Interview

2017 English-Language Publisher Hits & Misses

At the end of every year, The Guardian newspaper in England asks a range of publishers to pick their hits and misses. This year, we begin a new tradition of our own and ask a handful of English-language publishers to look back at 2017, focusing as ever on Quebec fiction.


1) Which book (from Quebec) did you put out that you’re proudest of this year?

The Heart Is What Dies Last by Robert Lalonde

2) Which book (from Quebec) from another publisher did you wish you’d published yourself?

The Orange Grove by Larry Tremblay

3) Which of your books (from Quebec) did best?

The Heart Is What Dies Last by Robert Lalonde

Richard Olafson, Ekstasis Editions

 


1) Which book (from Quebec) did you put out that you’re proudest of this year?

Readopolis by Bertrand Laverdure, translated by Oana Avasilichioaei. We’re beyond thrilled that Oana is the winner of the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation (English language category) for this book which the jury calls “a vertiginous ode to the pure, if rarely rewarded, pursuit of literature.”

2) Which book (from Quebec) from another publisher did you wish you’d published yourself?

Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins, published by Coach House Books

3) Which of your books (from Quebec) did best?

Readopolis received some very strong reviews upon its release this spring and the GG win has given it an increased boost in sales. The book is now in its second printing, which is always great news to be shared with an author and translator.

Hazel Millar, BookThug

1) Which book (from Quebec) did you put out that you’re proudest of this year?

The Doorman of Windsor Station by Julie Vincent, translated by Hugh Hazelton. It’s a gorgeous translation of a wonderfully interesting play. The action jumps back and forth from Montreal in 2005 to Montevideo, Uruguay, in the early 1970s as the main character recalls distinct episodes from periods in his life that seem vastly different yet all follow the same thread.

2) Which book (from Quebec) from another publisher did you wish you’d published yourself?

Anima by Wajdi Mouawad, translated by Linda Gaboriau (Talonbooks). It’s a little out of my wheelhouse as it’s not a play but Wajdi is one of my favourite writers working today, and Linda is one of my favourite translators. I want to publish everything they do together!

3) Which of your books (from Quebec) did best?

Scorched by Wajdi Mouawad, translated by Linda Gaboriau. This play is a perfect read, and resonates with so many people. It’s been in print in English for 12 years and continues to be a favourite, finding new readers all the time.

Annie Gibson, Playwrights Canada Press


1) Which book (from Quebec) did you put out that you’re proudest of this year?

The one I’m proudest of is Vague d’effroi, Rachel Martinez’s translation of the first of Peter Kirby’s best-selling Luc Vanier novels, The Dead of Winter. Our plan from the outset, in 2011, was to publish in English and in French, and we were able to do that with Salon .ll. almost from the get-go, but it took us longer than expected to find our feet in the English-Canadian publishing milieu, and then over a year to figure out how to navigate the shoals of the francophone book world—with its very different sales and distribution practices, not to mention such unexpected perils as the positioning of spine type.

So it was only in March 2016 that we published our very first book in French, and only in October 2016—by which time we’d published the requisite three eligible titles in French—that we were finally eligible to apply for an English-French translation grant from the Canada Council. Vague d’effroi has been in the works for a long time, in other words, and it’s a great pleasure now to see it in print.

It’s a fully accomplished first novel that is quintessentially Montreal so that you’ll recognize every street corner and the nooks and crannies in every metro station.

2) Which book (from Quebec) from another publisher did you wish you’d published yourself?

Having been a keen observer or the Quebec publishing scene for many years, I’m very impressed with the work that’s being published these days, and especially of its quality and variety, so it’s hard to choose just one recent title. Very happy to see Québec Reads on the scene, and can see there will be much more to enjoy coming from Peter McCambridge. Often surprised and delighted by Véhicule’s Esplanade Fiction list, which is not only diverse but bristling with talent. I’m an admirer of the work of Josip Novakovich, especially, and do wish I’d published his recent books and especially Ex-Ju a couple of years ago, and now Tumbleweed.

3) Which of your books (from Quebec) did best?

After his short story collection Shenzheners garnered critical acclaim and the Montreal Arts Council/Blue Metropolis Diversity Prize last year, I was fairly confident that Montreal writer Xue Yiwei’s first novel in English, Dr. Bethune’s Children, would do well, but there was no way of knowing quite how well. The book has had good, even great press from the start, in September and October, and then it gathered steam in November, with the author on the cover of the Montreal Review of Books and a great cover story by Anita Anand. The New York Times feature by Taras Grescoe followed in mid-month, and that has brought international attention. And now The Globe and Mail has included the novel in its annual list of the best 100 books of 2017. We’ll see what comes next. (And I’d have to say I’m pretty proud of publishing Xue Yiwei, as well.)

Linda Leith, Linda Leith Publishing