping to make a short film I’ve written later this year, and I’m working on two feature projects. In case that sounds grand, none of it is commissioned, and films may be even harder to get off the ground than books.
What would you say to someone who was keen to write, and would like to see their words published?
It’s usually very hard to get published, but in the end this is not why you do it. It took me around five years, alongside other work, to go through several drafts of The Lightman System. It was, from the publishing point of view, a complete gamble. Lots of people said no, or ignored my letters entirely. But for the activity of writing, it went from tears, frustration and sinking doubt to moments of real freedom and revelation. I’m still writing, and I expect to continue that very uneven journey. Honestly, if you want to do it, you’re probably already doing it in your head; so welcome to the caravan!
I’m also privileged to be in a writing group – on the invitation of Albyn Leah Hall – which consists of several extremely talented writers, all of whom I admire and respect a lot. That means that the process I’ve described (all those drafts) was not done alone. Not only did I feel supported by my colleagues, but they were tough, detailed and frankly relentless critics. That meant I had the courage to continue, and the material with which to do so. So if you can gain a support network of people you trust, that’s a really great thing. I know some writers work in isolation, but there’s enough isolation in the process already without actually being cut off from intelligent views and kindly voices. I could not have written this book without those people.
What are your hopes and dreams for the book?
Of course I hope a lot of people will read it, that it will move most of them (well, all of them, naturally), and that it might gain some recognition beyond that. But mainly, I genuinely want it to expand people’s perceptions.
Anything else you’d like to add?
One thing in particular. I’m ridiculously lucky that my partner has stayed kind, insightful and encouraging through my many moments of collapse.
The Lightman System can be pre-ordered from Wrecking Ball Press at
OUT NOW: Persons Unknown - The Battle for Sheffield's Street Trees

OUT NOW: Persons Unknown – The Battle for Sheffield’s Street Trees

Persons Unknown – The Battle for Sheffield’s Street Trees has been published by Wrecking Ball Press.
In 2012 Sheffield City Council and the Department of Transport signed a twenty-five-year contract with Amey PLC to renew the city’s highways in a programme titled ‘Streets Ahead’, costing £2.2 billion of public money.
That contract has never been made publicly available. As a result of persistent Freedom of Information requests, we now know that it includes the following clause: Amey ‘shall replace the highways trees in accordance with the annual tree management programme at a rate of not less than 200 per year so that 17,500 highway trees are replaced by the end of the term’.
For three years residents took ‘non-violent direct action’ (NVDA) to prevent the unnecessary felling of healthy street trees. This is their story, a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the service of their community. All the chapters consist of original first-hand accounts of events from the perspective of people who were involved.
Calvin Payne and Simon Crump have deliberately stepped back from an authorial role, allowing their fellow protesters to speak for themselves, and often the stark truths told are all the more shocking for that.
With a Foreword by Nick Hayes, Introduction by Paul Brooke and Afterword by Christine King.
John Newsham

Author Interview: John Newsham

John Newsham’s short story version of Killing The Horses was longlisted in the 2018 Manchester Fiction Prize run by Carol-Ann Duffy. Killing The Horses is John’s debut novel. His other writing credits include fiction publication in the Fortnightly Review, winning a Dorothy Rosenberg Prize for ‘young poets of unusual promise’ from the University of Berkeley, and the Grist first-place prize for poetry describing place, from the University of Huddersfield. He has performed at numerous literary festivals around Yorkshire including the Ted Hughes Festival, the York Takeover Festival, the Leeds Lit Festival and the Bradford Literature Festival. John is also a teacher of A Level English Literature and Language.

We caught up with John to find out more about his debut as a novelist, his writing process and the importance of place to his writing. 

Give us the elevator pitch for Killing The Horses?

Killing The Horses follows two boys who are skipping school in the woods on the edge of the Bradford. They are trying to get away from all the things that are still there, haunting themselves and haunting the hillside. It’s a simple story about isolation and friendship. It’s about the violence of human beings and the violence of the natural world.

How do you feel about the publication of your debut novel?

I’m really looking forward to seeing it on shelves and hearing readers’ thoughts on it. I’ve been trying to write for years with more failure than success and I’ve had several false starts of trying to write novels in the past so it feels great to have this completed and published.

What prompted you to write Killing The Horses?

I tried to write a novel a few years ago which ended up not really working but out of that I developed a short story focusing on the characters in what would become Killing The Horses. I then forgot about it for a few years whilst I got on with life and was writing other things. When the covid lockdown hit last year I re-read the original story and just started writing about the characters and seeing where it went. The novel is the result of that.

What experience do you want your readers to have?

I’d like them to feel as though they’re walking through these woods with the two boys in the novel and seeing the landscape and the animals and the trees and the sky. It’s supposed to be a ‘close-up’ novel – it’s set over a short period of time in a single place with only two characters so it’s a lot more focused on those close-up, day-to-day details, rather than anything sprawling or expansive.

What is the importance of place to you as a writer and, more specifically, within the pages of Killing The Horses?

