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Silvia Romano

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Silvia Romano

Toxins (and other poisons) is a new collection of short stories by Silvia Romanoall with the same common denominator: a man with a hat and a turquoise scarf, and a merciless, inescapable feeling of being trapped. 

The main characters, starting from a realistic condition, find themselves in situations that slowly begin to disconnect from reality, and become disturbing and weird, putting them in a condition of (sometimes dark, sometimes lighter and ironic) uneasiness. 

Toxins (and other poisons), which will be published by Wrecking Ball Press on 21 June, 2021, is an overall story of glitches in the system, of individuals floating in a sea of social and technological stimuli, trying their best to fit in, yet failing because defecting of the skills that allow them to be suited to their world. 

Silvia Romano was born in 1992 in winter, a season universally associated with quiescence, the harshness of nature, mud, murk, and sadness in general. Somehow she had to defend herself. She writes both in English and Italian. We caught up with Silvia to find out more about the collection, her writing process and the man with a hat and a turquoise scarf.

How would you describe this collection of short stories?

I think that part of the answer to this question lies in the book description on the Wrecking Ball website. I would just like to add that the title embodies the rest of it: they are tales of pollution, in its daily form, with the load of waste that comes with them.  

When did you start writing these stories and how long did the collection take to come together?

I started writing the stories about two years ago, throughout 2019. Then everything came together in a whole package in early 2020. 

There is a sense of menace in these stories, and, at times, they are disturbing. Where does that come from? 

It all comes from reality, I suppose. Reality can often be much worse than any conceivable fantasy. You can think about the most absurd, shocking thing, and reality will always show up with something that exceeds expectations; but there is also a certain irony in all of it, don’t you think? The ridiculousness? So, from my part, I perceive a fil rouge of enjoyment in all the mess. Also, it might just come from the way I cope with life. I was born with a guilty conscience, so I think threat is the only natural conclusion for me. 

Why short stories?

Because it’s always the time for a short story collection! (*smiling face with sunglasses emoji*). 

What was your route into writing?

As the one to hell, it was a road paved with good intentions. But then, it turned out that the pavement wasn’t as strong as it seemed. It was all jagged and crumbly and seeped with waste liquid. So yeah, now it’s still a construction site. 

Was there a significant person in your life who encouraged you to write?

As far as I can remember, I have always been inclined to the act of translating concepts and images into words and putting them on paper. You know, in the solitary alcove of my little gloomy dungeon. I had, and still have, a couple of extraordinary people who encouraged me to really pursue this act. Those who gave me the metaphorical kick in the butt. I owe them big time. 

Has Covid-19 affected the way that you write?

An event of this size and on these terms has inevitably given me either the food for thoughts and also the time to savour it. Then, naturally, you have to deal with the painful, slow aftermath of its digestive process. 

What is the importance of place to you as a writer?

Place retains in its features the outward appearance of the inner reality. It gives concrete shapes to abstract feelings. This can happen in a form of total contrast, or the feeling can be supported by the material surroundings. Either way, it is never left to chance. 

Could you tell us something about your creative process? 

I came to think that self-discipline is everything, not only when it comes to writing. I’d love to rely only on those exhilarating times when the flood bursts its bank, but it is a capricious harmony, and it may end up with nothing but piles of severed limbs. The time will come when I have to sit at the desk and stitch them together with Prussian zeal; or simply get some work done when I only feel like banging my head on the table. I need to sleep at night. 

You write in both English and Italian. Tell us more about that?

I write in Italian because it’s the language primarily spoken in the place I happened to be delivered and raised; I write in English because it’s the language I happened to learn and love, and which I find akin to express myself with. This strange sort of parallel balance has the effect of making me feel like a kind of impostor, in both languages, most of the times. 

Who are your favourite writers and who are you influenced by?

The thing with me is that, when it comes to literature, I am not influenced by it. I am subjected to it. So there is a long list of astonishing writers who had enslaved me from the most tender age ongoing; but Franz Kafka is the one I have suffered the most. 

Similarly, what is your favourite collection of short stories?

Gutshot by Amelia Gray is the last collection I read that made me think: “wow, this is amazing, that was quite the trip.” 

What experience do you want readers of your collection to have? 

Well, the thing is these sorts of things always kind of take a life of their own, don’t they? I may have had the intention to trigger this or that button, to mean this and to rub it in on that, but in the end I am really not the one who has the leash. Reading a book is an act of intimacy, and is tied too tightly to the unique personal experience for me to get in between. 

Who do you think the audience for your writing is? 

These are stories made of glitches, so maybe their natural ends are all the faulty cogs in the mechanism. But I might be surprised. Anecdote: when the idea of a collection was still non-existent, my teacher friend read the Italian version of a couple of the stories, and he was enthusiastic enough to give them to his middle school kids – as a Christmas holiday homework. I was very uncertain. I didn’t really think those pages were meant for anybody, let alone children of that age. I told him: “I am OK with that, as long as you are the one going down.” We had a little debate with the class, after the holidays, and I was amazed by how the kids took the core of the stories and then threw it in the context of their life, which is still so young when you’re in middle school, but no less intense. I remember at some point one of the children saying, in a very inspired tone: “I believe we are all being controlled, maybe even unconsciously.” Just like that. Like a twelve-year-old Gilles Deleuze. I am still waiting for my friend to be kicked out of school any moment for that stunt, but it’s been a while, and it didn’t happen, so I guess the book is middle-school proofed. But still, I am not suggesting anything. 

