Author Interview – Cath Barton

Cath Barton is a writer and photographer from Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.  Her novella, ‘The Plankton Collector’, is published on the 26th September 2018.  Cath has kindly agreed to be interviewed about her writing experience.

Cath Barton
Your new novella, ‘The Plankton Collector’ is published on the 26th September 2018. How would you describe it?

It’s a story about a family – mother, father and two children. They are all unhappy, one way and another, and the story is about how they are helped, individually and collectively, by a mysterious stranger who appears to them in different guises, the eponymous Plankton Collector. The story is a mixture of realism and magical realism.

Tell us about your writing journey. How did you get published?

I’ve been writing fiction regularly for about seven years now, mostly in short form, and have had stories published here and there. I belong to a couple of writing groups. In early 2015 a member of one of those groups threw down a challenge to write a novella. So I did! I entered it into the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella competition last year and won! Publication by New Welsh Review was part of the prize.

What other types of writing do you enjoy?

I like writing flash fiction and short stories. I also review, mainly for Wales Arts Review. This year I’m going to take part in National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo for short – the internet-based writing challenge which takes place each November; I’m aiming to write the first 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel!

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

I particularly like picture prompts. I’m working on a collection of short stories inspired by the work of the Flemish artist Hieronymus Bosch. His pictures are full of fantastical imagery – a rich source.
There are lots of visual prompts on-line. The monthly challenges from Visual Verse are always interesting.

What is the most important thing you have learned as a writer?

Never say never and don’t give up.

What does your writing day look like?

I don’t have a typical writing day. When it was very hot in the summer, I found I could get up early and write for a couple of hours before breakfast. As the winter draws on I won’t be doing that. The pressure of a deadline will have me writing at all hours though.

Who are your favourite writers?

I love the magical realism of Angela Carter – I’ve just recommended ‘The Magic Toyshop’ to someone asking about where to start with her books.
My favourite book of all time is Gabriel García Márquez’s ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’.
As for more recent books, Preti Taneja’s retelling of the King Lear story set in India, ‘We That Are Young’, is an absolute tour de force.

What else would you like to achieve with your writing?

I’d like to have three books published by the time I’m 70. I’ve just turned 68. My short story collection is nearly ready to send out and I’ve got a couple of other ideas simmering, so the goal is definitely achievable. And you know that saying – Head for the moon. If you miss you’ll be among the stars.

Do you think writing groups and courses are important?

Writing groups are brilliant for peer support. Writing courses are more hit and miss. I spent most of my prize money for ‘The Plankton Collector’ on a week’s course at Tŷ Newydd, the National Writing Centre for Wales, and that was really good. The other participants on a course are as important to its value as the tutors.

What advice can you give to new writers?

Join a writing group. Get on Twitter and make contact with other writers too. We all need to support one another. Send your work out and don’t let rejection get you down. It’s part of the territory.

‘The Plankton Collector’ front cover

Cath’s novella, ‘The Plankton Collector’, is published by New Welsh Rarebyte, and on sale now for £7.99 in paperback or £6.99 in epublication format via www.bit.ly/Cath_Barton.

Launch events are at Waterstones, Abergavenny on Saturday 13th October, 12 noon to 2pm, and at Abergavenny Library on Thursday 18th October at 11am. All welcome, free admission.