Interviews

I should specify: not interviews with me, interviews with other people that I’ve written!

In January 2016, I began the BookBrunch Weekly Interviews, and since then I’ve been able to interview some amazing folk, including authors such as Louis de Bernières, Frances Hardinge and Darren Shan.

Having the opportunity to talk with these fantastic people is one of the highlights of my job, and I couldn’t be more grateful for their time. Read on below to find out what we chat about…

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Hot new American novelist Angie Thomas, bestselling author of The Hate U Give, on race, writing, and resistance 
“I did not think that a story like this had a place. But then Trayvon Martin happened. Michael Brown happened. Tamir Rice happened. Sandra Bland happened. And I was once again feeling that same anger, frustration and hurt, when I’m hearing politicians now making comments that sound just like the comments my classmates made years ago.”

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Karen Sullivan, founder of Orenda Books, on the gems in the slush pile
“Often people who haven’t had much luck with lots of agents or other publishers will come here because I’m trying to do something very slightly different. I’ve never minded creating demand.”

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Trailblazer winners Anna Russo, Heather McDaid, and Željka Maroševic on digital, indies, and the London bubble
“The great thing about indies is that you’re used to operating on a shoestring. But I think it is hard to be in London, which is why a lot of indies are moving, and that’s going to give more oxygen to them.”

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Ruth Tross, editor at Hodder, on why collaboration brings out the best
Crime tells you a lot about the world and societies we live in, their stresses and pressures, because in a broader sense, crime is an interruption of society. It’s what happens when things are going wrong, and that’s quite revealing.

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There’s Gold in Them Backlists: Getting to grips with digital with Matthew Lynn and Richard Foreman, founders of Endeavour Press
“We have a mantra here that there are no new or old books on Kindle. Most publishers think of the Kindle Store as a kind of bookshop. It’s not. It’s a platform, like YouTube.”

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Around the World: Discussing international expansion with Henry Rosenbloom, founder of Scribe
“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’.”

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What happened to the next big thing? Catching up with Malin Persson Giolito a year on from her LBF hit
“I do think she came during this time when we can all relate to the feeling of having lost control, not perhaps over your own life the way that Maya does, but to have lost control over what is happening in the world. We have it up in our faces, one catastrophe after another and what can you do?”

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Debra Millar, publishing director of PRH New Zealand, on publishing in the land of the long white cloud
“The quality of New Zealand publishing is getting better all the time, but my biggest challenge is small print runs whilst trying to achieve very high production values on our illustrated books.”

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Championing diversity with Jo Francis from Words of Colour
“When you think about books, you think libraries and bookshops – places you can walk into. Why is it that publishing is like a fortress? There is a remoteness to publishers that they can’t sustain or justify any more. Let’s make this more fun: inclusion is exciting! It underpins what we do and it’s life-affirming.”

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Creating a festival for everyone with Alex Clarke of Bath Festival
“While we have invited some very eminent speakers, I would like to think that people will come to those events and feel that they are part of that conversation. That they can ask questions.”

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Jacks Thomas, director of the London Book Fair, on supporting the next generation of publishers
“When you look at the wonderful differences in society and the people who are perhaps excluded, if we’re just commissioning and putting out content that’s in our image, we’re only going to become smaller and we’re not going to reach people.”

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The book after the runaway bestseller, with author Kate Hamer
“When you’re outside of it, you have this vision that everybody who works in publishing is sitting in their offices reading all day. But in reality as far as I can make out, all reading is done in people’s own time at home. People are very hardworking in publishing.”

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Discussing adult literacy with Jo Dawson, programme manager at Quick Reads
“It doesn’t matter what you read, just as long as you start reading. It has the power to change lives.”

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Super-elites and fantasy tales: getting inside the mind of debut author Vic James
“There’s always been this super-elite – once upon a time they were aristocrats and now they’re capitalists – and they’re still there. Then there’s the rest of us, on the outside of the wall, trying to see over, even though what’s behind might not be a place that’s good for us.”

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On boosting adult literacy with Jo Dawson from Quickreads
“As heavy readers, publishers have trouble imagining what it’s like not to be able to read well. It’s something we all forget about in the industry because we’re in this bubble of people who do read and believe that books are important.”