How is your experience with independent publishers?

The experience with Wrecking Ball Press is my first approach to the publishing world ever. So, I feel like a dizzy traveller gazing at sudden, vibrant and very cosy surroundings. 

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

Another manuscript is almost ready, this time in the form of a novel, and the larva of something even bigger is in its casing spun – on this regard, would you excuse me for the spit. I guess that, best case scenario, what the future holds for me on the very long term is total absorption by a big ball of extremely hot plasma. I only hope to have as much fun as possible in the meantime. 

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

Nurture the urge, chisel the words, and always give the lighter back. 

Can you tell us anything more about the man with a hat and a turquoise scarf?

He’s there because he exists. I didn’t write him, I only took the effort to describe him. He exists because, every time, everywhere a story is taking place, he’s like that slice of the pie on the table that has nothing to do with the rest on the menu. But still, you can’t pretend it’s not there. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Never in my life had I calculated the odds of potentially finding myself on a shelf next to a book written by Seneca. I daresay, put it like that, it is quite the enticing perspective. 

Toxins (and other stories) can be pre-ordered online at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/toxins-and-other-poisons/

Poet Interview: Talitha Wing

Poet Interview: Talitha Wing

Talitha Wing possesses a powerful voice. Wrecking Ball Press publish Talitha’s debut The Things I Learnt and the Things I Still Don’t Know About on July 26, 2021. The honest, raw and intimate nature of the poetry in this debut collection 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.

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.

Ahead of publication we caught up with Talitha to find out more about her work, her writing process and how she balances life as a poet with that of an actor.

How would you describe this collection?

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.

When did you start writing these poems and how long did this collection take to come together?

I wrote the poems in ‘real time’, as my friends and I were going through the transition into womanhood. The first poem I wrote for this collection was written when I was around 15/16 and some were written earlier this year (2021). I feel for that reason, it is able to tell a story that takes you on a journey through growing up.

Poems on the page or poems in performance?

Poems on the page, that way you can keep them forever, and read them any time you need some comfort. Books are magical. They’re the ultimate pocket pal.

How do you balance your work as a poet and that of an actor?

I’m still learning how to balance both of these parts of my career. I write mostly in the evenings, as a way to process the day to day. Poetry is a form of journalling for me, and a self-soothing mechanism. I also like to write when I’m travelling on buses, tubes and trains etc. My acting work is much more structured and scheduled. When I’m working on a TV show, it takes up most of my ‘working day’ but I always find time to write at home.

Has Covid-19 affected the way that you write?

Covid has been a challenge! It has felt like the world has been at a standstill for the last year or so. For this reason a lot of my recent writing has been reflective. Like many others I have used this time to look back at and process the last few years. It has been a time to pause, breathe and think.

Could you tell us something about your creative process?

My creative process is very free, I try not to put too many rules in place, so I can express myself freely, especially for a first draft. I carve out time to write but will also just jot down poems or certain phrases or thoughts in my phone notes as and when they come to me. This is my first poetry collection so I’ve learned a lot about creating a book as a whole, and that does take a level of structure and the creation of an overall arc, but I will always lead with the poems that come to me and create a book around them.

You write about some important subjects and themes – what drives you do do this?

I think it is imperative to write about subjects that may be viewed as taboo or underrepresented such as mental health, women’s sexuality, the experiences of ethnic minorities in a predominately white-led society, because they affect so many of us and navigating them as we grow up can be very challenging. To know that other people have or are currently experiencing these issues too has been a major comfort to me throughout my life, and I hope to provide that for others with my work. The more we talk about these things openly and candidly, the more we can ensure young people are safe, supported and heard. Especially those who may feel ‘other’ for whatever reason.

What experience do you want readers of your collection to have?

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.

Who do you think the audience for your poetry is?
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.

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

I have enjoyed working with an independent publisher (Wrecking Ball Press) as it has a very personal feel. There is so much passion in the work. It’s not about selling books on an international scale to make money but about the love of poems – that’s all I could wish for, when looking for a publisher.

Who are the contemporary poets/spoken word artists/performance poets that you admire, and why?

The poet who has inspired me most and whose work I adore is Vanessa Kisuule. I read her book Joyriding The Storm when I was 18 and it was like she was hugging the little girl inside me. I also listen to a Rudy Francisco poem at least once a week – he’s a wizard!

What can audiences expect from you when you perform these poems in a live setting?

Much like my book it will probably be a bit rough and ready, uncensored and swear-y in all the right places.

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

I will keep writing and see what happens. I don’t plan ahead to much because as this year has taught me, you never know what is around the corner. I would like to write poetry for children though – a children’s poetry collection would be pretty epic.

