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Mon, 31 Aug 2009 01:19
Alcemi believes in publishing success stories, kept on a human-scale. Editor Gwen Davies has deep experience of developing new fiction writers such as Richard Gwyn, Rachel Trezise and Tristan Hughes, who have gone on to make their name worldwide with publishers like Doubleday and Picador, while Alcemi has already had a taste of prize-winning, with Gee Willliams' Salvage being shortlisted for the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, and Fflur Dafydd named as the Oxfam Emerging Writer of the Year at Hay 09, for her novel Twenty Thousand Saints.
The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?
Alcemi: Readers of literary and general fiction within the UK. Readers who like voice-driven narratives, a strongly-controlled and consistent narrative viewpoint, lyricism, panache and dark, dry humour.
The Book Depository: What do you think are the principle challenges/opportunities in publishing at the moment?
Alcemi: Challenges. Getting the chains to appreciate that fine fiction often comes from the periphery: outside mainstream big London publishing houses. Trying to sell books that aren't endorsed by celebrity.
Opportunities. Feeling flattered when our new authors get poached by London agents and publishers. Being pleased that despite being tiny, there is still a place within our massive and exemplary English publishing trade for independent publishers, bookshops and unknown authors.
The Book Depository: How do you decide which particular author to publish?
Alcemi: I look at a typescript to seek a balanced structure; distinct, controlled and consistent voice; playfulness with genre, without tipping over into genre fiction; warmth; psychological perception; strong settings; originality; authenticity and humour, human values. In an author, I seek sanity, flexibility, patience, trust, respect, an understanding of our respective roles, and a willingness to work hard beyond the publication date. I will probably be influenced by an author's connections, for example with the international festival scene or with journalists. I wish this wasn't the case but we are a very hard-pressed small team.
The Book Depository: What books are you most proud of having published?
Alcemi: Fflur Dafydd's Twenty Thousand Saints which just won her the status of Oxfam Hay Emerging Writer of the Year. Hay Festival Director Peter Florence called it "the most compelling novel I have read in years," The Guardian "a wild, exhilarating read." Fflur's character of Sister Viv, the lesbian pretend-nun on Bardsey island who is host to her sect's annual conference of hermits, is not averse to stealing rhubarb, and buried her head in the political sands for twenty years for the sake of her ideals, is the perfect example of a warm protagonist in a multi-narrative novel. Viv drives the suspense because the reader falls in love with her, borrowed habit and all! The novel is a perceptive mystery with a racy plot as well as themes of excavation -- sexual, linguistic and filmic.
Another multi-narrative novel, but with a much cooler overall voice than Twenty Thousand Saints is Gee Williams' masterly Salvage, which was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2008, and won library readers' Pure Gold Award, as well as being longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. Set in Goa, the north-west Wales shoreline and a Chester hospital, it looks at possession, betrayal, violence and what single object we might salvage to save us in a desperate situation. Prof Colin Nicholson, JTB Prize Judge's adjudication was: "A controlled and gifted stylist, Williams is inventive and inspiring in her craft. Salvage masquerades as a murder mystery while exploring the less sunlit aspects of the Welsh shoreline and of the human soul. Dominant and daring in her prose, Williams relishes the act of writing and constructs five distinct characters with genres particular to each, including a wonderful Cosmo send-up for the gorgeous gold-digging nurse as well as a provocative intervention of the author herself. Salvage constantly shifts the literary goalposts from crime to romance to a metafictional crisis while never losing the immediacy of the characters or the suspense of the crime." We are really proud that Granta has just published the mass paperback version of Salvage.
The Book Depository: What books are you working on right now?
Alcemi: In the pipeline we have strong male first-person viewpoints from Tyneside (Tony Bianchi's Bumping) and the world of eco-terrorism (Jim Bowen's Ashes than Dust); epic historical drama covering the Croatian wars of the Forties and Nineties, with Penny Simpson's usual marvellous emphasis on lush imagery, characterisation and "exotic" settings (The Deer Wedding), a satire on New Age commercialism and the expat business community in Bangkok, Bamboo Grove, by Romy Wood; The Perfect Architect by Jayne Joso, set in the dazzling and eccentric world of international star architects, and Refuge by Lara Clough, a novel set in the Welsh borders, which explores fantasy game obsession; male initiation into manhood and the role of crafts and the countryside in reconciling us to our destructive humanity.
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