anna burtt | author and podcast host

You know that cringe feeling you get when you go from feeling wildly attracted to someone to utterly repulsed because of some small, seemingly trivial thing they did? Yep, that’s the ‘ick’ talking. But as local author Anna Burtt’s new book shows, you’re far from alone. Co-written with book blogger Kitty Winks, The Little Book of Ick: 500 Reasons to Get Over Them – For Good, is both hilarious and brilliantly reassuring. We caught up with Anna (at the bottom in the feature image) for a chat about all things icky and to discover her top writing, book and city tips.

the little book of ick brighton

The big (huge!) news first of all – your book is out now! Many congratulations, we absolutely love it – it’s both funny and relatable. How did the idea for it come about?
Thanks! My friend and co-writer, Kit, is an absolute expert at the internet (she’s younger and cooler than me) and used to show me ‘ick’ videos on TikTok. She’d used them to get over an ex, and helped me get over a situationship by showing them to me and encouraging me to imagine the ex in various ick-inducing situations… it worked! She said it would be great to have them in one place, and I suggested we put together a proposal for a book. I have a background in publishing so the ball got rolling quickly and the rest is history (or ickstory?) 

We all get the ick, but it feels like it’s having a real moment right now – according to The Guardian, it’s been ‘the summer of the ick‘, so your book is very timely! Why do you think it’s such a hot topic at the moment?
I think that getting the ick is pretty universal, to be honest. Many people won’t have even thought about it until it’s explained to them and then it clicks! For instance, I told one of my friends in their 60s about it and I saw the lightbulb moment in her eyes when she said ‘ah, that’s why I wanted the divorce’. It’s liberating, funny and very bonding.

the little book of ick brighton

Any favourite ‘icks’ from the book?
My favourite chapter is ‘Sun, Sea and See Ya Later’, which is based around going on holiday with a partner. Some of my favourites from this chapter are: saying holibobs, doing the doggy paddle, chasing a ping-pong ball and failing to haggle at a market.

Oh god, ‘holibobs’! Something we’ve been debating recently over here – once you’ve got the ick, do you think you can ever get past it?
Good question! True love defies the ick. If you have the ick, and have it badly, it’s your body and brain’s way of saying ‘no, not for me, step away’. You can certainly recognise that things are icky with someone you love romantically and platonically, but the real ick, the Big Ick… there’s no coming back. 

You co-wrote the book with book blogger Kitty Winks – how did you find the process of writing with someone else? 
I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without her. We had such a laugh. Kit set up this amazing spreadsheet with colour coding. It’s that that helped us define the chapters. We always had the same vision for the book and it’s such a joy to go through the strangeness of publishing with someone else.

the little book of ick brighton

Speaking of writing, you also quite recently brought out an anthology of short stories and poems from your writing group, the West Hill Writers (which we loved). Is that the first time the group has published a book together?
It is! And we’ve sold out. I’m so proud of the group and this amazing achievement. J.E. Seuk and Ellie Wilson were a joy to work with on editing and typesetting.

Can people still get involved in the group and what they can expect if they join?
They can! Places are pretty much sold out but if people email me I can open one up for them! We meet every Friday for two hours at the West Hill Hall for ten weeks from 14th October. Each week we critique each other’s work, and spend at least an hour of pure writing based on the week’s theme, which could be anything from writing character, to building tension, to memoir. It’s a space to nurture creativity and give time and space to your writing!

You also run the brilliant podcast and Radio Reverb show Brighton Book Club. How long have you been doing that and how did it come about?
Ah, thank you. In 2018, they were looking for someone to do a show on books and we got in touch with one another. After the pilot we were off and the show has been running for a few years now. It’s full of great book recommendations, author interviews, industry insights, events in Brighton and beyond, and more.

Who’s coming up next? 
Our next episode, out on Saturday 1st October, features five writers who have set their books in the city. We’ll discuss their research, their motivations and ask them anything exciting they discovered about Brighton along the way.

And on top of all this, you have a day job (how?!) as head of events don’t you…
Hah, yes. Luckily, I don’t have any dependents! I’m head of events at Jericho Writers, a global writing consultancy, and I’ve recently come back from directing the York Festival of Writing. I LOVE my job and urge all aspiring writers to become Jericho Writers members (it’s £12.50 a month which is a bargain for what you get). Being part of a writing community is SO important! 

You spoke about the local literary festivals coming up too on a recent episode of your podcast – will you be going to/speaking at these?
Yes, I’m looking forward to The Coast is Queer, Small Wonder Festival at Charleston and Shoreham’s Fatal Shore Festival. I’ll be speaking at the Death Festival with Amber Jeffrey from The Grief Gang in November about the podcast I co-host, The Mother of All Losses. I’m always taking in part in online events with Jericho Writers, and October is Build Your Book Month, [a series of live events that help you build your book from scratch].

Have you got any other writing projects coming up? 
I do! But I don’t want to jinx anything. There’s a book, and it’s with agents but this mad industry is so slow, I’ll be 50 by the time I have news!

Where do you like to write?
In bed and on the sofa.

Any tips for budding writers?
Be part of a writing community, online or offline. It’s so important. Only ask for early feedback on your work from people who understand your writing and genre. Understand the rules, but don’t always follow them. Read, read, read! Know your genre and your market. Don’t drink so much coffee that you can’t see any more. Write the book of your heart, get it out of you, even if no-one sees it!

It’s autumn now and we’re really feeling those back-to-school vibes, so what are you reading at the moment and what’s on your to-be-read list?
Ohhhh, I’m reading Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin and I am LOVING it. I recently read and loved The Seawoman by Chloe Timms and Blood Sisters by Cate Quinn, which was utterly gripping.

Favourite local authors?
Jack Jordan. If you read anything, read Jack’s latest book, Do No Harm. I also love Katy Massey’s work, Emma Jane Unsworth’s contemporary novels and John McCullough’s poetry.

Whereabouts in Brighton and Hove do you live and why?
Preston Park. I love how close it is to everything but also nice and peaceful. 

What are your favourite places to eat, drink and write in the city?
Kitgum!! Oh my days, I love this place. Gorgeous seasonal menu. Fun service, great music and drinks. Not pretentious at all. Writing, I’m a bit basic and mostly stay close to home. I love a good pint of Guinness at The Battle of Trafalgar.

And finally, what would be your perfect day in Brighton/Hove?
A great gym session at TotalFit (sorry!), coffee and breakfast at Moe’s at Preston Circus, then a wander through the Laines and a trip to Brighton’s bookshops including The Feminist Bookshop and Afrori Books. I love a long lunch with good friends and lots of wine – The Copper Clam is great for this. Maybe some comedy in the evening at Komedia and then people-watching outside The Dorset. A lovely long walk to Lewes the next day to blow away the cobwebs would be great and then a nice film and pizza on the sofa. Fatto a Mano is my favourite.

Thanks, Anna! Best of luck with the new book and we can’t wait to see what comes next!

The Little Book of Ick is out now and you can follow Anna for more literary goings-on here.