Will: In his introduction for your Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet collection, Dan Chaon described you, Kelly, and LCRW as being at the forefront of ‘a kind of underground literary movement’ rising out of ‘the dark hours or literature, sometime in the winter of the middle of the 1990s’. Was that how it felt at the time? Do you feel the same about that time looking back? Almost 15 years later, where do you think we are now? Where do you think we’re going?
Gavin: Dan’s introduction was a fabulous gift for us. The book itself was great fun putting together and I am still very grateful that Jim Minz who was at Del Rey at the time took it on.
I think that every person looking back to the time when they knew fewer people in the fields they are interested in will feel that it was a dark age compared to where they are now. It was so much more difficult then to find the work of writers I wanted to read compared to the way it is now as to be ridiculous.
Will: You seem mostly to have found your place as a publisher of short stories. Why short stories? Novels seem like they’re where the money is. Is it that authors want a larger press for novels, or do you have a special interest in short fiction, or is it something else?
Gavin: I started our zine, LCRW, to publish contemporary fiction that wandered genre boundaries. A few years later, when we thought about publishing books we found collections that easily slipped through the cracks. We have published novels, and it is fun to see the broader readership react to them. But even though short story collections can be a hard sell, we do have a lot of love for the short, sharp shock of them. Will: Congratulations on your World Fantasy win for your Monstrous Affections anthology. That’s one of several anthologies you and Kelly have done together. I’m aware of a Steampunk anthology and one called Trampoline. How is putting together an anthology different from putting together an issue of LCRW?
Gavin: While Kelly and I worked on the fantasy half of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror for five years, and edited Steampunk! and Monstrous Affections together, Trampoline was edited by Kelly alone. All of those books were put together in different ways. Kelly wanted to edit an anthology after her first collection, Stranger Things Happen, came out. One day we were reading submissions and came across Greer Gilman’s novella “A Crowd of Bone” and it was so good that we knew we had to publish it and from there Kelly took the idea of a broad-ranging anthology and ran with it.
Will: You’ve brought some books that have fallen out of print back into print. I’m aware of several works by Geoff Ryman (Was, The Child Garden) and I believe you picked up the last book of John Crowley’s Aegypt series in their initial printing when they were having trouble finding a home. What drew you to these works?
Gavin: We published the last volume, Endless Things, of John Crowley’s series — I am still amazed we got to use a Rosamund Purcell image for the cover — and then Overlook reprinted the whole series in paperback. Our first reprint was Carol Emshwiller’s Carmen Dog and every time I go back to it I am amazed all over again how weird it is. Kelly and I met while working in a bookshop and every bookseller soon has a list of out of print books that they would do almost anything to have back in print so that they could sell them. Most of the books were just us wanting to make these great books available. It can be hard to get publicity for reprints and now authors have so many more options for the back catalogs that I doubt we will do many more reprints. Never say never, of course.
Will: Your anthologies, LCRW, and your books themselves often have truly wonderful comics and art. How do you find them?
Gavin: The art and design and everything of the two anthologies Steampunk! and Monstrous Affections came from Candlewick Press. We talked about artists we liked and that kind of thing and then they came back with artists. It is one of the best parts of making a book when everything is possible, and then with those two books we were blown away by what they came back with. The cover artists for both books is Yuko Shimizu (yukoart.com) and suffice to say we have the originals on our walls.
Otherwise Kelly is the art director for Small Beer. She usually finds either art or artists for the books and then the two of us work together on the covers. That doesn’t cover 100% of the covers, but it’s the usual pattern.
Will: You take a special interest in translated work. Your site specifically mentions an interest in works by Angelica Gorodischer. What drew you to her? What other authors not writing in English are you interested in?
Gavin: Ursula K. Le Guin translated part of Kalpa Imperial and it was published in the anthology Starlight 2 edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Kelly wondered if Ursula had translated more, we wrote to her, and were quite stunned when she said she had translated the whole thing. At the time I didn’t know how interested she was in translating and learning other languages.
Once I read Kalpa Imperial I really wanted to read more of Angélica’s books, especially when I was told that all of her many books are quite different from one another. From the three we have published, the stories in White Pine Press anthologies and others, I’d say that description is both accurate and taunting.
As for other writers not writing in English, I’d say the list is endless. We’ve published a couple of other translations, and with luck will do more, but the translation itself is expensive, so I am glad that there are many translated books coming out from other publishers.
Will: Going by your site’s ‘Books’ page, you publish mostly women. Is that conscious choice?
Gavin: Yes and no. We’re both interested in voices that don’t reflect the dominant paradigm and while we seek out some women writers, I am happy to say we get a great number of submissions from women — especially for LCRW. I feel very lucky and proud to have published many of my favorite authors.
Will: So much of your reading time must go towards publishing work. Who do you read for fun?
Gavin: Comics, zines, graphic novels, manga, kid’s books (still trying to read to our daughter but she says I read too slowly and usually takes the book from me), translations, twitter, historical novels, magazines (Tin House, The New Yorker, A Public Space, etc., etc.), Dorothy Sayers, so many books, so many things that get in the way.
Will: On a lighter note, I take a great deal of enjoyment from your Best of LCRW essay about scotch. Do you have any favorites?
Gavin: If you had asked last year I’d have said I like all scotch but then I had two in a row that I did not like, so, how about, I like most scotch! For something with so few ingredients there is a tremendous range in taste. If only I could probably extrapolate from that to fiction . . .
Gavin J. Grant is the publisher of Small Beer Press, an independent press based in Massachusetts. Since 1996 he has (with Kelly Link) edited and published Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, a twice-yearly small press zine. They have also edited eight anthologies. Originally from Scotland, Grant moved to the USA in 1991 and has worked in bookshops in Los Angeles and Boston and for the American Booksellers Association. He co-hosted the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading series in New York City for six years and has written for the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Xerography Debt among others. He lives with his family in Northampton, MA.
Will Waller is a speculative and experimental fiction author, editor, and publisher from the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York whose writing focuses on memory, music, and the weather. Since moving to the Bay Area, he has worked on the literary journal Eleven Eleven, read at Bay Area Generations, mentored students at Oakland School for the Arts, gotten engaged, been homeless, become a sponsor of Borderlands Books, all while hiding that he is really just a dragon who collects books rather than the more traditional gold. He likes good sushi and great scotch and misses both very much.
Evan Adams is a writer and craftsman originally from Seattle and temporarily transplanted to the Bay Area. His work explores community, identity, giftedness, disability, magic, addiction, and botany, and seeks to provide the marginalized communities to which he belongs with stories that are by and for as well as about them. He is troubled by the underlying assumptions of literary fiction, and honestly believes he can save the world with semantics.