What would you say to someone who was keen to express themselves through poetry?

Poetry can be whatever you want it to be – don’t worry about it ‘getting it right’. Whatever ends up on the page is perfect.

The Things I Learnt and the Things I Still Don’t Know About can be pre-ordered directly from Wrecking Ball Press at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/the-things-i-learnt-and-the-things-i-still-dont-know-about/

PUBLICATION DAY: I, From Nothing

Today marks the publication day of I, From Nothing by Isabel Tallysha-Soares.

Luísa from Nothing, born Matilde Boshoff in 1911, is the last living heiress of Nothing, a vast estate in the wine countryside north of the Portuguese capital. Without heirs of her own, the only way to save Nothing from the nothingness of disappearance is to accept living. In anonymous company, Luísa tells the story of Nothing and the paradox of a place name that nullifies existence. Luísa is also a non-existence, with a name she never took but in which she has lived from birth.

Going back to the early 19th century when Nothing was created out of the chaos of the Napoleonic Invasions, Luísa traces the story of her family and its intersection with Portuguese and world history in a place where oddities and unpronounceable possibilities were always as natural occurrences as ghosts and werewolves. After a life of losses and brushes with the unfathomable, Luísa realises Nothing is her own eternal self.

Based on true events and characters…

The book is available direct from Wrecking Ball Press at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/i-from-nothing

Isabel Tallysha-Soares

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Isabel Tallysha-Soares

 

Wrecking Ball Press published Isabel Tallysha-Soares’ I, From Nothing, the English translation of Eu, do Nada, today (22/04/21). We caught up with Isabel to find out more about her book, her writing process and a whole lot more besides.

Can you give us your ‘elevator pitch’ for I, From Nothing? What’s it about? What can readers expect?

I, from Nothing is a sort of heightened reality biography of my maternal family over the course of the last 200 years and its intersection with Portuguese history from 1800 onwards. The main plot encompasses events from World War I until the Portuguese Colonial War in the 1960s although the life of the main character crosses the millennium to the 21stcentury.

Readers can expect a lot of mystery and tinges of magical realism. It’s a story taking readers to a place on the edge of reality and human emotion. It’s also about seemingly insurmountable trials of life and the different prisms in which love is felt and shared. Tears can be expected…

What reception did Eu, do Nada receive in Portugal?

My Portuguese publisher, Porto Editora through its outlet for emerging authors, Coolbooks, published I, from Nothing because the manuscript’s Beta-readers compared it to Isabel Allende’s writing. It was a great honour to be published by the Portuguese main publishing group without having to query other publishers. I got an instant “yes” when I submitted the original. The book has also been well-received among the Portuguese Bookstagram and blogging communities with a lot (and only) very positive reviews so far.

How was the translation process for you?

I know how difficult translation is and the amount of loss it brings so I decided to do the translation myself because the writer of the book was inside the mind of the translator. In the case of I, from Nothing there is a lot of emphasis on Portuguese rural landscapes and agriculture which renders translation even more complex not to mention the fact that characters speak in a Portuguese language that evolves according to historical moment and is not the same in the early 20th century and now. After I completed the translation, I had the great fortune of working with Marcia Prior-Miller who has had a brilliant career in print media editing and is also a scholar at Iowa State University. I had worked with her on an academic project when she and David Abrahamson from Northwestern University edited the Routledge Handbook of Magazine Research and, for all my luck, she said she could be the translation editor of I, from Nothing. Although she speaks no Portuguese, which is a phenomenal thing if you think of it, she helped Anglicise the text (and corrected more prepositions than I can count). Reading from an outside, English-language perspective, Marcia was instrumental in detecting instances where we had to fine tune the text to render it more “understandable” to English-speakers and it was she who got the idea of the genealogy, the maps and the italics for the stream of consciousness dialogues. It was great team work.

What is the importance of place to you as a writer?

Place is a character. Luísa is a child of Nothing and constantly aware and in awe of the pace of the seasons and the changes they bring. The rhythm of Nature is the rhythm of Nothing and the same for me because, although I was born in a big city in Germany, I am also a child of the real Nothing and much in tune with the rural place where I still live. Place is the source of inspiration. In my second novel The Drawer, place is overarching because no places in that novel have names but though unnamed, they are the driving force of the whole plot. After all, a drawer is a place…

Could you tell us something about your creative process when writing fiction?

I once wrote a text to my Portuguese publisher about my writing process. In it I said I write every single day of my life. I don’t always write novels but I write academically, I write lots of admin, I write in social media, I write diaries ever since I can remember, I’ve experimented with literary journalism, and I write stories, piles and piles of stories most of which at an interstice between real and fictive. I think I cannot write 100% fiction, there’s always some element of reality either in situations or travels or life circumstances that have happened to me (trauma, death and war being major catalysts) or to people near me. Even the characters in my novels are, for the most part, based on true people. In I, from Nothing I didn’t even made changes to the names of the characters and in my book The Tame Man I was inspired by the larger-than-life personality of a very real Don Rui de Siqueira de São Martinho to compose an adventurous, also larger-than-life, fictional Don Rodrigo. This said, I write my novels compulsively when they are already fully formed in my head and bursting to come out. When that happens, I take every free moment available and can write for stretches of 12, 14 hours a day until the story is complete. Then a sort of appeasement takes over and I go back to my daily routines. As an academic, I am a very slow writer because science reins you in more tightly.

