As many of you may know from ASP’s first interview with Cath Barton, we have known her for several years and we’re pleased to be talking to her again about the recent release of her new novella, ‘In the Sweep of the Bay’, released 23rd November 2020 by Louise Walters Books.
As per our first interview, sadly because of the Covid crisis, the interview was conducted via email. We hope that a future interview may finally be conducted in person, if only because it would be nice to get together with Cath again.
Interview with Cath Barton: December 2020.
ASP: Was your inspiration for the novella born from finding an old diary in the back of a drawer? (I think I can say this without giving anything away). Or was it based upon an idea of knowing/not knowing your parents?
CB: Neither! Though, as in ‘The Plankton Collector’, there's a lot about my mother in this book. And, I stress, it is a work of fiction.
ASP: You have said before, and now once again, that your work is influenced by your mother; could you tell us in what ways she influences you? Is it character mannerisms and comportment? Or is it more to do with ideology and how she lived her life?
CB: It's not so much that my work is influenced by my mum as that there is a lot of her in my books. In particular her life as a housewife in the fifties and sixties, with the limitations and – I think – frustrations the role entailed for her and many other women in Britain at that time. So, I've put my awareness of that into my portrayal of Rene in this book – and similarly of Rose in ‘The Plankton Collector’.
ASP: She clearly influenced you deeply, would it be fair to say that when you write with her in mind, that you are laying down an homage?
CB: Well, it's a homage to my mum, yes, but also to a whole generation of women, post-World War Two.
ASP: Could you tell us what inspired you to write this particular story, if not from a diary in a drawer?
CB: It sprang from a day trip to Morecambe. My husband, Oliver, and I had lunch in a café there, and that inspired a piece of flash fiction about a couple on their own day out. That couple would become the central characters in ‘In the Sweep of the Bay’. I found I wanted to explore more about their relationship, over the long years of their marriage.
ASP: What was the journey for you as you wrote it?
CB: I wrote some other flashes inspired by that day in Morecambe and attempted to put them together as a novella-in-flash. That wasn’t very successful. Then I came across Louise Walters Books and discovered that Louise was interested in publishing novellas. I sent her the first 3,000 words of what I had written and she came back to say she’d like to see the whole thing. At this point I had to own up to only having written about 7,500 words in total and thought she’d probably tell me to stop wasting her time. What she did say was that it would need to be longer – at least 20,000 words – before she could consider publishing it. So, I worked on it and, in due course, Louise gave me a contract! Then began the long hard journey of editing.
ASP: As usual you have written a story I wouldn't normally think to read, yet I have enjoyed both of your novellas, do you have anything to say to encourage people, like me, to give your story a try? (For those in doubt, give it a go, broaden your reading horizons – I highly recommend it).
CB: All I can say is follow Dogs’ recommendation! It’s the same in reading groups, isn’t it? – the group chooses a book you wouldn’t have considered reading, but more often than not you enjoy it.
ASP: In these times of Covid restrictions, what are the challenges for you & other authors, trying to do book launches? Are you doing zoom parties? And having to do your interviews by telephone and email, as we are?
CB: We had a launch party on Zoom for ‘In the Sweep of the Bay’. It went well – there were over 40 people there and only the odd technical glitch. Of course, it’s not the same as meeting in person, but online events do mean that people who wouldn’t be able to get to a live event can be there – we had people there from France and Italy, as well as all parts of the UK. I think book events will continue online for that reason even after we’re able to gather indoors in groups again safely.
Yes, interviews by email, but that’s okay – gives me time to think about my answers! Though I did do one podcast, and when I listened back was glad to hear I didn’t ‘um’ and ‘er’ too much.
ASP: There's a point in the story where you describe the sea and the bay, part of the description is to do with plankton in the phosphorescence, is this a tip of the hat to your previous novella? Or just a lovely piece of prose conjuring a vivid image in the reader's mind?
CB: Ha - well spotted! I found myself mentioning plankton without consciously deciding to do so, wondered if I should take it out because I'd, as it were, used it before, and decided to leave it in.
ASP: Thank you.
CB: Thank you.
Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny with her husband, Oliver, and their cat. You can find out more about her life, works and experiences from her website:
Copies of ‘In the Sweep of the Bay’ can be purchased directly from her publisher, Louise Walters Books:
If you would like to read her first novella, ‘The Plankton Collector’, published by The New Welsh Rarebyte, it is available from The New Welsh Review: