Formed by Nathan O’Hagan and Wayne Leeming, Obliterati Press has quickly become a must-read for people who like their words at the grittier end of the scale. It’s also a publisher with strong connections to Hull and the East Riding. Nathan joined Nick Quantrill for a chat to explain all…
Nick – Love what you lads do, but are you mad? You’re both writers, both have young families and jobs etc – why start a small press up?
Nathan – We probably are a bit. But after first floating the idea almost as a joke between Wayne and myself over a curry and a pint the first time we met (the night before doing a panel with some other Armley Press writers in Leeds), it just mushroomed very quickly into something we felt we had to do. We knew there were plenty of other indie presses out there, and plenty of them were struggling, but we felt that, with what we’d learned from Armley Press’ print-on-demand model, we could attempt it without risking losing much if any money, and we knew that there were plenty of great, unpublished writers out there who deserved to see their work in print, so we felt strongly we had something we could contribute to the market.
Nick – In just over a year, you’ve quickly acquired a reputation for the quality of work you publish, but what makes a book right for Obliterati Press?
Nathan – We never know until we see it! Although I think we’ve got a bit of a reputation for publishing edgy, gritty fiction (and that’s definitely something we love), the books we’ve put out and have coming up are pretty diverse in style. Like any publishers, and if I may indulge myself and sound a bit wankery for a second, we’re looking for that distinctive ‘voice’. That can be hard to quantify until you see it, and can come in any style or genre.
Nick – It’s great to see a book from Hull’s finest, Russ Litten, on the list. How did that come about?
Nathan – I’ve been a big fan of Russ’ work for some time, and the guys at Armley Press knew him a bit and sent him a copy of my first novel, The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place, and he said some very nice things about it, and we just got friendly on social media. I went up to Hull for a Head In a Book night for my second novel, which Russ hosted and noticed on Twitter he had a short story collection that he wasn’t sure what to do with, whether to self-publish or find a publisher for it. I dropped a very heavy hint that we’d love to put it out, and to our surprise he let us, which me and Wayne were delighted about. It’s an amazing collection, and he’s an amazing writer, as you know.
Nick – And speaking of Hull, the platform you offer to short story writers, encouraging new and established ones to submit, seems to be a smash in Hull. Is there something in the water in here, as the number of our writers you’ve published is pretty incredible…
Nathan – Hull certainly has a rich scene going on, and did so long before it was named City Of Culture, and it’s certainly been a mine of quality work for us. More than half of our short stories are either from Hull writers or have some sort of connection to it. I suppose most towns and cities have their own thriving literary scenes, but Hull does seem to have an especially prolific one. Maybe it’s the sea air?
Nick – I’m sure it’s a lot of fun running the press, but how about the technical challenges? Has editing books and designing covers been the biggest learning curve?
Nathan – The whole thing has been one vast learning curve. It’s been even more fulfilling than we anticipated, but even more hard work. Luckily for me, Wayne is a great editor, and really enjoys that side of it, so he handles that pretty much entirely, before then getting further input from the author and myself. He also has a great eye for formatting. So, for me, that isn’t all that challenging, though it creates a big workload for Wayne. Luckily he sort of thrives on that. We’ve been lucky with some covers, designer friends of ours or the authors have contributed great work gratis, though Wayne, myself and Dave Olner came up with the idea for the cover for our second book, The Baggage Carousel, and Wayne put the actual art work together.
Nick – What’s the dream submission you want to find in your inbox?
Nathan – Just something that grabs your attention, the kind of sample you don’t want to stop reading, and when you do, you’re desperate to get your hands on the full manuscript. They don’t have to be perfect, we can work with books that are in a mess in one way or another, we don’t mind putting the hard work in with the author. What’s more important is, as I said, the voice.
Nick – What’s coming up for Obliterati Press next?
Nathan – Our next book is Sunset Trip by Ben Vendetta. He’s a former music journo from Cleveland. He’s written two previous novels which centre around various music scenes, the eighties British indie scene in his debut Wivenhoe Park, Britpop in the follow up Heartworm, and Sunset Trip is set around the L.A. psyche-rock scene of the late 90’s/early 00’s. Me and Ben got friendly via Twitter over a shared love of Whipping Boy and other bands, and liked each other’s work. When I knew he had another novel in the works, I approached him about publishing it. We’re having a launch party at Rough Trade in London on October 18th. Then, sometime early next year we’ll be publishing The Weighing Of The Heart. It’s the debut novel from Guardian journalist Paul Tudor Owen. When you ask about dream submissions, this is a perfect example, the kind of book that, when you’re reading it, you just can’t believe how lucky you are that it has found its way to you. It’s unlike anything else we’ve published so far, and it’s really a quite phenomenal piece of work. I can’t wait for people to read it. After that, we’ll be looking towards opening another submissions window, and hopefully finding some more talented debut or emerging authors. We’re very proud of what we’ve done and the work we’ve put out so far, but we want to keep growing and diversifying.
Get your novels and short stories into the lads…
Twitter – @ObliteratiPress
Facebook – /ObliteratiPress
This interview first appeared at ‘View From The Allotment End‘, the North Ferriby United fanzine.