We speak to Maria about the differences between her Brazilian and London bookshelves.
My name is Maria Pia Tissot, I’m originally from Brazil but have been living in London for 14 years. I’m the Marketing and Operations Manager at Flame Tree Publishing, an independent publisher based in London.
How did you get into publishing?
When I finished my studies, I was a bit lost – I had become disillusioned with the career I thought I wanted and for which I had been studying (diplomacy) and was really struggling to find a job. I decided to make a list of all the possible areas I would be interested in working, by thinking about what skills I had and more importantly, what I enjoyed doing and suddenly I realised that my favourite thing had always been books and it just became obvious that publishing was the answer. I then researched everything about the industry and how to get in, and after a couple of internships and work experiences, landed my first job as Sales and Admin Assistant at Flame Tree.
Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?
It definitely has. I have always read across different genres and have never been able to identify a favourite genre, but at Flame Tree we publish a lot of horror and science fiction and those were two genres I can’t say I had read very much before. It has also introduced me to an amazing community of readers who absolutely love those two genres and are real champions for them – I had never seen that much passion and support before!
What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?
Most of the time I prefer paperbacks but a couple of months ago, I fired up my very old Kindle and started reading eBooks again (something I used to do more when I was moving around a lot). I’m part of an amazing brunch book club (@brunchbookclubldn on Instagram) and we read quite a few hardbacks for that too. I have read a couple of audiobooks more recently and really enjoyed the experience though, so I think I like all formats!
Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?
There are many books that I have loved working on, but the first book that comes to mind is The Wise Friend, by Ramsey Campbell, which came out in April, just as we had gone into lockdown. Ramsey Campbell is known as a master of horror and has won more awards than any other writer in the field. He has been writing for decades and so the responsibility and expectations were immense. He also has a very loyal readership, and we wanted to make sure the book was a big success, but of course COVID-19 happened and all the plans we had for the launch had to be changed. We worked hard on this book and the results were very rewarding.
What is your most-read genre? Do you have niche sub-genres that you are often attracted to?
I read across all genres and tend to avoid reading two books of the same genre in a row. I also like to read a fiction and a non-fiction title at the same time as I find that there are days when I just really want to read about politics and history and then others when I just want to lose myself in a fictional world. There isn’t a niche sub-genre I gravitate towards, but the setting of the book matters a lot to me. I almost always prefer reading books set in unknown places – it makes me really want to visit them. I also really love books that describe food well – even if it is just the mention of what a character is making for breakfast!
Where do you buy or access your books?
I tend to buy my books from either one of the 3 great independent bookshops near me, or Waterstones and Foyles. I have started buying from Hive.co.uk when I need to buy books online, and occasionally get books from my local library too.
What childhood books have you kept on your shelves?
Well, I didn’t bring many books from Brazil with me when I moved because of their weight, so in my parents’ house I still have all of the original Harry Potter books, as well as the Artemis Fowl series, Lord of the Rings and a few others. My parents moved house when I was already living in London and I told them that they could get rid of all of my stuff except for the books!
What is the oldest book on your shelf?
I own a 1947 edition of Harold Nicolson’s Some People, first published in 1927 – I bought it from a second-hand bookshop when I was still aspiring to be a diplomat and wanted to read everything written by diplomats.
What’s the most beautiful book you own?
It has to be the Vintage Classic Russians Series edition of Anna Karenina. I saw it at the Tate after an exhibition and I bought it solely because of the cover. I have not yet read it but it’s displayed proudly in my bookshelves.
Who is your most read author, and why?
It must be Agatha Christie. When I first moved to the UK I was obsessed with her books – there was a second-hand bookshop near one the places I lived which was full of her books (most are!) and I would go there every week and buy a couple more books. There was something very comforting about her stories, especially as I was finding it tough to adapt to a new life and university life. I would often come home after a long day of classes and have a bath reading one of her mysteries.
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 I’m a bit surprised by the variety of books in them – in part because I share the shelves with my partner and our reading tastes are not very similar, but also because I don’t think I have ever found a favourite genre. There was a time when I would read a book by an author and really enjoy it, and then read all of their books straight after, but now I think I prefer moving on to something completely different – for example, I finished reading Stephen King’s The Shining last week and started Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half straight away. A book that really surprised me and has become one of my favourites is Stoner, by John Williams. I loved the experience of reading it as much as the story and it stayed with me for a long time afterwards. When I started reading it I thought it would be slow and boring, and when I finished it I actually cried because I didn’t want that story to end. Powerful stuff.
What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?
Two books come to mind – My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell which was not only a very good book but generated the best book club discussions and The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller (who has become one of my favourite writers because of this and Circe). I’ve always had an obsession with Greek mythology, and her writing is so engaging.
What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2020?
I am really loving The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – I foresee it becoming one my favourites of the year, and I am really looking forward to reading The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño, as I have been trying to read more books by Latin American writers.
What book should everyone read?
I know it’s a cliché, and it’s one of those books that everybody says they’ve read when they really haven’t, but I’d say George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. I know there have been many great adaptions of it in the theatre and cinema, but I do believe it’s a masterpiece that everyone should read.
You can find Maria on Twitter @MariaPiaTissot, Instagram as mariapiatissot, Goodreads as Maria Pia Henz Tissot and StoryGraph as Maria Pia Tissot.