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After the bestseller: an interview with author Kate Hamer
“I just try to focus on what’s going down on the page every day. What will happen will happen, but the page is the one thing I can control.”

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Championing independents and poetry with Sophie O’Neill from Inpress
“As the big publishers become increasingly bigger and fewer, there’s a huge opportunity for independent publishers. You can see that happening.”

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Chibundu Onuzo on her new novel, Welcome to Lagos
“What’s important is having a literary culture and environment develop in Nigeria and having a publishing industry that caters for a Nigerian audience, because then you will have even more talent coming out of the country.”

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The importance of books and the options for 2017: a conversation with Suzanne Baboneau of Simon & Schuster
“There are far too many books published, I think. We’re drowning in them. All of us in the industry are culpable.”

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Discussing communication and technology with Ed Marino, Executive Director of codeMantra
“Technology is part of what makes the world smaller. You have to be independent of where the publisher, customer, or even author are located.”

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Blazing the agenting trail with Ella Kahn and Bryony Woods of Diamond, Kahn & Woods Literary Agency
“It’s a nice boost to be reminded that people recognise the effort you’ve put in and that the stresses behind closed doors are worth something in the long-term, which is easy to forget when you’re down in the mines.”

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Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, on Book Week Scotland
“People will always read because people will always love stories but, you know, the book is a piece of technology that can’t be improved.”

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“Queen of erotic literature” Jodi Ellen Malpas
“The truth is that sex and love make the world go round, just as much as money does.”

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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.”

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On the 35th Sharjah International Book Fair with Ahmed bin Rakkad al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority
“In some countries in the region, censorship has been tightened under new governments and this makes it difficult for publishers to operate freely. This acts to stifle the industry, which is something we naturally don’t want to see. SBA is committed to creating space for publishers free from such constraints.”

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On the therapeutic value of poetry with Forward Prizes founder William Sieghart
“In this world people tend to pop a pill or have a drink or whatever to get rid of their woes, but that doesn’t get rid of anything, that just puts it away for a little bit until it floods back. There is an extraordinary, redemptive, therapeutic transformational power to the right poem at the right time.”

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Looking out and up with Sam Ruddock from the Writers’ Centre Norwich
“Particularly in Britain, we’ve got so used to just seeing the world as transatlantic. We’re closing ourselves off from so much that’s happening”

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Are you ready for Frankfurt? An interview with Katja Böhne
“With the political changes in recent years, I think political issues and freedom of publishing have become much more relevant again…”

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An interview with KJ Orr, winner of this year’s BBC National Short Story Competition
“Without that empathetic connection, it would be very hard to develop characters with a feeling of conviction…”

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Discussing gun deaths in America with Gary Younge
“To approach someone and say, ‘Look, your kid’s been killed and I’d like to talk to you about that.’ That’s hard. You can say it in a more polite way than that but that’s what you’re saying…”

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Children’s author and comedian David O’Doherty on fear and laughter
“I don’t know much about senses of humour, and I suspect there hasn’t been much done on it, but I’m going to say my sense of humour hasn’t changed very much since I was about 10 or 11…”

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To self publish or not to self publish? Maintaining creative integrity with Cornelia Funke
“For me the book is a melody, so when I write the first chapter, that is the beginning of the melody and I cannot just shift it to another place. The music falls apart…”

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Turning the facets of publishing: an interview with David Roche
“The number one lesson I learnt going solo though was learning to say no. My belief is: do what you want to do and you’ll enjoy yourself far more, and if you enjoy yourself you’ll be much better at what you do…”

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Heading north with book festival everyman Bob McDevitt
“The received wisdom in publishing seems to be that crime writers are generally quite well balanced people because they get to write out all their darkness…”

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Clare Christian on new publishing models and staying agile
“One of the main frustrations I found in a bigger publisher, was the time it took to get anything done. In a small publisher, if you decide you want to do something in the morning, by the afternoon it’s happening!”

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Finishing another’s book: Elspeth Graham on Mal Peet’s final book
“My conversation with Mal has certainly not ended, and I don’t suppose it ever will.”

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Writer Zillah Bethell on venturing into children’s books
“We are so incredibly spoilt. Yes, we still have very deprived areas of the country here, but compared with other parts of the world, we don’t know how lucky we are. It’s really strange to see what’s available when you’re living in the First World.”