How and when did the idea for Eu, do Nada / I, From Nothing come to you?

In the 1990s, a Portuguese columnist, Miguel Esteves Cardoso, wrote an article about strange place-names in Portugal. The real Nothing has an even stranger name and was included in that article (it has, in fact, always been subject to curiosity as to why it has that name). Cardoso traced the first mentions of the name, referred to its location but was left at a loss as to why the name. Some years later, on a casual conversation with a journalist friend, Pedro Rolo Duarte, I told the story of my family and explained why Nothing has that name. Duarte, who passed away in 2017, was a good friend of Cardoso and I might have told him to let his friend know the reason for the name. A few years elapse and I get a phone call from Duarte telling me he wanted to talk because he had had an idea. We met for coffee near the magnificent site of the Monastery of Jerónimos in Lisbon and he told me I should commit the story of my family and of Nothing to writing because that was a story worth telling. When I got home, the 50-odd kilometre commute from Lisbon had operated an idea in my mind. Two weeks later I had written a book. It was one of those “twilight zone” moments.

Why this story, now?

The now is the serendipitous moment when the original has been translated, is ready to go out and about in the world and meets a publisher. When I signed my publishing contract with Porto Editora, I asked to keep translation and international rights so I could have freedom to translate. When Marcia Prior-Miller and I decided the translation was finished, I set out searching for a publisher and came across an article in The Guardian in which Wrecking Ball Press was mentioned. The first instant notion I had of Wrecking Ball was that they dealt in quality and took chances on new authors. I browsed their site immediately and, having greatly liked what I saw, got in contact with editor Shane Rhodes all the while bracing myself for the long journey of denial I was in for I don’t even have an agent (the Portuguese market is very small for writers to have agents). Shane took less than two weeks to reply and here we are. I confess I am still processing all this and my gratitude to Wrecking Ball transcends words.

What experience do you want readers of I, From Nothing to have?

I hope readers can feel. I hope they can relate. This is a story that takes you to confront (im)mortality right in the eye, it’s about how you go on when loss is all you have and love and strength come from the most unsuspected places, sometimes from darkness itself. I am always surprised when readers tell me they were shaken to the core and cried their eyes out because what they were reading was what they had already felt or were feeling. I once had a reader who told me she read the book almost as if she was reading about her own feelings. It’s not a sombre story because there’s always courage but it’s not a story on lightness. It’s also a story about our being entitled to suffering and despair. No matter your walk of life, you don’t suffer more or less because of status or circumstances, you just suffer. I think this is something we can all relate to, more so at a moment when we are struggling to comprehend reality around us.

Who do you think the audience for your fiction is?

If you like family sagas, historical novels, magical realism, strong women and enough mystery to keep you wondering, you’ll have an audience for this book.

You live in a beautiful part of the world – how do your surroundings inspire you?

My main, most constant, intellectual reference has always been Sir David Attenborough. Once I read an interview with him on Time magazine, at around the release of The Life of Plants series, in which he said that even something as simple as a garden slug is fascinating to him. Same here. I cannot imagine living in a place where I was not surrounded by Nature. Its sheer vitality is contagious. There’s always so much happening, always so much to pay attention to. As an intrepid globe-trotter, I also enjoy visiting urban places. However, never have I felt more grateful and humble than surrounded by Nature in all its majesty and glory. Gratitude is, to me, the most fulfilling feeling. That I am privileged enough to live in a geography that is still abundantly natural is a case for permanent gratitude. Besides, life in small communities means we are closer to what makes us human: interaction. We didn’t feel the brunt of lockdown because not all our connections were severed. The baker still delivers bread to our door every day. Neighbours give you eggs and vegetables from their gardens. You talk to the mailperson from the safety of your garden (you can have a garden!). In a place like this, you just have to open your soul and absorb your surroundings…

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

Coming from the experience of mainstream, big publishing conglomerate in Portugal to an independent publisher what I can say is that there is much more proximity between writer and the publishing house itself. Although I established an excellent relationship with my Portuguese editor and never felt any of my creative work was being curtailed, the fact is that my particular publisher, Coolbooks, was just one among many and more established publishers within the group. My relationship with the mother-house was more distanced so to speak whereas, in this case, I’m in the mother-house. What I can say, nonetheless, is that independent publishers are gaining momentum and have been for the past few years. What I see on social media, namely, is that there is appetite for talent outside the world of the “what everybody’s reading now” and what I am seeing is a lot of indie publishers coming up with incredible projects that feed book and reading marketing niches not covered by more mainstream outlets. As an observer, albeit a participant one, I see that Literature, not to be confused with writing, is finding a safe haven in the independent publishing market. The roster of Wrecking Ball is a case in point.