The novel is set entirely in the woods on the edge of Bradford, all within a mile or so of where I grew up. It’s all slightly fictionalised in the novel but everything in it is basically a real place. Bradford is a big post-industrial city and this corner of Bradford is not exactly a glamorous one but it’s nestled amongst all these rolling Yorkshire hills and there’s something quite distinctive about the combination of the two. It feels a lot more remote than it is. I like the idea of natural settings that are within reach of urban ones- places that aren’t far removed from most people’s lives. Lots of nature writing focuses on picturesque and remote places and the setting in the novel isn’t one of them. The woodland isn’t supposed to be idyllic. It’s supposed to be a troubled place but somewhere that’s isolated from the rest of the city. Otherwise, it’s set in Bradford because I’ve spent more of my life there than anywhere else and it’s a lot easier to write about what you know! Everyone should write about where they grew up – there’s nowhere that doesn’t make an interesting setting for a novel or a story.

What was your route into writing?

I used to write poetry and I had a few things published and won a few prizes when I was younger. I read with a few different groups of local writers and at a lot of literary festivals and really enjoyed it. I met loads of really talented local writers who were all really unique in what they were doing. But I mainly wrote poems because I didn’t have any kind of organisation to write anything longer. I wanted to write a novel for a long time but I never had the self-discipline to stick with it until more recently.

Has Covid-19 affected the way that you write?

I wrote most of Killing The Horses during the first coronavirus lockdown. I’d been trying to write another novel slowly for years and then the lockdown suddenly freed up a good bit of time as I was working from home for a few months and had long, free evenings. I started writing something new based on a short story I’d written a few years earlier and it was mostly completed by the time I returned to work 10 weeks later. I’d considered expanding it further but felt like it reflected quite a unique mood of being completely isolated and locked-down. I felt like it would be impossible to recreate that mood again. As it turned out, of course, lockdown #1 was not to be that unique so I didn’t need to worry. The story itself has nothing to do with covid but I think lots of the concerns it brought up are in there- isolation, sickness, the destructive power of nature etc.

Could you tell us something about your creative process?

Now that I’m back at work it’s a good bit harder to write as regularly. However, I try to sit down every Saturday and Sunday morning and write 1,000 words before I stop. Any additional time I get to spend on it is a bonus. Writing is the good part, though, so it doesn’t take much discipline once started – it’s everything else that gets in the way!

Who are your favourite writers? And which writers are you influenced by?

My favourite novelist is probably Cormac McCarthy. His writing is so stripped back it seems timeless but it’s also got a very modern sense of the hostile relationship between the individual and nature. There’s something really unsettling about how direct his writing is but it’s also much more moving for it. I’m also a big fan of Ted Hughes’ poetry. I think both writers have quite a stark sense of the violence and destruction within the natural world which is something a lot of writers ignore in favour of a more rose-tinted view. They also both manage to create something that seems mythical out of the natural world as it exists today. Other than that, I try to read as many local writers as possible and those whose literature is rooted in the north of England. I’m currently working on another novel, set in Yorkshire, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading of writers who have written about the area: Ben Myers’ The Gallows Pole, Elmet by Fiona Mozley, Ill Will by Michael Stewart and Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe are a few that stand out. They all create quite a striking sense of the region as distinct from the rest of the country through the dialect and character of the place. There are loads of others and loads more I’ve got lined up to read- too many to name.

Similarly, what is your favourite novel?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a really simple story with only two characters but it seems to cover everything- life and death, meaning and meaninglessness, where humanity is headed. It’s unbelievably direct and every sentence seems charged. Everyone should read it. Why this novel now? It was mostly written in the first covid lockdown. I think the lockdowns made everyone think about things we otherwise don’t get much time to think about. Life and death questions and questions about isolation and loneliness and so on. I think the pandemic has also been a reminder of the power of nature and the strange relationship we have with it. On the one hand the natural world is being destroyed and needs to be protected. But nature as a whole is also always a hostile force which we have to battle against in order to survive. This novel explores some of these themes in its own small way.

Do you have any thoughts about your experience of independent publishers?

My experience with Wrecking Ball Press has been great. I don’t have any comparable experience with non-indie publishers but I’ve really enjoyed the creative freedom and the whole process of seeing it develop from a manuscript to a published novel. I’ve been able to share a novel which is a bit different and which I suspect would not have had any interest from major publishers without any pressure to make massive changes. I’ve found the team at Wrecking Ball really supportive and, like other indie publishers I’ve encountered in the past, they seem to be doing it entirely because they enjoy literature. I’ve also found local independent bookshops to be especially supportive with the sale and promotion of the book. The relationship between independent publishers and indie bookshops seems to be a really strong one and I think they both have a really important role to play. Independent publishers like Wrecking Ball Press seem to do a really good job of finding alternative and overlooked writers. Loads of my favourite English writers at the moment seem to have been published by independent publishers.

What else are you working on and what does the future hold for you as a writer?

I finished Killing The Horses a year ago and I’ve spent the time since then working on a longer novel with a much bigger cast of characters. I’m still very much learning as I go though so I’m not rushing anything and I’m more than happy to spend a good few years on it if necessary. I’d love to get more novels published in future but I’ll keep writing either way as I just enjoy doing it for its own sake.

What would you say to someone who was keen to write, and would like to see their words published?

Keep writing for the enjoyment of doing so and don’t worry about getting rejections or writing rubbish as both are inevitable and will make up the largest part of it.

What are your hopes and dreams for the book?

That some people will read it and that some of those who read it will enjoy it!

