Katie speaks to us about her favourite Irish writers and the responsibility of books to challenge and educate readers.
My name is Katie, I'm 25, from Ireland and I'm an editorial assistant in the adult non-fiction department of Welbeck Publishing Group.
How did you get into publishing?
I did English Studies at Trinity College Dublin and spent a year abroad studying in Canada. There I did an editorial module and was instantly hooked so I did two internships in Toronto and returned to Ireland to finish off my degree. I applied to the MA in Publishing at UCL and got in but wanted to take a year out to make sure that publishing was what I really wanted to do. I worked as an editorial intern at a popular parenting and lifestyle site and while I did briefly enjoy the world of journalism I felt that London was calling me. In September 2018, I moved over to begin my Masters in Publishing. While studying, I secured a part-time internship in the Foreign Rights department of Welbeck Books and I've been there since. I transferred to Editorial in late 2019 and now I work across a range of illustrated non-fiction titles and have helped to set up our new and very exciting narrative non-fiction list.
Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?
Working in publishing has definitely opened me up to reading more diversely. I actively go out of my way to pick titles outside my race, class and gender or about historical events or places that I'm unfamiliar with. For me, it's very important that I balance books that I know will educate and challenge me with something that I can enjoy and use to disengage from the world. As well as that, working in publishing has really broadened my appreciation of different formats. Before, I have to admit that I was a bit of a print book snob but working with ebooks and audiobooks has thoroughly made me appreciate the accessibility and content they provide. Especially during lockdown, I encouraged friends outside the publishing world to embrace ebooks- it's all the same story at the end of the day!
What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?
I read a mixture of everything, but ultimately you cannot beat a good paperback. While I believe that there is a special place for beautifully designed hardbacks, my best-loved books are dog-eared, frayed-cornered paperbacks. While books are beautifully designed objects I don't believe in enclosing them in cotton wool, they need to live and breathe; pulled in and out of bags between Tube stops, splashed with the remnants of a hurried lunch or curled up from reading in the bath. The worse my book is, the more I've enjoyed it, hence why my copy of Everything I Know About Love is mangled after a close encounter with a bath.
Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?
Duty of Care. It is written by ICU Doctor Dr Dominic Pimenta and is an arresting, heartbreaking and eye-opening account of his time on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Pimenta is a fantastic and evocative writer and Duty of Care should be required reading for anyone that supports the importance of the NHS. Also, all royalties from the titles will be given to HERO's, the charity that Dr. Pimenta founded that provides essential support to frontline workers. So this book really does give back to those who need it!
What is your most-read genre? Do you have niche sub-genres that you are often attracted to?
I read across a lot of different genres; literary, romantic, historical, magical realism, gothic, thrillers, short story collections. I really am drawn to family stories and relationships between women, especially intergenerational. I'm also a huge fan of a bit of magic realism with a gothic/Victorian setting and recently have really enjoyed The Doll Factory and The Binding. I read a lot of non-fiction for work and like to keep on top of trends and the biggest hits but I find it difficult to switch off on "work mode" when reading non-fiction - hence why I gobble up as much contemporary fiction as I can. I also love supporting Irish writers, especially fellow Irish women. Tramp Press are doing amazing things for the literary scene in Ireland right now.
Where do you buy or access your books?
I prefer to shop in independent bookshops or high street stores like Waterstones and WHSmith. I also have a membership at my local library.
What childhood books have you kept on your shelves?
Winnie the Pooh. It is one of the first books I remember reading and was a massive part of my childhood. I may or may not also still have a Winnie the Pooh teddy bear. I was also a massive Dr. Seuss fan, Oh! The Places You Go is iconic at every age and life stage.
The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill, another supremely talented Irish author. Not only is the cover stunning, but it's a signed copy- one of my prized possessions! It is a feminist retelling of the Little Mermaid and is a beautifully written book. The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry is also gorgeous- I'm clearly a sucker for an intricate foil pattern.
Who is your most read author, and why?
Probably John Steinbeck. I reread the Steinbeck classic East of Eden at least once a year and I discover something different every single time. I know most people prefer Grapes of Wrath but I studied it so much at university that it kind of turned me off it, it loses its magic a bit. I never get tired of his ability to explore the mythical and complex of every minute relationship. I also have read nearly every Marian Keyes, the woman is a comedic genius.
What surprises you about your shelves? Is there a book you own that you were surprised to love as much as you did?
I was actually surprised at how many short story collections I've amassed over the years; Flannery O'Connor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Shirly Jackson, Maeve Brennan, anthologies of short stories by women and by Irish writers. A great novel can drag you into its world and enclose you from every angle, but a great short story is a flash of a knife that leaves you wondering where the blood came from- sharp, sweet and painful.
What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?
How many do I get to say?! Queenie, Daisy Jones & The Six, An American Marriage, The Binding, Unsheltered. All fantastic titles that kept me going during lockdown.
What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2020?
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan and Ghosts by Dolly Alderton. I bought a copy of Exciting Times a few weeks ago and have been eagerly saving it for the right moment.
What book should everyone read?
Notes to Self by Emilie Pine. It was published by Tramp Press in Ireland and was huge here, it also got a good bit of traction in the UK. Her exploration of ownership and self-possession of the female body is simply unparalleled and should be on everyone's single reading list, male or female. Girl, Woman, Other, should also be considered essential reading.