Who are the contemporary writers of fiction that you admire, and why?

Always the tough question…

I like William Boyd to bits. He always manages to superbly combine humour with the most unexpected, tough circumstances. He has a way with making his characters go through the direst straights in a way that we suffer for them and laugh at them. The first of Boyd’s books I read was A Good Man in Africa. I was at college and one of our professors, I think English III, asked us an essay about some dreadful subject we had been studying and that, honestly, I felt no inclination to do. I asked if there was anything else I could do instead and he told me to write a 3,000 word new end for a book from among a list. I chose A Good Man in Africa. So, I can safely say I literally finished one of Boyd’s books.

Needless to say I like Isabel Allende, whom I got to know better, after I, from Nothing had been compared to The House of Spirits. She has an elegant way of putting Suffering to writing and then there’s that very Latin-American combination of reality with über-reality. If I could add to this list Gabriel García-Márquez, that would be great. Does death preclude one from being considered contemporary?…

I have recently taken to Amélie Nothomb after reading her Pétronille, coincidentally published in the same year I, from Nothing came out in Portugal, 2014. We know it’s a woman writing but it could be a man’s writing. I find that as fascinating as her ability to write the weird.

Maybe because I don’t write total fiction, answering this question made me realise that most my contemporary reading is in the non-fiction department (I’m smiling as I answer this after my eyes glanced at the shelves in my study).

Can you tell us more about your academic work?

In academe I am Isabel Soares and I don’t usually mix those two instances of my existence. My Tallysha surname (that you find in I, from Nothing disguised as Boshoff) allows me a space of freedom that does not coincide with the gravitas of science. I hold a PhD in Anglo-Portuguese Studies that analysed how late 19th-century Portuguese literary journalism looked at Anglo-Portuguese relations in Africa and the conflicts over imperialist territorial disputes. Portugal and Britain are the world’s oldest allies through the Windsor Treaty of 1386. Because of the Scramble for Africa, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was strained to the limit and it’s very interesting to see how it survived the clashes over occupation of Southeast Africa that stemmed from the clause of effective occupation in the aftermath of the Berlin Conference, 1884-85. You cannot imagine the hours I spent in the library of the Senate House in London doing my research! This work came after my MA dissertation where I had looked at the adventure novel, namely by Rider Haggard and John Buchan, as instrument of imperial discourse. Imperialism was a historical moment, shameful and controversial as it is, that shaped our contemporary world and I like to go back to understand the present. My main field of research currently is in literary journalism as a journalistic ecosystem on the borders of literature. I am very honoured to have been present at the moment the International Association for Literary Journalism Studies was created in 2006 and even more honoured to have been its president between 2016 and 2018. Professionally, I am an associate professor within the ranks of the University of Lisbon and am currently serving as Vice-President of one of its colleges, the Institute for Social and Political Sciences, where I am responsible for the Quality management system. However, what I really enjoy doing in academe is… teaching.

Tell us more about House of Tallysha?

House of Tallysha is a YouTube channel that functions as a supplement to my other social media platforms. I’ve always liked blogging because it’s a platform that invites intimacy and is very protective of writing (actually the first money I ever made from writing was when my blog was discovered and I was asked to write texts with my blogger persona to the Portuguese press). However, social networks are incredibly volatile and blogs have meantime fallen to relative obscurity so I thought that a YouTube channel could be a creative outlet akin to a visual blog. I love documentaries and House of Tallysha allows that kind of experimentation. A lot of episodes are about travels and touring places. For example, there’s an episode in the Spanish town of Ronda where I go on a quest for the great creative minds that were inspired by it like poet Rainer Maria Rilke, writer and journalist Ernest Hemingway and film-maker Orson Welles. But I also talk about books, I interview writers and people coming up with interesting cultural projects and, of course, I take viewers to the geographies of my novels (there are episodes in which you can see the landscapes of the real Nothing and the places of particular scenes and their importance in the (hi)story of Nothing). I try to have a YouTube channel that is a place where people can go to learn things and not just to be passively entertained. Besides, it’s a team project I can share with my husband because he films and does the editing. In fact, House of Tallysha is only possible because of this symbiotic partnership.

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

Right now I am working on the English translation of my second novel The Drawer which starts with the enigmatic sentence “Mother lived in a drawer”. Then there’s The Tame Man, which also requires translation and this just to talk about the novels already published in Portuguese. Besides this, I’ve finished two manuscripts on travels. One is the account of my coast-to-coast road trip in the United States that took place in two politically distinct moments, the final year of the Obama administration and the first year of the Trump era. The other is an East-West, South-North road trip in Germany, where I took my husband not only to meet my German family but also to show him a Germany outside the stereotypes and beaten tracks. It was a sentimental voyage of sorts, going back to my roots and reckoning with a past of immense happiness and irreplaceable loss and the manuscript is written in a rather confessional tone.

