We speak to Ana about working during lockdown and her new poetry anthology, She Will Soar.
I’m currently Deputy Publicity Director at Quercus and riverrun books as part of a job share, and I edit poetry anthologies (as Ana Sampson) as well as doing some freelance Publicity consultancy during the rest of the week.
How did you get into publishing?
It was nineteen years ago, through the now happily curtailed system of doing unpaid work experience. I started as a Publicity Assistant at Random House, after a couple of placements demonstrated I was completely unsuited to Editorial work (a lucky escape for the Editorial departments of the industry!)
What has working in publicity been like during lockdown?
It’s been heartbreaking unravelling some fantastic book tours, though it has been interesting and fun finding exciting ways to bring author events online (and doing a few myself to support publication of my anthologies!) We’re extremely busy at the moment as so many books were postponed to autumn from the spring schedule, but a lot of what we do can easily be done from home. I miss the face to face contact with colleagues and meeting journalists and event planners, though. And it’s definitely been challenging working with my two small children at home, who have gatecrashed a few Teams meetings.
Where do you buy or access your books?
I live in a village without a bookshop so even before lockdown I tended to buy online or over the phone – there are a few favourite indies I go to (especially West End Lane Books, the Haslemere Bookshop and the Yellow Lighted Bookshop) or I buy through Waterstones or Hive.
What books have you been reading in lockdown? Do these books typify your usual reading taste, or have you found yourself reading other genres and authors?
For the most part, I read the kind of books that would always have attracted me – I loved Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo – but I did also pick up some more thrilling titles – Louise O’Neill’s After the Silence and Lucy Atkins’ Magpie Lane – which helped me get out of a start-of-lockdown reading slump. And like a true girly swot, I went back to Wolf Hall and read the whole of Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy, which was wonderful.
What’s the best book you’ve received as a gift?
It’s an old edition of Mister God, This is Anna, which is quite a strange book I loved as a child that a friend found for me.
What is your most beautiful book?
I have a copy of Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris’s The Lost Words and I think that is exceptionally beautiful. I studied History of Art for a while so I have some gorgeous art books I was able to justify as study aids.
What is the oldest book on your shelf?
It’s an incredibly beautiful copy of Paradise Lost that was presented to a teacher from her pupils in 1833 – it was passed down somehow to my mother.
Which authors or genres do you look forward to reading more of in the future?
I absolutely loved Claire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had, so I’m looking forward to whatever she writes next, and I’m excited to read more books by Kamila Shamsie, Meg Wolitzer, Bernardine Evaristo and Lars Mytting.
What are the best books you've read in 2020 so far?
Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books and Girl, Woman, Other would stand out in any year, I loved them. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson and Nell Frizzell’s funny and necessary The Panic Years (out in February 2021) would make that list too. I’m currently reading a proof of The Betrayals by Bridget Collins and it’s exactly the kind of transporting read I need this year. I read lots of poetry, old and new, while researching my anthologies (She Will Soar is out now) and I especially enjoyed work by Liz Berry, Caroline Bird, Rachel Long, Amy Lowell, Maggie Smith, Anna Wickham, Di Slaney, January Gill O’Neil and Moya Cannon this year.
I’ve also been lucky enough to work on some brilliant books in 2020. I have to mention The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr (coming in January 2021) which is spectacular – I read most of it holding my breath.
What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of the year?
I’m very excited for Piranesi by Susanna Clarke and Stuart Turton’s The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
Which books should everybody read?
Staying away from anything I’ve worked on personally in the interests of impartiality: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wise Children by Angela Carter, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Where can readers find you online?