It seems fitting to end my collection of BookBrunch interviews over the last year with this blast of positivity and deep thought from author and philosopher Damon Young.
Thank you so much to BookBrunch (Nick, Neill, David & Tobias in particular) for letting me launch this new column of the magazine over a year ago now, and a huge big shout out to my successor Julie Vuong – do get in touch with her via the BookBrunch website if you’re interesting in being interviewed. I have enjoyed doing these interviews so much and will really miss them – big love to everyone who’s been involved along the way.
So, without further ado: Damon Young on his new book, The Art of Reading.
Young describes The Art of Reading as having three strands: autobiographical, philosophical, and “vaguely” sociological. But it quickly becomes clear that his analysis of reading is going to step outside the box…
Define ‘reading well’
“What I’ve suggested is that the best way to think about ‘reading well’ is that there is no law. It’s not an easy universal principle, you can’t just say, ‘The way to read is like this.’ Our experiences and books are too diverse for that to make sense. We can’t even read the same book in the same way, let alone all the different books.” He cites the Bible. “Love of God’s a perfectly reasonable Christian response to the Bible, sure, but it’s not enough. There are so many different ways to read the Bible, let alone Nietzsche, and Jane Austen, and Henry James… There is no law.”
Once in a while, a book comes along that totally blows your mind. The Hate U Give is one of those books and everyone should read it right now. Even better, the author Angie Thomas, is a total sweetheart, absolutely bursting with passion. Here’s our chat – and you should totally check out the full article on BookBrunch – but you should also buy the book.
Angie Thomas has shot to literary stardom in recent months, as her debut novel The Hate U Give, skyrockets to the top of the NYT bestseller charts. Set to be published in 18 territories and counting – and already out here through Walker Books – the YA novel follows 16-year-old Starr, who lives between the poor Mississippi neighbourhood where she was born and a posh high school in the suburbs. When she becomes the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, she comes face to face with police brutality and systemic racism
After the intensity of the book, Thomas herself is a slight surprise: a generous smile, regular laughter, and a soft Mississippi accent. Her passion and conviction shine through, however, and she has much to say on publishing, on the importance of books, and on America itself.
The struggle to write
Though Thomas has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, it took her a long time to believe that being an author was something she could do. “For one, I never saw or met any authors who looked like me. Mississippi has a rich literary history, but most of them are either white or dead and I was neither! So it felt like it was something that I, as a black girl in a poor neighbourhood in Mississippi, just couldn’t do.”
This week’s BookBrunch interview is with the lovely Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books – don’t forget to click the link for the full article!
Jasmin Kirkbride talks to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books about the slush pile, the frisson of finding the right book, advances, and giving attention to everything on the list
Two and a half years on from its launch, Orenda Books is going from strength to strength. Run by its founder, Karen Sullivan, Orenda publishes literary fiction, as well as “the high end of genre fiction”, with an emphasis on crime and thrillers. About half the list is translated fiction, and Sullivan is always keen to push the boundaries.
Striking out alone
Though Sullivan started in publishing at Sidgwick & Jackson, working her way up to commissioning editor, for much of her career she has written books on parenting. As her own children got older, she took what was supposed to be a one-day-a-week job at a small publisher; it turned into 15 months of non-stop work when it became clear all was not well with the business.
This week for the BookBrunch interview, I chatted with three of this year’s Trailblazer Award winners, Anna Russo, Heather McDaid, and Željka Maroševic. Check out the excerpt below or follow this link for the full article.
Two months on from the second annual Trailblazers Awards, organised by London Book Fair (LBF) and the Society of Young Publishers (SYP), we catch up with three of the five Trailblazer winners – Anna Russo, Željka Maroševic and Heather McDaid – to find out what they’ve been up to and their plans for the future. They provide a snapshot of an industry, not just expanding outside London, but around the world
Another trio of interviews for you from BookBrunch, and each one is a real treat for publishing enthusiasts.
First, I caught up with Henry Rosenbloom from Scribe, who was so frustrated with the state of rights sales, he decided to expand his publishing house from down under to the UK. This is one publisher that’s serious about seriously good books!
“Later on in life, I’ve realised that what drives me as a publisher, in a strange kind of way, is the Holocaust. That’s what imprinted on me the seriousness of the world we live in, and how important it was to try to understand history, politics, people, and how to tell the truth. How to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’. Books have the power to change people’s lives, and we want to put out books that demand to be published because of their intrinsic significance.”