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Michael Bhaskar, co-founder of Canelo, discusses interactions between digital and print
“There’s sometimes this sense that if you’re involved in digital publishing that you wouldn’t celebrate a renaissance in print but we absolutely would! We think it’s brilliant news…”

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Exploring the world of rights with Sheila Crowley from Curtis Brown
“Obviously, I’m always there to represent the author and try to get the best in terms of the campaign and everything, but I’m also very honest with authors, in terms of where the market is at. Authors do need that education as well…”

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Sad happy unicorns with US crime writer Laura Lippman
“The whole issue of false accusation is one that bothers me because it is larger in our imaginations than it is in real life…”

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How we publish now, with Jeremy Trevathan, publisher at Pan Macmillan
“At its heart, publishing will still just be about books, people reading and the emotional relationship between the reader, the page and the author…”

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Anna Jane Hughes from The Pigeonhole on innovation in publishing
“I would be so sad to see publishers go, because they do such incredible things and I think that the way that a book is supported and cultivated is wonderful…”

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Talking about digital learning with George Burgess, founder of Gojimo
“Everyone these days talks about personalised and adaptive learning – the idea that software based on you performance can guide you to the relevant resources – and that’s all based on big data…”

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Libraries as the source: An interview with Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell
“We are in danger of forgetting about the real role that creativity can play in inspiring kids to pick up books, enter into fictional worlds and write their own stories…”

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Twenty years in bookselling with Hazel Broadfoot and Julian Toland of Village Books
“My favourite bit is putting a book into somebody’s hand and knowing that they want it before they do…”

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Running the Republic of Consciousness Prize with Neil Griffiths
“If I felt I was fairly engaged and involved with the British literary world, and this stuff hadn’t reached my radar, that’s not a failure on my part, or the presses, but the bit in between, the media. It made me realise that I had to do something…”

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Engaging in books with Hay Festival Director Peter Florence
“The act of reading is quite private and personal, but sharing that is something public and communal… Plurality and diversity is the aim of what we’re trying to do…”

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How to move your readers: an interview with Cressida Cowell
“Things on a screen happen out there, but in a book things happen inside your head, so it’s very good for building empathy in children…”

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“One country at a time, one book at a time”: An interview with Bibi Bakare-Yusuf from Cassava Republic Press
“Yes, people might want to be called Nigerian writers, or Ugandan writers, or Zimbabwean writers – and they’re all their specific national identities – but they’re also the continental identity as well…”

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“How can we be good?” An interview with Sara Pascoe
“‘Neck up’ feminism kind of ignores that we’re animals, that we’ve evolved to behave in certain ways and that there are certain behaviours that maybe aren’t just choice…”

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An interview with publisher Scott Pack on the state of the industry
“Most people, if they’re really honest, will accept that the old publishing model is broken…”

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Getting hooked on illustration with Viv French
“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..”

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Very Bright and very dark: an interview with Darren Shan
“Really good horror and fantasy books are always a reflection of the world in which we’re living. There’s much more going on in them than just the fantasy trappings…”

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Book designer Lawrence Morton on design as a long conversation
“Often people get quite frightened when designers start getting playful in books…”

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Poetry, and the rest is noise: An interview with Jenny Swann from Candlestick Press
“I couldn’t really understand how people managed to get from one end of their life to the other end without having poetry in it…”

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The BookBrunch Interview: Claire Malcolm from New Writing North
“What I love now is looking back at all the writers we supported ten years ago and seeing how many of them are still working, still publishing and getting on with it…”

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Interested in everything: An interview with Costa 2016 winner Frances Hardinge
“I take it almost as an occupational duty to chase down everything I might find interesting, because you never know when you might be able to use it…”

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Independent Publisher Focus: Salt on the Silver Age of the small press
“We love all our books. Every single one – we love them. I think that’s what drives small presses, it’s passion…”

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Galley Beggar on short stories, industry flaws and the ups and downs of success
“We’re idealists and that’s essentially why we’re a small publishers who put out books which, if you look at the economics of them, don’t work in terms of the market place, but what we’re interested in is the literary output. Which is why we’re here doing what we do rather than editing elsewhere…”

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Of grief and desire: Louis de Bernières on love poetry
“I always tell people poetry was the first thing I ever wanted to be and do, so for me it’s more like coming home than anything…”