Killing The Horses can be purchased online at

OUT TODAY: John Newsham's Killing The Horses

OUT TODAY: John Newsham’s Killing The Horses

John Newsham’s novel Killing The Horses is published today (August 10) by Wrecking Ball Press.

In the woods the earth made myths. Angry myths. Savage myths. Myths that could kill…

Set on the outskirts of Bradford over the course of a single day, Killing The Horses follows Ryan and Liam, teenagers skiving off school in the woods at the edge of the city. But the woods hold secrets. Dark secrets. And the landscape aches with the violence of all that has been done there.

There is blood on the ground and a sickness in the earth. As the memory of what has happened there climbs back out of the hillside, the boys learn that they are too entangled in the savagery of the land around them to be able to separate themselves from it.

Killing The Horses is rooted in the landscape and dialect of West Yorkshire and fuses realism with the mythical. It brings the macabre and darkly-religious world of the American Southern Gothic to the north of England.

The short story version of Killing The Horses was longlisted in the 2018 Manchester Fiction Prize run by Carol-Ann Duffy.

John Newsham’s other writing credits include fiction publication in the Fortnightly Review, winning a Dorothy Rosenberg Prize for ‘young poets of unusual promise’ from the University of Berkeley, and the Grist first-place prize for poetry describing place, from the University of Huddersfield. He has performed at numerous literary festivals around Yorkshire including the Ted Hughes Festival, the York Takeover Festival, the Leeds Lit Festival and the Bradford Literature Festival. John is also a teacher of A-Level English Literature and Language.

Killing The Horses can be purchased directly from Wrecking Ball Press at

To request review copies or for further information email

PRESS RELEASE: Talitha Wing's debut collection out now

PRESS RELEASE: Talitha Wing’s debut collection out now

Title: The Things I Learnt And The Things I Still Don’t Know About

Pages : 124

Cover : Paperback

Language : English

Publisher : Wrecking Ball Press

ISBN : 978-1903110836

Released : 26.07.2021

Talitha Wing‘s debut poetry collection The Things I Learnt And The Things I Still Don’t Know About has been published by Wrecking Ball Press. 

This debut poetry collection from writer and thrilling live performer of spoken word and poetry Talitha Wing will propel Talitha to prominence in the world of poetry and spoken word. The honest, raw and intimate nature of the poetry in this debut will make a positive impact on your life.

Within the pages of The Things I Learnt and the Things I Still Don’t Know About, Talitha presents a collection of work that provides a voice for those who, like her, refuse to be categorised and labelled. Talitha explores the ambiguities of the journey into adulthood, self-acceptance and what it means to be ‘other’ in a manner that will resonate with readers. 

Talitha is an actor, writer and poet, based in London and Vienna. Talitha’s debut play Socks was commissioned by Paines Plough for the nationwide Come To Where I’m From program in 2019. Talitha’s next play will be She Calls Me Crazy, currently in development with TBA Productions. 

Poets can spend years finding their voice but Talitha writes with the same level of self-assurance, passion and determination that are evident in her spoken word performances. We should all be thankful that she’s picked up her weapon of choice in order to get these poems onto the page and is now ready to share them with the world. The Things I Learnt and the Things I Still I Don’t Know About is as vital and exhilarating as poetry gets. 

Talitha said: “To me this collection is a journey into adulthood, a raw and real look at discovering ones identity, and all the experiences, thoughts and feelings that come along with that, both extremely exciting, utterly confusing and often a mountain sized challenge. From the first time using a tampon, to heartbreak, dealing with mental health and everything in between.

”I want readers to be able to get lost in the words, the world and the story of the collection. I hope it is accessible and easy to digest – I love that poetry doesn’t have to be elitist, fancy and traditional (I love poetry like that too sometimes) but my style is hopefully quite down to earth! I want them to feel how I feel when I listen to a Beyoncé album.

“I’d say that this collection is mostly for young people, young adults and adolescents – but also for anyone who has felt different, unseen, or unheard. It is a love letter to young women.”

The Things I Learnt and the Things I Still I Don’t Know About can be purchased directly from Wrecking Ball Press at

To request review copies or for further information email

Kirsty Allison


Kirsty Allison was born in London in 1975. PSYCHOMACHIA is her first novel and will be published by Wrecking Ball Press on July 5, 2021.

Kirsty is incoming editor of the literary and arts quarterly Ambit, founder of Cold Lips, and her band is called Vagrant Lovers. She currently lives in Peckham.  

Irvine Welsh has described Kirsty as “the greatest cultural beacon this planet has produced.” We asked Kirsty some questions to set the scene for the book’s launch and she provided a book’s worth of answers, which we love. You will too.

Give us the elevator pitch for PSYCHOMACHIA?
It’s about a girl in the 90s who’s so wasted, she doesn’t know if she’s murdered someone. And maybe she should have. It’s set in the fashion and music industries.
The title is from the 5th century Latin poem by Prudentius, about the war of vice and virtue, or ‘battle of the soul’.
Who is the book for?
It’s the kind of book I’m always looking to read. Initially I was writing it for a young me. But I’ve got older writing it, so it takes in a wide scope. It’s super cult in many ways because that’s the world it explores with universal occurrences. People say it’s brutal, but that’s what I needed to lay out. If people have been to Ibiza, listened to music, worn clothes, wanted to fit in, found problems with the patriarchy, hopefully they’ll dig it. I’d like it to be read everywhere from refugee camps to prisons to couture houses and palaces. I write quite well about drugs, but it’s not about drugs per se, although it does do the arc of Acid House to BritPop to Heroin Chic.
What experience do you want your readers to have?
I want them to feel like they’ve been out all night, at the best parties in the world, and been kidnapped by a bunch of people they love and hate, which leads to epiphanies only benders like that can offer. It’s a cleanser. I’d love people to read it on the beach. The cover’ll look good resting on sand, but in the meantime, home is fine. I’d like people to read it waiting for the band to come on, I’d like them to forget they were scrolling, miss their stops on the underground, and just go around in a loop, absorbed by it.
PSYCHOMACHIA’s been a long time coming. Tell us about the evolution of the book?
I have always lived for experience and changed from girl to woman whilst writing this. It began biographically, almost like fiction as dissociation, trying to understand my tormented soul as a way of freeing it, but it developed away from those things, learning about the craft of novel-writing, and the balance of knowing that you have to write what you know. It has always been fiction but I returned to my own diaries towards the end of writing, to make sure it was right and real, by which time the characters had become their own supra-beings, collided, and I watched them dance over the pages creating their own truths, that’s magical, and I want to do more of it. I think it rides real rather than it being an imitation. There’s been no deadline on this, which is a privilege in many ways, it’s allowed me to work until it really is finished, and as such it’s layer upon layer of work, from innocence to the wisdom of how long it’s taken, despite having been a writer my whole life.
How would you describe yourself? And how would you describe yourself as a novelist?
Novelist is a helluva title to live up to. I’m proud to finally be one. I don’t often call myself a poet, and I laugh when people call me a singer. I veer towards the Scottish term of endearment, most days, but life’s a bit more textured than that. All the characters are part of me in some ways, as you’re your only point of reference when learning how to write fiction, so the joy is seeing that open up beyond yourself. A Nigerian friend said I write like a magical realist, and I think he’s right. Journalism and copywriting don’t allow so much creativity, so this is complete freedom, to carve sentences with more imagination. It’s a rock of of a book. My bedrock. I liked it being described as modern contemporary fiction on Waterstones. There was a lot to work out. I have very high expectations of myself. When people ask me what I do, I say writer, and then, if appropriate, I explain that I started out as teenage journalist, on TV, DJing around the world, and I’ve done poetry-films, performed internationally, you know, it gets a bit much, so writer is easier. Writer – Performer – Editor works as an Insta bio. I was looking at old paintings the other day, the pieces I didn’t burn, and I wasn’t very good, never worked at it. Writing however, I love sculpting sense in black and white. It’s taken a long time to stop me feeling like I’m faking it, and that’s partly because this book’s taken so long.
How do you balance all of the different work and artistic projects that you’re involved in?
I try to keep my spiritual centre attuned as I go to extreme lengths to do my best on everything – I don’t really like to work on things that I don’t care about. Labour is laborious, whatever you do takes time. It’s wearing that with grace. Sometimes I don’t balance it, take too much on, the piss factory floods, and I become sick.
My ex-husband used to say that a man has to know his limitations, but I remember meeting someone towards the end of our relationship who told me there are no limits, and that’s where I like to hang my hat. That boundarylessness has got me in a lot of trouble though.
I think accepting that I can’t get it all done at once is part of it, but new work does excite me. I’m getting to a point where I feel I have more choice not to take as much on. But there’s the nagging hangover of media and the bullshit of profile.
It depends what index you’re working to, but growing up in media, I do seem to seek validation from the dumbarseness of recognition, and likes. That’s super industrial, but pop culture dictates that to a certain extent. I think I freed myself of that when I realised I was pretty much blacklisted because I’d been ill, and never thought I’d get back through any doors, so with that, I kind of gave up, stopped caring, and it felt essential to experiment and work across disciplines, as that’s the most progressive place, but I feel like this period of research is closing. Not having children helps.
It wasn’t a planned sacrifice, I always thought I’d do it when I grew up, and there’d be a line of wellie boots belonging to baby Kirsty & whoever, but child rearing is a job for life and I’d find it boring and depressing to make sandwiches everyday and get them to places on time. A precarious life of being a writer didn’t really provide it as an option without some heavy compromise, and that is that I want to write more books.
How do all of the different disciplines you work across feed into your novel writing?
I wouldn’t have written in the way I have without having experimented in poetry, performance, and having communicated in black and white for so many places. I don’t want to do video so much now, I’d rather write, but I have found that cutting words together in video expanded my palette of communication.
I started writing young, and I did it for money. I’ve gone from mass media into smaller presses, and got more DIY, which is at odds to most of the people who helped train me, who started on fanzines and worked up. But it’s how I’ve found my voice and become more individual, after trying to fit in, I’ve got more bespoke. I’ve slipped down and down the greasy pole.
There’s a lot of music industry stuff in the book. It’s obviously a fucked up industry, but in terms of music, how much does music influence you when it comes to writing?
All industry is fucked up. Music is about as close to sex as it gets. I’ve always loved musicians, they’re poets when they’re doing it right and symbolise a freedom of soul.
I have synesthesia, or took a lot of acid growing up, it’s hard to know, but my first boyfriend was a musician, and I’ve been writing about music and the culture around it forever. It’s a relatively recent thing finally being brave enough to perform, but music has been my life.
I think rhythmically when I’m writing, and there’s a calligraphic musicality if writing by hand. Typewriters or wordprocessors are almost like a calculator, plucking representations for the beauty and contrasts of life, as all art is. Drafting Psychomachia I wrote some by hand, as I edit so much as I go along when working on screen, but much as it’s quite musical shaping words on a computer, and quite jazz, it’s good to try different things.
Thinking about writing as musical subgenres is fun. But sound is part of what we’re trying to communicate in writing too, so it’s multiple, and interrelated. Ultimately good music transcends metadata and tags and representational values when it’s beyond industrial porn settings, good art raises the game.
I love music. I grew up writing about where the new sounds are, but I do like to write in silence. Although sometimes music and repetition can help. It’s good to vibe off your environment – whether that’s notetaking at a fashion show, or reviewing a gig. If I’m really writing, and in it, I don’t hear, it’s a rare pleasure – and a similar meditation to performing.
The book has song lyrics in it. That’s pretty brave, writing lyrics and including them. Tell us more about your decision to incorporate those?
It’s funny that, because I asked Gil to sing them recently, as we performed an adaptation of part of the book, and he was like: “These are not lyrics, they’re poetry, I can’t sing these!”