This week’s BookBrunch interview is with one of my favourite new authors from the past year, Vic James. If you haven’t got your mitts on a copy of her fantastic debut novel Gilded Cage yet, you absolutely should, and for those of you who need more convincing, here’s an interview with the author herself…
Author Vic James is instantly likeable. She’s earnest, friendly and a little bashful, but it soon becomes clear she’s also got a mind like a rapier and a devastatingly on point turn-of-phrase. Her debut novel Gilded Cage, the first book in The Dark Gifts trilogy, garnered over 300,000 readers on Wattpad, sold for a six-figure sum to Pan Macmillan and has been auctioned in six territories and counting. We got together to discuss the real Wattpad society, magical aristocrats, and how fiction can shed light on Britain’s structural inequality.
“People have the idea that Wattpad is this monolithic thing and that people who want to be published authors use it, but that’s not my experience,” James says. Though there are some who use Wattpad to try to “get discovered”, and many of its users are young teenage writers for whom the platform is a learning process, mostly “it’s just there for people to have fun”. Nine in 10 of Wattpad’s 40 million users are just readers, nothing more, many of them from countries with a poor public library system or where they don’t have the money to buy books. It’s huge in the Philippines, for instance.
Season’s greetings, friends! And boy, what a ride 2016 has been! Here’s hoping that 2017 brings more peace and sanity into the world – and for all of you much prosperity and some grand adventures.
Just because the season of of gifts and feasts is upon us, doesn’t mean I’ve been slowing down on the old journalism front though. Very excitingly, I can now reveal my first ever podcast: The BookBrunch Yearly Wrap 2016 Podcast, brought to you for FREE! That’s right, you can listen in for absolutely no money as some of the publishing industry’s top voices talk about their feelings on 2016 and their predictions for the year to come. The only reasonable excuse for not listening is if you have eaten so much you’re plastered to the couch.
For this week’s BookBrunch interview, I spoke with Ed Marino, Executive Chairman and codeMantra about publishing’s very technological future and the benefits of real collaboration. For the full article, visit the BookBrunch website, or get started with the excerpt below…
There have been a lot of claims over the past year that digital sales are down and print is on the rise, but according to Ed Marino, Chief Executive and part-owner of service provider codeMantra, publishing’s phase of uncertainty is far from over. In our trans-Atlantic chat, we discuss the definition of true collaboration, the role of service providers in the industry, and our very technological future.
Marino came on board with codeMantra in February 2014, after he and a group of colleagues acquired the business. In his classic US accent, Marino describes it as “a technology-enabled services company” that offers content production and software platform services to major publishers, primarily in the STM and Academic space.
This week for the BookBrunch interview, I got together with Ella Kahn and Bryony Woods of the Diamond, Kahn & Woods Literary Agency to discuss this year’s Trailblazer Award success and the future of agenting. For the full article, head over to BookBrunch, or read the snippet below:
As the deadline approaches for this year’s Trailblazers Awards, run by the London Book Fair (LBF) in partnership with the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) and BookBrunch, we catch up with two of last year’s winners, Ella Kahn and Bryony Woods, of Diamond Kahn & Woods Literary Agency. They discussed how the award has affected business for the better, why they made the decision to set up their own agency, and what the future holds.
In the four years since Diamond Kahn & Woods got started, the agency has accrued 50 clients and placed over 40 books, managed between Woods, Kahn and their colleague Elinor Cooper, who joined in April last year.
However, the agency was conceived long before this, when Woods and Kahn met during their Publishing MA at UCL in 2009-2010. “As friends, we had always known we both wanted to go into agenting, and joked about setting up our own agency together one day in the distant future, when we were both eminent agents with big lists of clients and grey hair,” Woods explains.
Writer, critic and bookshop obsessive Jorge Carrión “I think people who go against the EU in England and things like this, they are probably not used to going to bookshops because in bookshops you feel there are no frontiers, that we have a common cultural and intellectual space.”
The haze of panic-packing and binge reading in advance of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair has begun. This week, I caught up with the Fair’s own Katja Böhne to discuss what’s hot at Frankfurt in 2016. Read the whole piece over on BookBrunch, or get your teeth into the excerpt below.
It’s that special time of year when the leaves are turning, the nights are drawing in – and every publisher in Europe is packing their suitcase for the Frankfurt Book Fair. As the opening draws near, I caught up with Katja Böhne, Head of Marketing and Communications at the Fair, to discuss what awaits visitors and exhibitors in 2016.
