Christmas countdown: in conversation with Tom Bolton

Blog / Bex Shorunke

In the lead-up to Christmas we’ve decided to give our readers an exclusive insight into some of the inspirational books we’ve published this year. Each week, Sales and Marketing Coordinator Bex Shorunke will be quizzing your favourite authors on their motivations and writing tips.

For our inaugural post, we delve into the mind of Tom Bolton, whose non-fiction book Low Country: Brexit on the Essex Coast combines history, politics and nature writing in its candid look at England’s eastern edge. In this psychogeographic work, Tom unearths the stunning coastal landscapes that have become the site of rising populist politics. Below, Tom considers the allure of remote places, the creative people on his radar and his notion of place.

What were your motivations behind writing Low Country?

I wanted to understand remoteness better. Can a place like the Essex coast really be remote, and only a short train ride from London? I was intrigued by the temporary nature of the Essex coasts – islands appearing, disappearing, land reclaimed and abandoned, paths that were there and not there – and I saw places that seemed difficult to visit as a challenge. I really wanted to get a clear idea of the culture of such a complex place, associated with both experimental, radical ways of living, and reactionary, conservative politics that have the western world in their grip right now.

What would you like your readers to get out of your book?

I would like people to think again about places they don’t consider important or significant. The point of the book is that it involves visiting everywhere – the entire Essex coast, not just the seaside resorts or the daytrip locations. If you do that, you see the glorious, remote coastal landscapes of the marshes as well as the poorest place in England at Jaywick, both of which deserve more attention.

Thinking about the contemporary cultural scene, who are some interesting writers or artists you’ve got your eye on?

I love Amber Massie-Blomfield’s Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die from Penned in the Margins, beautifully written with great insight from someone deep in the British theatre scene. Daniel Bennett (@absenceclub) is a poet with a talent for expressing the unsaid, and his collection Arboreal Days from The Red Ceilings Press is a delight. I am a fan of Loraine Rutt’s city sculptures, including relief maps of lost London rivers in ceramic postcard form. Stephen Gill is a favourite photographer whose work draws out the London visible in the corner of the eye.

What advice would you give to any budding writers?

It took me a long time to work out that I should write about what was in front of my face – the places that fascinated me, and the things I was doing anyway. Once you make that connection, suddenly the way forward lights up.

Order your copy of Low Country for Christmas and get 20% off while stocks last

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