It’s weird – I’d been singing them to myself, in my head to write them and I do think of those as songs, like the one on Diana: driving down the underpass, driving down the underpass, I can go so fast, I can go so fast, pap, pap, pap, pap – that’s like Gary Numan, no?! I have a total score for it. But yes, probably madness.

You appear to like a good collaboration. Tell us about your collaborators, and why you collaborate?
INSPIRATION. ACCELERATION. A lack of faith in oneself, I don’t know. I think culture’s rhizomatic, and we just layer upon layer. My life’s always been pretty solo, as a writer, freelancer, DJ, poet, whatever, and I can’t do everything, but within media, it’s always about consensus, that’s where it differs from art and the vision of an auteur.
I love letting other people do it. Lias Saoudi on Ambit, what a legend. He’s so good. Connecting with Danielle De Picciotto in Berlin, we support each other. Kelli Ali, she records my lyrics, I snort fake coke in her film. The music Gil De Ray does is what he excels at, I can’t do that, don’t have time to learn and although I’ve always had guitars around, I don’t naturally pick them up. I write instead. Synthesisers were always in the house as a kid, but it’s not my natural medium, I really do work with words. Yet what Malik Ameer Crumpler does as a lyricist and poet on the Vagrant Lovers tracks – NO WAY could I do what he does but he likes what I do too, and it stops me feeling like I’m alone, because we vibe off each other.
Designers too, Personality Crisis, Luke McLean, Stephen Barrett. Photographers. It is collaboration, that’s the point. I don’t go around claiming I’m doing it all. And the novel would be really really boring if I had been a hermit. We are the sum total of our experience, as much as I’ve enjoyed the ascetic nature of lockdown, I guess I’ve never had much of a high opinion of myself, I’ve been impressed by those I’ve been hanging with, for whatever reason, and humbled by others desire to invite me to do stuff with them. DJing, performing, being on the same bill as people I admire. I generally had DJ partners when I wasn’t doing 9 hour sets in Soho, and if that was with Irvine Welsh or Howard Marks, I got to hear good stories, so there’s a trade, and you get more out of it than you can generally do alone.
Books stand on their own spine though, but again, the cover art’s by Siena Barnes, because she’s good and there’s a connection with her boyfriend being my ex from the Shoreditch days, and it’s designed by Stephen, because he’s good, and it’s published by Wrecking Ball – because they’re amazing. It’s sexy collaborating with people but I did find in early Covid that the cult of the individual rose to an unprecedented level, and actually I quite enjoyed being less diluted.
What was your route into writing?
Pen and paper. Typewriter. Computer. Phone. I am that cliche of having made poetry books, travel journals, mad diaryism as a kid. But I had a really shit English teacher at A-level, took a load of PCP by accident and ended up at art school – it wasn’t really where I should have been, but it detoured me into a job in an airport because I’d had a load of paintings not sell and knew any longer at art school would be a detriment to my life, so I went out a lot, had my picture in a magazine – that a friend showed me, and off I went in search of that photo, and ended up in an office, asking if they had any jobs, and there was a job going as PA to the editor, but I’d need to learn how to type, so off I went to Mavis Beacon on Charing Cross Road, and in the final interview they said I’d make a shit secretary but a good journalist, and offered to train me.
That was in the old days of Fleet Street. Jefferson Hack on Dazed gave me a notebook, and I began to learn how to write. Dan Kahuna gave me pages to channel my Hunter S. Thompson, and I was soon freelancing across the style and music press, doing the odd bit of fashion and music copywriting, but also working on a tabloid newspaper, which was just for the cocaine money and I was very naive, but it taught me how to write fast and in any style possible.
I was hosting a TV show, getting sent the best records, so started playing them out, and one relationship led to another, and I was DJing with Irvine Welsh in the height of his Trainspottting fame, and Howard Marks, and it was all pretty crazy.
I went straight working at the BBC, got an award for a radio documentary, but relapsed into another relationship, making independent film, which again got a load of awards, but I was doing copywriting to support that, writing about beige jumpers for months, and doing video for Marie Claire. It was around then that I started hosting workshops for a charity in writing, and getting up very early in the morning to begin working on what has become Psychomachia. Those workshops led me to get called a professor, and I wrote a book for Red Gallery, spent 5 years editing the books and arts on DJMag, and started my own magazine, Cold Lips, which has done a few limited edition books too. But that evolved from a spoken word night exploring poetry and lyric, the Sylvia Plath Fan Club, after I’d got the taste for performing poetry, Dave Barbarossa, the drummer invited me to collaborate, and I improved at performing, and working out what I was doing.
Vagrant Lovers is my spoken word collaboration with Gil De Ray, and we’ve performed at festivals, galleries and venues internationally, as I have independently as a poet.
Last year I started as Managing Editor on Ambit Magazine. They first published early elements of Psychomachia, when Geoff Nicholson was fiction editor, and I’d sent work in anonymously and it gave me a sense of proper literary fam.
All of it feels unorthodox, and I did a degree in the middle of that, but although I’ve always been a writer, I think I’ve been waiting so long to feel realised by this novel. So maybe only now can I say I am one, it feels like a long period of research.

Was there a significant person in your life that encouraged you to write?
My Mother, she reads more books a year than anyone else I know. She writes diaries and tells me I can only read them when she’s dead – so that will become my life’s work, perhaps interpolate them with some family postcards. If I make it beyond her virtuous lifestyle.
Has Covid-19 affected the way that you write?
The week before Covid hit the UK I was in Hamburg, writing – and what I had been finding increasingly was that cafes and bars were full of public, and although I can write anywhere, I was attracting people who wanted to talk to me, and I love listening to people, so I’d lose hours to that. So it’s been great to spend so much time at my desk, although people are getting paid to distract you with the flashing lights of phones and my inbox getting heavily violated.
I started a Substack blog, which I was amazed people supported, and haven’t had much time to do that of late, Ambit’s been taking a lot of my time, and documenting the archive in my house, where my ceiling fell in in the first lockdown but I’ve been working from home for most of my life – it’s just I can be a sado-masochist towards my own writing, and not allow myself that ultimate pleasure.

It was all so new initially, I started out writing a lot, continuing what I was doing in Hamburg, and received a literary grant from the Society of Authors which stopped me fretting about less income from journalism.
I loved the silence initially. The blossoms blossoming, having time to think about my own experience rather than everyone else’s, and the fear got broken by a residency out in Berlin last Autumn. Although I currently feel I need to retreat from the retreat, which probably means the writing’s about to start to flow again.
What is the importance of place to you as a writer?
It’s the world you’re creating. The detail is important. As a Londoner, it’s a fight, so there’s probably an essence of that in how I write. Some of it’s really pushy, some of it struggles in tension, some of it’s flash, a lot going on.
I was more transitory before Covid. I’d spent a while in Lebanon, and was halfway to moving to Berlin. I like to suck these places up, and share them through the pages. I travel in my mind through writing.
There’s a denial of the pastoral in the punk struggle of art. It’s some twisted trait staying in this city, f’sure. The good Doctor John Cooper Clarke told me this is my city. He calls me kid, which I like. But there is a lot of my writing and identity riddled up in London, it’s a rich and diverse bitch of a place.
Could you tell us something about your creative process? 
Sometimes you can push it, and I will push it to all extremes. Smashing out wordcounts can be great, I’d like to get back to that, just to get some pages behind me, but I do like to labour in the pain of an elongated development period.
I’m cruel to myself. I push it to the last moment – I have rarely actually delivered work to the actual deadline, and my editors know that. So they have Kirsty deadlines. I craft sentences, although recently I’ve been taking pleasure in letting it fall from the sky like when I was less self-conscious and critical, the problem with having written for so many places is I do analyse everything.
Desks, beds, chairs, inside, outside. It’s great to not think about any of it, and just get on with it, legs under the desk, that’s the basic. I’ve tried it all. Longhand, shorthand. Early, late. I’m naturally a night person, I like that peace. Straight, drunk.
I don’t think caffeine’s great for my writing at the moment, I wonder about whether speed would help, or those mad clever drugs, but I’m more of a valium and chamomile tea at night kinda writer. I find mornings a bit industrious, but there can be a sense of pleasure with getting it done early, there’s nothing like an afternoon nap when reading your own work.

I actually like stories working together like jigsaw puzzles, so they become something unexpected, that can be a naturally slow process, but sometimes it’s almost written before you’ve started it, I like letting work breathe, after the lack of that as a journalist, and I’ve been lucky in my fiction to not have had any deadlines or pressure with writing to deadline, so I’ve taken pleasure in learning how to do it naturally rather than having to force it, but there is nothing as good as battering away on a book. That’s total sex.
Who are your favourite writers? And which writers are you influenced by?
I relish in whatever I’m discovering. I am an enthusiast. I hate that about myself, but I do get impressed by others. I love DBC Pierre, he was one of the key ones when working on early drafts of this, and all the usual ones of Nabakov, Jean Genet, Martin Amis. Paul Auster. Ralph Ellison, EM Forster, the male canon of alt hip: all the Hunter S. Thompson, Ken Kesey, X Press. Irvine Welsh, Bukowski, Angela Carter. John Niven. Anthony Kiedis’s biography is great. Patti Smith’s Just Kids, Please Kill Me is brilliant. Wayne Kramer’s biography is brilliant. I like Rob Doyle, and his style appears easy but I know it’s not. Bulgakov. Hesse. Huncke. JG Ballard. Geoff Nicholson. Brett Easton Ellis. Donna Tart is a complete icon to me. Many of the authors at Wrecking Ball: Ben Myers, Adelle Stripe, Tony O’Neill, Dan Fante. Recently I’ve been into Ottessa Moshfegh, Virginie Despentes, Eliza Class, Roisin Kiberd, Morowa Yejide, Jenny Fagan, Shola von Rheinhold, I read a huge amount, as a reviewer and editor. Today I’m reading Deborah Levy, Will Burns, David Keenan and Richard Hell.
Similarly, what is your favourite novel?
I always say Nabokov, Lolita, because it just blew me away to an unprecedented level.
Why this novel now?
90s are back. And now they read like history.