“It’s five minutes before the Fair and everything is a bit upside down. Juergen Boos [Fair director] said recently, ‘The homework is done, now the chaos begins!'” Böhne says with a laugh as soon as she picks up the phone. The line is clear and she speaks with a gentle accent in impeccable English. “Actually, everything is fine and on track, but there are still so many last minute ideas and things to do. Every year it’s the same, so it’s not unusual.”
As many of you may know, I love short stories. Reading them, writing them, eating them… Ok, maybe I don’t literally imbibe them but there’s a definite consumption process involved in perusing a short story.
So you can imagine how excited I was this week when I got to interview KJ Orr, the winner of this year’s BBC National Short Story Award. As always, read the full article over on BookBrunch or enjoy the excerpt below.
The big book buzz this week has been about the 2016 BBC National Short Story Competition winner, KJ Orr, and her winning story, ‘Disappearances’. A debut author, Orr beat a heavyweight shortlist including Man Booker winner Hilary Mantel and Costa Poetry Award shortlisted Lavinia Greenlaw. Here, Orr discusses what it feels like to have won, how she came across short stories, and their value to readers.
“It feels pretty incredible and still quite hard to believe,” says Orr about winning the award. “I was settled on the idea that I hadn’t won so I was not prepared at all. Doing the live broadcast directly after was surreal. Most writers are fairly introverted, quiet souls, then there are moments where you have to come out and put on a public hat. I just hoped I made some sense because I wasn’t really prepared to say anything!”
This week for the BookBrunch interview I had a really strong conversation with journalist Gary Younge about his new book, Another Day in the Death of America (Faber). You can read the whole thing over on BookBrunch, or get started with the snippet below…
The Guardian‘s Gary Younge has been undertaking serious investigative journalism since the mid-nineties, exemplified more than ever in his latest book, Another Day in the Death of America. Here, we discuss the book, how he researched it, how journalism has changed over the past two decades, and what that means for storytelling
With five books already under his belt, Younge launched Another Day in the Death of America (Guardian Faber) on 28 September. It has already been featured on Radio 4’s Book of the Week and received reviews fromThe Spectator, The Times, and The Guardian itself among many others. It’s no surprise, because the book’s contents are shocking and moving in equal measure.
“It takes the basic statistical premise that seven children are shot every day on average in the USA and then tries to make it human by picking a random day and finding out who they are,” Younge explains. “It tries to get to the humans stories behind that statistic: how these kids lived and who they were, and maybe showing a bit more about America beyond those particular incidents.”
It’s been quite a while since I posted, but the good news is that means there are not one, not two, not three, but SEVEN delicious BookBrunch interviews stacked up for you to get your teeth into. Over the last month, I’ve interviewed some really extraordinary folk who have made me laugh and think long after the write ups are finished and the articles are live. Hope you enjoy…
This week for the BookBrunch interview, I chatted with Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, one of the founders of Cassava Republic Press, a leading African trade publisher who has just expanded to the UK. Read the full article over on BookBrunch.
Bibi Bakare-Yusuf is one of those infectiously inspirational women who leave you feeling very hopeful about the future of publishing. She has a cast-iron confidence in the lists of her publishing house, Cassava Republic Press, which she co-founded ten years ago in Nigeria, and her positivity about their recent move to the UK shines through. Here, we discuss Cassava Republic’s beginnings, UK expansion and how African writing fits into the wider world.
This week for the BookBrunch interviews, I talk to comedian and author Sara Pascoe about feminism, comedy and her brand new book, Animal. You can find the full article, right here.
Comedian Sara Pascoe sits in a room at the Faber offices surrounded by piles of her new book, Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body. She speaks quickly, as if each of her thoughts are eager to be expressed first, and uses her hands expressively to illustrate her points.
We’re here to talk about Animal, but in our half-hour chat the conversation zips from feminism and publishing to empathy and burning orangutans, all set against the backdrop of her career as a comedian.
A fortnight’s worth of BookBrunch interviews for you, one with the marvellous and truly friendly Vivian French from Picturehooks, the other with the busiest man in town, Unbound’s Scott Pack…
“It’s really embarrassing because the answer is I don’t know how many books I’ve published! It’s more than 250 – in fact, it’s probably crawling up towards really rather ridiculous numbers – but I always excuse myself by saying I have been around a rather long time. My first books were published in 1990!”
Vivian French on the Picturehooks Conference and being a children’s author. Read the full article here.