Interview with Beth Cartwright

Earlier this year, Emma Gibbs spoke to English author Beth Cartwright to talk about her debut coming of age novel Feathertide and why it might not be what you first expect. Join us and read on to discover more.

This magical realism novel follows the story of Marea who is born covered in feathers and kept hidden in a house. In search of answers, she tries to find her father which takes her to the mysterious City of Murmurs.

The book has already been compared to bestselling fantasy novels, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. However, Cartwright feels this comparison is misleading.

‘People expect fast paced action – it is not that kind of book,’ she said. 

Cartwright revealed the book is more ‘gentle’ and ‘introspective’ compared with other fantasy novels. Instead of world building the magic is brought to the world we know and are familiar with.

‘There are no demons or dragons, instead the villain is self-doubt,’ she revealed.  

The plot is driven by the protagonist, Marea, and her transformation.

In the beginning, Marea ‘can only dream of escape’, but by the end ‘she has complete freedom and has cast her independence. She is kind of no longer content with just staying still,’ said Cartwright.

Cartwright grew up in Greater Manchester near the Peak District and returned there as an adult. However, she has also taught English in Greece, and worked in South America for a time.

‘I would recommend travelling,’ she said. ‘Even leaving the house to go to the local forest or the wood.’

Cartwright has always written and suggested that parts of Feathertide are taken from childhood, but also bits of what she’s seen and heard throughout her life.

‘The birds probably came from my grandparent’s garden,’ she said.

Discussing how she got her publishing deal, Cartwright revealed it was in ‘a very traditional way.’

She sent the manuscript to six agents, at which point it was more of a novella.

‘It was not a novel, it was too short,’ she said. ‘I left it and went back to it. I didn’t really hear anything. I didn’t think I would get a book deal,’ she said modestly.

But then one day Cartwright received a call and almost didn’t listen to the message, until she noticed it was a London number. 

‘I listened to the message – it was the most uplifting but disappointing message I ever had,’ she said.

Her agent saw potential in her book, but it needed work.

‘She could see something. She took that chance,’ said Cartwright. However, she also noted that it’s important to ‘try and believe in what you are doing and the story you are trying to tell.’

Her agent eventually emailed to confirm the book deal with Penguin and they worked to polish the manuscript together for about a year. However, in its entirety, Feathertide was a 10 year writing project.

‘I wasn’t consistent in my writing,’ she said.

‘I’m not very brave and I’m not very confident. I sat on the idea of Feathertide for years,’ Cartwright said.

Cartwright refreshingly busts the myth that you need a completed manuscript, unwavering confidence, or a militant writing routine to bag a publishing deal.

When struggling for creative inspiration she turned to poems, but also enjoyed reading a number of current authors including Jeanette Winterson, Alice Hoffman and Jessie Burton.

‘I think Jessie Burton is a really intelligent writer,’ she said.

As for the editing process she revealed it was very ‘up and down’. Things would be ‘really slow paced’ and then ‘really fast’. In the end, the catalyst for finishing the book was her agent going on maternity leave.

‘My timing has always been terrible,’ she mused. 

The book launch was set back to July, not due to Coronavirus, but due to the book changing imprints.

When discussing the book launch and the inevitable feedback she said it now belongs to the readers, but it’s ‘great when someone understands how your mind works.’

Having revealed that she landed a two book deal Cartwright confirmed that she has completed the first draft of her second novel – and we can’t wait to see what she writes next!

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright is available now from all major book retailers.

Emma Gibbs is an NCTJ qualified journalist with bylines in Mancunian Matters, VIVA Magazine, Cornish Story and Cornish Guardian. She is also the founder of Emma’s Travels With Books blog designed to help people read their way around the world. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, exploring, and daydreaming.