Charlotte speaks to The Publishing Profile about her collection of fantasy books and her work with SYP Oxford.
Hi! I’m Charlotte Parr and I am currently a Marketing Executive at Laurence King Publishing. I work on illustrative non-fiction titles for students in areas including fashion, architecture and graphic design.
My first job in books was working at my local Waterstones as a bookseller and later organising in-store author events. Since then I have become a marketer and have worked on audiobooks and scientific journals before ending up in illustrative non-fiction books for students.
Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?
I definitely read a lot more widely than I used to. Particularly when I was a bookseller I had to be able to recommend books from any section of the store so I started to read books I would never have picked up in order to be better at my job.
I had always enjoyed audiobooks, especially as a child, but while working on audiobooks I really fell in love with the format. Because of this I started listening to a lot of non-fiction, which was never a genre I found easy to read, and now have consumed far more non-fiction than I ever thought I would.
What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?
I wouldn’t say that I was particularly fussy about the formats of my books – I will read whatever is available!
I’ll only usually read hardbacks if it is a book that I am really impatient to read as I find paperbacks easier to carry around with me. I will read the occasional eBook, but if it is one that I particularly love, then I will buy a physical copy as well to have on my shelf! I am still very much a lover of being able to hold a book while I am reading it.
However, I find non-fiction hard to read in a traditional format, so most of my non-fiction I listen to as an audiobook as I find it easier to digest. I particularly like audiobooks because it means I can do something else at the same time, like doing the washing up or working on my knitting (because I am an old lady at heart!)
Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?
I have actually spent most of my career in publishing working on products that are not books! I spent some time at Oxford University Press working on their scientific journals and I am very proud of working on a family of journals from the Linnean Society of London. We managed to increase usage of the journal in America and worked on promoting some important ground-breaking research in the field of evolutionary biology.
I also have a book coming up next year on circular fashion which I am very excited to work on because it is such a hot topic right now and could help change the fashion industry to become more sustainable.
What is your most-read genre? Do you have niche sub-genres that you are often attracted to?
I am definitely a big fantasy reader and it is the genre that most appeals to me; almost all of my favourite books have an aspect of fantasy in them. I love getting lost in a fantastical world and really escaping from life. Anything that has a fairy-tale aspect automatically has my attention. Uprooted by Naomi Novik, a magical retelling of Beauty and the Beast, is one of my favourite books (and also has a beautiful cover!)
I am also a sucker for any books that are set in circuses. There is something about the circus that I find very magical and intriguing and writers do so many different things with this setting. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a beautiful book set in a travelling circus, and Showstopper by Hayley Barker puts a deadly twist on the setting.
Where do you buy or access your books?
I get my books from a number of places depending on what it is I’m looking for. If there isn’t something specific I am looking for I love going into charity shops and browsing through their book section to see if there are any hidden treasures.
My audiobooks are either from Audible or through one of the many digital platforms that are offered by local libraries. Many people don’t know that their libraries offer digital platforms to access eBooks and audiobooks which is fantastic when you can’t get into an actual library!
What childhood books have you kept on your shelves?
I haven’t kept many of my childhood books, which I do regret now, but one series of books that I have kept hold of is Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books. The Song of the Lioness quartet had a massive impact on me as a child as it was one of the first books I read with a female central character who was so unapologetically herself and fought so hard for what she wanted. It is still a book I read as an adult and I still find Alanna as inspiring a character as I did when I first picked it up. If you haven’t read it, do it – you won’t regret it!
What is the oldest book on your shelf?
The oldest book I own is my pride and joy – a copy of the collection of the works of Shakespeare from 1860. It is also the most beautiful book on my shelves – it has a leather binding, but the cover is made of wood and on the front, there is a quote from Macbeth. The inside is full of beautiful illustrations of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. If my house was on fire, this is definitely the object I would run back in to save!
Who is your most read author, and why?
V.E. Schwab is the author that I have read the most. I re-read her Shades of Magic series at least once a year. The thing I love about her writing, and the reason why I will read anything she writes, is that she is so versatile in the types of story she writes so you never know what you are going to experience when you pick up one of her books. She has written an amazing fantasy series full of magic, a duology featuring dark and dangerous monsters, and another duology about heroes and villains. What you will always get is superb writing and characters that you will become so invested in you won’t want the book to end!
I also love how she is so open about her experience as a writer and the process she goes through. She is very honest about how hard she can find writing and worrying about whether her next book will be as good as her last. It has made me respect the work of authors even more than I already did. She is a great voice for female fantasy writers.
What surprises you about your shelves? Is there a book you own that you were surprised to love as much as you did?
I think the biggest surprise to me when looking at my bookshelves (apart from seeing how many books I actually own!) is how wide a variety of genres I own. I never thought that I would be as well rounded as I actually am, but my shelves include non-fiction, like The Romanovs, Another Day in the Death of America, and The View From the Cheap Seats, a healthy amount of fantasy and science fiction, award-winning literary books, such as A Little Life, An American Marriage and Washington Black, and more cookbooks than I care to mention!
What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?
In lockdown, I have managed to get through a lot of books so far, a lot of them really amazing books! My top picks from this year so far are:
Boy Queen by George Lester – a young adult book about a young boy discovering himself through the art of drag. This story is full of fun, emotion and glitter! I love Robin and his story of how he struggles to find himself as his world is falling apart.
The Switch by Beth O’Leary – this second book by Beth O’Leary is even better than The Flatshare. A perfect mix of fun romance, the importance of family, and finding out what really is important in life, this book left me feeling so happy I was smiling for the rest of the day!
The Human Son by Adrian J. Walker – a sci-fi book where we find out what the world would be like without humans. A really fascinating read where humans have been removed from the earth by the genetically superior, hyper-intelligent Erta, who now have to decide if they should re-introduce the species that destroyed the world in the first place.
What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2020?
My most anticipated read this year by far is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, a story about a woman who makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. This is a book that she has been working on and talking about online for years and I am so excited to find out how Schwab has brought her engaging writing to this already fascinating idea.
What book should everyone read?
I think that with the current global climate and discussions going on about the Black Lives Matter movement and diversity within the publishing industry, the book everyone should read is Black and British by David Olusoga. I was never taught about black British history in school and have learnt so much about the history of black people in Britain by reading this book. Black British history is British history and it has affected everyone, as well as how our country is today.
Publishing does have a big diversity problem, both in terms of people of colour and regional and socioeconomic diversity. This is something we need to educate ourselves on if we have a chance of changing this.
I love talking about books with people so do come and say hello if you want a chat, or if you have any questions about working in publishing.
Charlotte can be found on Twitter @crowdedbookblog and on Instagram @charlotte_elizabeth_22. Charlotte is also on the committee for SYP Oxford and hosts the SYP Oxford Podcast where she speaks to publishing professionals about different aspects of the industry and their experiences. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcast streaming service – check it out!