Simultaneously, I’m working on a cookbook with recipes for solar ovens and, roll drums,… have finished a prequel to I, from Nothing. This was actually an idea I got from readers of I, from Nothing. Many times I got feedback that the main character’s mother, Máxima, was a force to be reckoned with and people longed to know more about her story and what had made her be the way she is in I, from Nothing. I am a good listener of my readers so I wrote Máxima’s biography and, very imaginatively, titled it I, Máxima. As you can see I’m nothing short of projects and intentions whose materializations are, of course, contingent on having a publisher and public. Writers, after all, only exist after their writing is published.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Because I, from Nothing was so challenging in terms of translation, I would like to submit it to translation awards if for no other reasons than to cast some light on the Portuguese language at the international level and to show that independent publishers are doing an amazing work in bringing other writing traditions to the realm of the world’s global language.

I, From Nothing can be purchased direct from Wrecking Ball Press at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/i-from-nothing

The Ormering Tide is here

The Ormering Tide, the debut novel from Kathryn Williams, is published TODAY by Wrecking Ball Press. Follow our social media accounts today for links to Publication Day online readings from the author.
 
The Ormering Tide is a coming of age story set amidst a series of darkly foreboding events. Rozel lives with her triplet older brothers and her parents in the bay of a small island. One of her brothers goes missing and the family’s landlord, Mr. Willow, is implicated as the menacing truths are discovered. The island is rich with nature; and the islanders’ lives and the steady passing of the seasons contrast sharply with the realities of violence and inevitable revelations. The Ormering Tide explores the inherent human need to keep – and bury – secrets.
 
Praise for The Ormering Tide:
 
“I danced in my head reading this book, beautiful language from a poetic heart and soul. Every line is gold, spun in poetry and feeling, every page poignant and tender and true. I love the musicality in this, the story telling is sublime and captivating, it is a delight to all the senses.” – Salena Godden 
 
“Kathryn Williams’ haunting first novel blends memory and island landscape, community, family and dark secrets, to explore how we emerge from the maze of childhood and adolescence into ourselves, able to name the shadows. A darkly brilliant debut which stays in the mind.” – Carol Ann Duffy
 
“The Ormering Tide is a brilliant debut, full of beautifully observed, beautifully phrased, strange and magical things.” – Jacob Polley
 
Our arts venue receives £100,000 grant

Our arts venue receives £100,000 grant

Wrecking Ball Music & Books, on Whitefriargate, has received a £100,000 grant from the Humber LEP’s Humber High Street Challenge Fund.

The store, which moved from Princes Quay to Whitefriargate last year, is the latest business to receive funding as part of Hull City Council’s Whitefriargate regeneration project.

Wrecking Ball opened its retail offer in November and has plans to open its arts venue and café later this year.

Owner Shane Rhodes said: “We are excited by the council’s plans for Whitefriargate. When we opened before Christmas we had a fantastic response from the public and it was clear that there is a demand for this sort of retail offer in the area.

“When we open the arts venue and café we will be able to draw even more people to the area and contribute to the fantastic regeneration happening on the historic street.

“Customers still like and want social contact. The high street gives people the opportunity to browse and time to choose their purchases – it is not just about acquiring something.

“The independent sector can offer something different and can respond to local needs. Our offer will be diverse with retail and hospitality downstairs and an arts venue upstairs. We see this as an opportunity to innovate and be creative with a fantastic space in an historic area of the city.”

The Whitefriargate regeneration project includes a number of grant schemes and funding projects.

Whitefriargate has benefitted from £1m from the Humber LEP’s Humber High Street Challenge Fund and secured £1.75m from Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) programme.

Funding can be used to undertake building and conversion projects that animate high streets, diversify the traditional high street offer and bring unused floor space back into use.

The High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme can also fund lighting and interpretation improvements.

Councillor Daren Hale, portfolio holder for economic investment and regeneration at Hull City Council, said: “Momentum is really starting to gather now on Whitefriargate and it is fantastic to see so many exciting and diverse businesses and projects receiving funding.

“The council has made the regeneration of this vital thoroughfare a key part of our plans for the city centre. We have secured millions of pounds of funding already from Historic England and the Humber LEP, and will continue to support and invest in the historic street and our fantastic Old Town.”

Kathryn Williams

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kathryn Williams

Kathryn Williams’ first novel The Ormering Tide – a brooding and astonishing debut from the Mercury Music Prize nominated singer-songwriter – is published on March 22, 2021 by Wrecking Ball Press. Ahead of publication, we caught up with Kathryn to discuss her move into writing fiction and to find out more about her novel.  

You’re making the transition from musician and songwriter to author. How does that feel?

Well, I’m still a songwriter … but yes, it’s been a big learning curve and a long time not telling anyone while I worked that out in my own head. The imposter syndrome I had for years in my musical career has returned for a second series!  

How does the creative process of writing fiction differ from and compare to songwriting?

Size is the biggest thing. I can write a song in a day , three or four songs even. With a book there has to be a commitment and a work ethic that has to last longer than the initial spark. Even then when you’ve got things creatively going there are edits, more edits and re-writes.  

Making music is clearly a very collaborative process, compared to the solitary existence of a writer of fiction – how do you feel about the latter?

