Rose Solari Speaks to Delphi Quarterly’s Ramola D
An Interview with Rose Solari
Today is day 2 of Small Press Week 2018! The theme for Monday is #SPWpast. In honor of #SPWeek2018 and #ASP, we are publishing an article where Co-Founder and award-winning poet, Rose Solari, tells out story. Happy Small Press Week!
An excerpt on the conception of Alan Squire Publishing:
Rd: That sounds like such a great approach. Did something in particular inspire you both to move forward from running a sports magazine to starting a literary press? Were other writers involved?
RS: We’d been talking about founding a press for a few years. I was becoming increasingly frustrated and angry about what was happening to some of the books I’d edited, and to some of my writer friends. Some of the books I worked on already had committed publishers, who knew my work and wanted me involved, and that’s great. But sometimes I was hired by a writer who had a publisher but knew they were not going to give the book a thorough edit – there is less and less of that going on these days, as you can see from opening even a big-name title. And I think — we think — that that is awful. If you are published by ASP, you get a thorough and very fine edit.
But even worse, it seems to me, is how many terrific books aren’t getting a chance either because of agents and publishers who are either greedy or have silly, anti-intellectual prejudices against readers. Of the former, I know of at least two fine fantasy writers who were rejected by agents saying they were looking for “the next J.K. Rowling.” To which I’d like to say, rub a lamp. Or really – whatever happened to the old model, where a publishing house that acquired a few big-selling names used that revenue for research and development, for bringing other authors forward? It’s greedy, and it’s lazy. And it’s bad for writer and readers.
I know of at least two fine fantasy writers who were rejected by agents saying they were looking for “the next J.K. Rowling.” To which I’d like to say, rub a lamp.
And for the latter here is an example: The first ASP novel, Joanna Biggar’s That Paris Year, is a gorgeously written book about five young women who spend their junior year abroad in Paris in 1961-62. Joanna has had a long career as a journalist and travel writer, and lived in Paris herself, so she already had fans and credentials; the book has compelling characters, passion, history, sex, great settings, everything. And yet she had more than one agent tell her that Americans aren’t interested in reading about other cultures, which is just jaw-droppingly inaccurate as well as insulting to readers and writers.
So all those thoughts were stewing around between Jimmy and me. Then we had a galvanizing moment. In March of ’09, I was invited to serve as Blackwell Books Poet-in-Residence for the annual Oxford Literary Festival. This opportunity was so rich in so many ways, it would be impossible to enumerate them all. But one of the highlights was hearing the publisher John Calder, Beckett’s great champion, speak about his own life and work. He was in his late eighties, and crotchety, but his enthusiasm for his writers was undimmed – he called Beckett “the greatest writer in English since Shakespeare.” That kind of passion is so important.
And when asked his thoughts on the current literary scene, he said that the advances in printing and e-book technology and access have made for “the most exciting time in publishing since the post-war era” of which he was a part. He talked about what might happen when the processes of publishing are democratized, as it were, how opening up those processes to more writers and giving more readers access to books could only be good, and in some unpredictable ways. And he said his only regret was that he might not live long enough to participate in whatever would happen next.
Jimmy and I looked at each other — it seemed we’d heard just what we needed to hear.
On the plane home, we devised a plan to start our own press, involving collaborations with other indie publishers we admired, particularly Andrew Gifford, whom we were just beginning to know. We’d help each other promote and distribute our titles; we’d share experiences, resources, and ideas. We’d keep the name of the umbrella organization under which we’d founded SportsFan Magazine, Alan Squire Publishing, or ASP.
We met with Andrew as soon as we got home. He was particularly interested in a collection of Jimmy’s essays that he was just putting together, Bermuda Shorts. The mix of memoir, pop culture, history, and politics, and the smart and irreverent tone really appealed to him and he thought we should put that out right away.
I was totally sold on Joanna Biggar’s That Paris Year. So those were our flagship books and we launched them in 2010. Bermuda Shorts quite quickly became an indie bestseller, and Joanna’s book has found a wonderful audience not only in the states but across Europe’s English speakers.
Read the full interview with Rose Solari here