Do you have any thoughts about your experience of independent publishers?
Hahah. I mean, I want the house in the hills that I can write in, and shoot an airgun out of like I’m Daphne Du Maurier. Can you provide that?
What else are you working on and what does the future hold for you as a writer?
I finished another book called Rambling Rose, and I’m about to plunge back into writing a big novel, it was confusing because it went out of sync with lockdown world, and it’s 30 years in the future, and there was no future for a while, but I just threw one of the characters from Psychomachia into it, because I missed them, and that’s churned the whole thing upside down, but it is more exciting so I’d like to concentrate on that for a while. There’s always poetry and short stories coming out of me too.

Beyond that, I’m going to record an audiobook, and versions of Psychomachia. I might do some of that on my Substack. I really owe the subscribers some stuff. I want to make a film of the promo of the book this summer, something poetic and documentary, and develop the novel as a film installation with performance.
But beyond editing Ambit, there’s talk of curating the literary stage at a festival in late August, and I’d like to perform again, I feel like I’m good now, when the sound’s okay. I’ve been asked to review a load of books again for Mu magazine, and I’m probably going to do a re-issue of the Cold Lips book we did for Martyn Goodacre.

Michael Chestnutt from Snapped Ankles is working on a couple of Vagrant Lovers tracks, and the first physical release of Vagrant Lovers is coming on a gatefold vinyl compilation from Das Wasteland Records in Berlin. It’s also got Rob Doyle, Nathan from the Fat Whites, Tim Burgess.
What would you say to someone who was keen to write, and would like to see their words published?
Give up. There’s not enough room on the shelves for both of us. Or, if I liked them, I’d suggest they write their way through it. Get a drug habit, and drink heavily. Try being homeless. Work with some refugees. Meet a few arms dealers. Send it to me at Ambit when they’re done.
I have good editors who are looking for good writing. But if that doesn’t work, just write, and don’t worry if you’re not. It’s so easy to DIY it, but you will learn from doing it professionally, and from others too. I showed people drafts of this too early, it crushed me as I wasn’t used to criticism like that. I think people saw that I was going to be a good writer, but knew I needed to go through the mill a bit, and I’m lucky to have survived, so work out how you’re going to do that. I put it down for years. So be careful who you share work with. Some people respond well to being educated.
I’m more of a school of life for writers, that’s the sort of writing I like. Voices from the diaspora of experience rather than privilege or prissiness. I like outsiders. There’s a lot of glamour in the job title, less in the hours it takes. That takes a rare determination. I’d say don’t be in too much of a rush, you’ll get there, you’re doing it for yourself, not others. But some people seem to be able to write commercial fiction, that’s not really what I’m in the business of – much as I’d like this to be read widely. It’s different for everyone. It may be a phase. It may be what you were put on this earth to do. It doesn’t matter, just write something interesting. And read others.
There’s the idea of communities of writers – I liked doing the Sylvia Plath Fan Club nights, and Cold Lips nights, and breaking people’s cherries on sharing their work. It’s good to get published and it’s hard finding good editors. And please, understand that writing is editing, and if you don’t get that, you ain’t there yet.
What are your hopes and dreams for the book?
I want people to read it.
I want people to love it.
I want people to talk about it.

Have the characters in their minds, and see it as a great work. Obviously when people you admire like it, that’s great, but really I just want people to have enough time to read it. I’d love it to be a bestseller. A classic.
In the meantime, I want to record it as an audio book. I really want to develop it into a film installation that’s like an ouroboros loop of experience with performance.

I always saw it as a movie, and used some film structure in drafts, and it would never be the same as I see it. I’d like the money of it being made into a Netflix series, but it really is a book, so it would be amazing to get it out in other countries, anything that allows me to write more. But really – I’m just so excited to think that people are going to read it. It’s lovely going into bookshops. Talking to people who like books.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m very happy it’s being published by Wrecking Ball. It’s the dream, I cannot wait to feel the paper and see the design in the flesh. Sign a few copies.
PSYCHOMACHIA can be pre-ordered online at

Wrecking Ball Press Book Club

Poetry and prose from Wrecking Ball to you.

Imagine a Wrecking Ball Press title delivered to your door every single month. That’s what the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club is all about.

Here’s how it works – for just £80 we will send you a book on the same day every month for a year. The first book you will receive is your choice* – simply go through our back catalogue and pick the book you want.

After that we’ll select books for you from literary legends such as Ben Myers, Dan Fante, Roddy Lumsden, Geoff Hattersley, Niall Griffiths and exciting voices like Shirley May, Toria Garbutt, celeste doaks, Vicky Foster, Isaiah Hull, Barney Farmer, Dean Wilson, Andy Fletcher and Peter Knaggs.