I started writing songs in secret – just the same as writing this novel. But yes the routine of the workload does make it solitary in the real world. When I finished the book, however, I really missed the characters.  

Can you tell us more about your writing process? 

I did a lot of the early stages when I was travelling on tour, on trains, in hotel rooms, backstage. I would write notes and email them to myself. As it grew I then started taking my kids to school, getting into bed and then realising I’d written all day and it was time for school pick up. A writer friend recommended Scrivener to use to write, as I could move scenes around in there and it has an archive and places for research.  

How and when did the idea for The Ormering Tide come to you?

The first idea for the story started when I visited a bay where my husband’s grandparents lived and he mentioned a woman that used to live on the cliff. I started to get down my idea of how she got there and then the characters just started speaking and doing things.  

Why this story, now?

I can’t really answer that because I didn’t have a plan or preconception of what I was writing being in the world we are currently living in now. But now we are here in this strange predicament, I think it’s like a dream, and it brings focus to the small beauty and the unseen we take for granted around us.  

What experience do you want readers of The Ormering Tide to have?

I want them to feel they they are standing in front of the sea, taking deep breaths and imagining the sky is inside them.  

Who do you think the audience for your fiction is?

I think it has a poetic way of seeing the world through Rozel’s childlike eyes. It’s a small book that you can dive into and stay enveloped in … so I would say even busy people can be whisked away by it.  

You’re undoubtedly a strong female role model in the arts – how important is this to you?

It means more to me now than it used to. Mainly because I now have the opportunity to support and promote other women in arts.  

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

I know that they are willing to take a chance on something they love. They have to be inventive and creative in finding ways to reach people and survive. Having had my own music label, as well as having been signed to a major label, and now with an independent record label, I’ve seen the different corporate worlds in music which I think could probably translate to book publishing. I’m overjoyed to have my book’s first home with an independent publisher with such a great roster.  

What more can we expect from Kathryn Williams, the novelist?

I’m working on my second novel but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.   More generally, what else are you working on and what does the future hold for you as an artist? I’m finishing a project I’ve been writing with Carol Ann Duffy, which is an album of Christmas songs. It’s been a joy to make. I have a solo album in the works produced by Ed Harcourt. I’m writing a theatre and television piece with Kit Green and Mark Davies based on a gay bar in Liverpool in the 60s called The Magic Clock, which is in development with the Liverpool Everyman. I have also been co-writing songs for artists in Sweden and Norway. I do a live Instagram request show each Thursday which has been keeping me sane in lockdown and keeps me connected to fans. But also I’m home educating my kids and keeping on top of the wash loads!

Pre-order now directly from Wrecking Ball Press at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/the-ormering-tide/

PRESS RELEASE: From music to fiction - Kathryn Williams makes debut as novelist

PRESS RELEASE: From music to fiction – Kathryn Williams makes debut as novelist

WRECKING BALL PRESS publish the debut novel from Mercury Music Prize nominated singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams – The Ormering Tide – on March 22, 2021.

The Ormering Tide is a coming of age story set amidst a series of darkly foreboding events. Rozel lives with her triplet older brothers and her parents in the bay of a small island. One of her brothers goes missing and the family’s landlord, Mr Willow, is implicated as the menacing truths are discovered. The island is rich with nature; and the islanders’ lives and the steady passing of the seasons contrast sharply with the realities of violence and inevitable revelations.

The Ormering Tide explores the inherent human need to keep – and bury – secrets. Kathryn Williams’ first novel, The Ormering Tide, is about processing the past, after the fact. This is a brooding and astonishing debut from the Mercury Music Prize nominated singer-songwriter. The Ormering Tide shines as brightly as the beautiful shell from which this novel draws its title and is as impressive and adventurous as the author’s music.

Praise for The Ormering Tide:

“Kathryn Williams’ haunting first novel blends memory and island landscape, community, family and dark secrets, to explore how we emerge from the maze of childhood and adolescence into ourselves, able to name the shadows. A darkly brilliant debut which stays in the mind.” – Carol Ann Duffy

“The Ormering Tide is a brilliant debut, full of beautifully observed, beautifully phrased, strange and magical things.”Jacob Polley

“A dark dream of an island childhood – every sentence is delicious. If you want to be enchanted, if you want to be swept away – reach for this book and don’t let go.”Kirsty Logan

“A beautiful novel, inside and out, shot through with the originality, poetry and emotional truth we know and love from Kathryn Williams’s music and lyrics. A lovely, shining shell of a book.”Laura Barnett

“A powerful and compelling coming of age tale. Kathryn Williams is an inventive storyteller whose beautiful writing draws you into the heart of this close-knit community.”Rhiannon Ward

Author Details: British folk singer/songwriter Kathryn Williams rose to prominence in 2000 when her self-released album Little Black Numbers was nominated for a Mercury Prize. A thoughtful and poetic songwriter with a delicate voice, Williams’ newfound stature earned her a major-label stint in the front half of the decade after which she reclaimed her independence and, in addition to releasing her own albums, embarked on a series of interesting collaborations including 2008’s Two with Neill MacColl and a 2010 children’s album with punk musician Anna Spencer under the name the Crayonettes. She continued to enjoy critical acclaim and more widespread success in the 2010s, signing with One Little Indian and releasing albums like 2013’s Crown Electric and 2015’s ambitious Hypoxia, which was based on Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

Pre-order now directly from Wrecking Ball Press at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/the-ormering-tide/

Job Opportunity: Wrecking Ball Press Bookseller

Post: Bookseller

Type: Full-time

Salary: £19,200 per annum

Reports to: Shane Rhodes, Wrecking Ball Press

Direct reports: Bookshop staff

Location: Hull

Closes: 22/01/21

Interviews: w/c 25/01/21 and w/c 01/02/21

Artform: Literature / events

Contact: Dave Windass dave@wreckingballpress.com

Applications should include a CV and cover letter outlining why you’re the perfect candidate.

Purpose

Wrecking Ball Press wish to employ a specialist Bookseller with the knowledge and enthusiasm to drive book sales forward and develop literature events that engage with the public and increase the Wrecking Ball Press audience.

Based at the large, independent Wrecking Ball Music & Books shop in Hull city centre and reporting directly to Wrecking Ball Press, our dedicated Bookseller will be responsible for providing guidance and literary insight to customers wishing to learn more about the books on sale, an extensive range of books from UK independent publishers.

Our Bookseller will also develop a broad range of literature-related activities, initiatives and events in both the shop and its accompanying first-floor 100-seat capacity venue, in order to generate a growing interest in books and reading, generating sales and realising the ambition of Wrecking Ball as a hub for literature activity while raising the profile of Hull and the North as the centre of contemporary literature.

Specific Duties and Responsibilities of the post

Your primary concern as a Bookseller will be customer service, but you’ll also need an excellent knowledge of the UK’s independent publishers, the shop’s stock and the wider book market in general. You’ll help customers locate titles and offer information and advice about different books that are available. You’ll also be heavily involved in ordering and displaying stock, as well as working with publishing companies and their representatives.

Our stock of literature encompasses all forms and genres and our Bookseller is expected to have a deep understanding and knowledge of the widest possible range of literature and should be a self-confessed and proud bibliophile and poetry lover. While we’d expect our Bookseller to come pre-armed with this extensive knowledge we’re also aware that you won’t have read everything and that you may be unfamiliar with some of the independent publishers that we stock and love. There will, therefore, be a period of orientation and plenty of time to read, and lots of books to devour.

Ideally our Bookseller will also be able to demonstrate experience of creating or working to support an exciting programme of literature events and initiatives or have a strong desire to do so, and be able to work collaboratively with Wrecking Ball’s experienced events team across different areas.

Our Bookseller needs to be confident when talking and communicating with the public, publishing companies and their representatives and writers involved in delivering events and activities.

You should also be experienced and comfortable in the use of social media platforms as a marketing and promotional tool.

Responsibilities

  • serving a range of customers

  • dealing with enquiries and identifying customer needs

  • offering advice and recommending books where appropriate

  • Organising, in collaboration with Wrecking Ball’s experienced events team, a programme of literature events, activities, and other book events, including (but not limited to) organising talks/readings, signing sessions and reading groups

  • maintaining up-to-date knowledge of current titles and changes in the market

  • promoting in-store and venue events and activities via social media platforms

  • undertaking bibliographic work using computer or print sources to identify and locate titles

  • processing customer orders and book reservations

  • dealing with mail order, email and web-based orders

  • handling payments by cash, card and using book tokens using electronic point of sale (EPOS) technology

  • buying from catalogues and publishers’ representatives

  • negotiating prices with sellers

  • processing book deliveries and returns

  • stock-checking books and other merchandise

  • creating in-store and window displays

  • maintaining commercial awareness including identifying business and promotional opportunities

  • liaising with other external account holders, for example schools, councils and companies

  • reviewing sales performance

  • a range of administration tasks

  • undertaking general housekeeping duties, such as unpacking, stock replenishment and tidying.

Personal Specification

SKILLS & EXPERIENCE

Required:

  • Experience of working in a bookshop in a public facing role

  • Demonstrable knowledge of literature, books, publishers and independent publishers

  • Knowledge of literature events and literature related activities

  • Experienced user of social media/online platforms

  • Demonstrable experience of delivering excellence in customer service and associated problem solving

  • Strong record of operational support activities

  • Experience of working as part of a team

  • A knowledge of Health & Safety and other applicable legislation appropriate to a public-facing space

  • Ability to remain calm under pressure and the ability to deal with sensitive situations in a professional and diplomatic way

  • Excellent people and communication skills

  • Ability to manage multiple priorities

  • A willingness to learn and develop

  • Desire to build audiences for books and literature events

  • Comfortable with admin

Desirable:

  • Experience of working in events

  • Monitoring and reporting on events

  • Demonstrable experience of managing social media and online marketing campaigns

  • Experience of working with writers

  • Experience of projects involving the public

  • Innovative ideas to promote literature and develop audiences

Apply by 22/01/21 with a CV and cover letter via email to dave@wreckingballpress.com