Wednesday, 26 September 2018

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with Karen Sullivan

Welcome to my latest MY PUBLISHING LIFE feature, an interview with a literary agent, publisher, publicist or editor about their publishing career to date. Some serious questions, and some just for fun!

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


Orenda Books

What and when was your first job in publishing?
I worked as secretary to the editorial director of Sidgwick & Jackson, and my ‘line manager’ was Gill Paul, now a well-known author of historical fiction. She effectively trained me, and I moved to editorial assistant and the some commissioning.

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I am publisher and owner of Orenda Books, and we are almost four years old. 

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
We are always working on a number of books at different stages. I just did a final read of Susi Holliday’s utterly brilliant psychological thriller cum ghost story, The Lingering, before we go to press and I’m about to do the same to Will Carver’s dark, sexy, tense Good Samaritans. I’m doing final edits on West Camel’s beautiful, charming debut Attend,  which is a bit Armistead Maupin … all character and lyrical writing. I’m also preparing Steph Broadribb’s Deep Dirty Truth, next in the fabulous single-mother, bounty-hunter Lori Anderson series, and Matt Wesolowski’s creepy Changeling, next in the Six Stories series, for bound proofs. I’m structurally editing books that we are publishing well into next year, like Doug Johnstone’s FABULOUS Breakers. It’s gloriously non-stop and never boring!

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
I have a couple of degrees, including English, Economics and Psychology, which probably help! I took a publishing course at the beginning of my career, and was rigorously trained in my first job. I am a huge reader, too, and that obviously helps with story sense, and working on the structure of a book. I was a non-fiction author for years, writing about raising children and emotional health, and did some TV, etc. This gives good insights from the other side of the fence, if you like. I was a single mother for a number of years, supporting my boys on my own, so I have always been hugely disciplined and determined, and very good at time management. Mainly, though, I think I am really just very lucky to be doing a job that I adore, and working with so many talented authors from around the world. They are SO much fun, too. It’s a fabulous job!

How do you relax after a busy working day?
Reading is my main relaxation, always. Spending time with my family is also fun. I don’t go out a lot because my job involves a LOT of travel and a LOT of events, festivals and parties. I am happiest in my nightie, on the sofa. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I have to say that the current crop of drama on at the moment is brilliant! I’m glued to The Bodyguard and enjoying The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, and I can’t wait for the dramatisation of Helen FitzGerald’s The Cry.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
Currently reading Ambrose Parry’s The Way of All Flesh, and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s beautifully written, visceral, immersive, authentic, screamingly tense and quite magnificent. Ambrose Parry is the writing team of Chris Brookmyre and his doctor wife, Marisa. Enough said! On the TBR, I’ve got Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s debut Blood & Sugar, which everyone is talking about! Plus Erin Kelly’s Stone Mothers. I LOVE HER WORK!

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
Commissioning exceptional books from around the world, and editing, marketing, selling and promoting them in all formats (which is more than 15).

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
There have been some great highlights! One of our first books was Ragnar Jonasson’s Snowblind, translated by Quentin Bates, and it was the first book to knock The Girl on the Train off the top of the kindle charts. That was MAGIC for a debut, international author. Ragnar’s series has gone on to sell about a million copies worldwide. It was an honour to be shortlisted (twice) for Best Newcomer at the Independent Publishing Awards, and to be chosen as a Bookseller Rising Star. A seminal moment was launching Roxanne Bouchard’s We Were the Salt of the Sea (translated from French Canadian by David Warriner) at Canada House earlier this year. I’m Canadian, and the word ‘Orenda’ is a Canadian First Nations word that loosely translates as ‘the mystical power that drives human accomplishment’, so it was extremely exciting. I was bursting with pride! Otherwise, every single day, every book, every author has brought incredible rewards and multiple highlights. I’m as excited about a book selling thousands of copies as I am by a great reader review!

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
I wouldn’t want to do anything else. This is, quite honestly, my dream job!

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?
The Orenda, but Joseph Boyden already did that! J
Sometimes my life feels like a thriller, with so many nail-biting, tense moments, and a roller-coaster plot, coupled with elation, distress, pride, happiness, euphoria … and some incredible characters! Let’s call it The Orenda Roadshow!

Thanks so much for taking part, Karen!

Look out for more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features coming soon.

Click here to read more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features.

If any literary agents, publishers, publicists or editors would like to take part, please contact me through my blog or Twitter for the full list of questions.

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