So what are you waiting for? Join the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club, include all your contact details and, in the order notes, your choice of first book and we will add you to our lovely list of literature lovers who will be getting a year’s worth of words, one month at a time.

The £80 cost is fully inclusive of postage and packing, so the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club is great value for lovers of poetry and fiction.

So what are you waiting for? Head here to sign up:

*excludes The City Speaks.

Press Release: New collection from poet Dean Wilson – Take Me Up The Lighthouse

Dean Wilson’s new collection Take Me Up The Lighthouse will be published by Wrecking Ball Press on January 31, 2020.

Take Me Up The Lighthouse follows previous Wrecking Ball publications of Wilson’s work Sometimes I’m So Happy I’m Not Safe on the Streets and the limited edition WITH. Wilson, whose humble brag is that he is the fourth best poet in Hull and the second best poet in Withernsea, is back with more of his trademark revelatory and brutally honest poems set against the backdrop of the Holderness towns and villages he frequents.

Take Me Up The LighthouseThis new collection takes the reader on emotional journeys via bus, covers encounters on benches and trains and entertaining postmen, while celibacy, sex and the search for romance are juxtaposed with orange curtains, omelettes and Cheerios.  Throughout, Wilson combines humour with heart-tugging pathos.

Having stepped out of the shadows during 2017 City of Culture year by making a host of live appearances and becoming a regular radio contributor, Wilson’s growing audience have been clamouring for more published work that builds on his existing output. 

Dean said: “I’m happy and anxious about the publication of Take Me Up The Lighthouse. I’m hoping that readers will enjoy the fun and the rhymes about my East Riding adventures.

“My life is all there in my work, warts and all. I don’t decide what to write about and what to leave out. I’m writing in my head all the time whether I’m walking on the beach, dusting, shopping, swimming or watching Corrie. Rhymes never leave me alone.”

Dean’s pain will bring readers pleasure. This new collection will also allow Dean to return to the stage with new work to perform, something he is surprisingly nervous about.

He said: “I love performing and making people laugh. It’s the best feeling I know. I don’t like the build up – the rehearsing and the doubts and the nerves, but it’s all worth it.”

Dean might be viewed as a Hull and East Riding treasure but his live performances beyond the region have proved beyond doubt that his work goes down well anywhere he reads and performs. His many local references and the concrete details that litter his poems about his east coast existence ground his work in a specific place but also allow his work to travel. His local take on life brings into sharp focus feelings and emotions of universal appeal. As he navigates his life, and what it means, readers realise they share common ground with the poet, even in his wildest, untamed and passionate moments.

As for Withernsea, where Dean is based, it seems the perfect place for this former postman to be located.

“I moved here a year ago. It’s a magical and wondrous place. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”

Wrecking Ball Press editor Shane Rhodes said: “Dean’s a one-off, a totally unique man and it’s good to see his reputation continuing to grow. I originally published his work in The Reater, at the beginning of the Wrecking Ball story, and we’re proud to continue to publish his work.”

Dean will be announcing a series of gigs in 2020. Follow him on twitter at @PoetDeanwilson6 for updates.

For more information and to purchase Take Me Up The Lighthouse visit

Barney Farmer, Drunken Baker, Coketown and Brexlit

The Observer featured an article on Sunday 27 October about the growth of a subtle and complex new movement in contemporary British literature: Brexlit. “Some are epic tales of the ancient kings who battled to rule Britain. Others are books about bakers in abandoned northern towns.” The latter, of course, referring to Drunken Baker by Barney Farmer, published by Wrecking Ball Press.
“Novels about ‘the left behind’ make up another strand of Brexlit. In Drunken Baker by Barney Farmer, characters created for the celebrated Viz comic strip Drunken Bakers are immortalised in a book ‘so soaked in booze the pages almost smell’, according to one critic. It’s a comic novel that takes place over a single day: as the bakers get drunker and fail to bake, they reflect on their failures in life and the decline of everything around them. ‘You see the impact of the collapse of a northern town from the point of view of the bakery workers. And it’s just so full of despair. It’s very, very bleak.'” Read the full article here.
On the same day, Robin Ince hailed Drunken Baker as “remarkable” and named it his book of the day on twitter. Ince said: “This book is a remarkable book and if it wasn’t connected to Viz, or it was published by Faber & Faber it would probably be considered to be one of the most intriguing, fascinating and beautifully written books about a world of austerity, a broken world and a world of drunken bakers. Some of you will read Drunken Bakers in Viz it’s one of the most brilliant cartoons anyway, Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The Ballad of Halo Jones) believes so. Alan Moore sees it as Samuel Beckett with Battenberg. Drunken Baker by Barney Farmer is remarkable. So, buy this book. It would be nominated for stuff if the literati knew what they were talking about.” View Robin Ince’s twitter post and video here.  
Barney Farmer’s second novel, Coketown, is published by Wrecking Ball Press in November.  Barney told The Observer: “I’m interested in the people that politics creates. When it comes to cause and effect, the cause is endlessly discussed. But the effect on the individual is more interesting to me, as a writer, than the grand personalities and the great sweep of events. There is more for writers to reveal by approaching political writing from that angle.”
Coketown can be ordered online here.