Fran Roberts speaks to us about her love of Margaret Atwood and working in non-fiction.
I’m Fran Roberts and I’m marketing manager at Reaktion Books, an independent non-fiction publisher, as well as one of the founding members of 3 of Cups Press, a micro-publisher that’s been running for about 3 years now.
How did you get into publishing?
Sort of by accident! I worked as a bookseller at Waterstones during university, and then after a couple of different jobs, I managed to get a role with Palgrave Macmillan as marketing administrator. It just took off from there, and I’ve been in publishing nearly 10 years now!
Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?
Oh, definitely. It helps that I used to blog as well, so I would get a lot of proofs of books I would never normally pick up. Working in non-fiction has given me a taste for it too – I never used to read non-fiction if I could help it, now I’d say it was about 50% of my reading.
What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?
A bit of a mixture. I love my Kobo, so I read a lot on there – it helps that I can download PDFs of Reaktion’s upcoming titles on to it (for marketing plans) too. Generally it will be a paperback or eBook.
Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?
One book that I’m particularly proud of comes from my I.B.Tauris days – The Land of the Green Man by Carolyne Larrington. It took off in ways we couldn’t have expected and was one of my favourite marketing campaigns! Another book that I’m proud to be working on right now is Crime Dot Com by Geoff White. It looks at hackers and viruses around the world and covers some of the biggest criminal hacks in history.
What is your most-read genre? Do you have niche sub-genres that you are often attracted to? For example, fairy-tale retellings or books featuring a particular city?
My most-read genre would have to be literary fiction, although I’m really getting into crime at the moment (I’m a big fan of Phoebe Morgan). I love dystopian fiction as well. A couple of my favourite books include Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Where do you buy or access your books?
I shop local – there’s a great independent bookstore around the corner from me called Phlox Books. Otherwise it’s Waterstones or the Kobo store.
What childhood books have you kept on your shelves?
All of them! I can’t bear to part with books as a rule. We have boxes full of books at my parents’ house. One that springs to mind though is Junk by Melvin Burgess. I must have read that book 5 times.
What is the oldest book on your shelf?
I have a very old copy of The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks. It’s one of my mum’s favourite books so I have her copy.
What’s the most beautiful book you own?
A beautifully illustrated edition of The Wind in the Willows. It used to fascinate me as a child and even now the illustrations make me smile.
Who is your most read author, and why?
Probably Margaret Atwood! It’s my aim to read everything she’s written. I think she’s a fantastic writer, and her worlds are so strange and yet familiar. The Handmaid’s Tale and the Oryx and Crake trilogy are my favourites.
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 what surprises me the most is the variety of books that I own. I’ve got very eclectic taste! One book that surprised me is The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. I’m not a great Ripperologist and I know very little. That book opened my eyes.
What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan is outstanding. As is My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. For crime fiction, I’d recommend The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley, and as for non-fiction, it’s got to be How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford – a blistering account of racism and how to recognise it.
What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2020?
I have to pick a Reaktion book here! Wanderers by Kerri Andrews is out in September and tells the story of 10 women walking throughout history. It’s gorgeous. Also out in September is Raynor Winn’s new book The Wild Silence – I loved The Salt Path so can’t wait to read that one. In terms of fiction, look out for Bridget Collins’ The Betrayals and the paperback of Nudibranch by Irenosen Okojie, both coming out in November. Revolutions of Color by Dewaine Farria (October) sounds right up my street. And last but not least, The Fig Tree by Goran Vojnovic and translated by Olivia Hellewell.
What book should everyone read?
Everything Under by Daisy Johnson. It’s simply breath-taking.