Well, Capital Letters readers, do we have a treat for you! Today’s National Youth Week interviewee is Greg Gould (sometimes known as Gregory A Gould), co-founder and editor of Blemish Books, a Canberra-based independent publisher that publishes fiction, poetry and essays by new and emerging Australian writers. He started Blemish Books with Lesley Boland in 2009. He also writes short stories, poetry, short films and short plays.
What is a typical work day like for you?
I am a public servant by day, so that takes up most of my time. Blemish Books is my other “other” job. Most of my work with Blemish happens in the evenings and on weekends – sometimes in my sleep. I think the best decision I made in the last year was to cut back my day-job hours to focus more on my creative endeavours. Now every Wednesday is divided between Blemish Books work and my personal writing. It also means I never work more than two days in a row at the office – bonus!
As the owner/editor of a small publishing press I get to be hands on with every aspect of a title’s production. As such, a typical day will vary depending on where in the production life cycle a title is. Currently we’re at the pointy end of editing for our next novella release. That means I’m neck deep in grammar and punctuation, and asking a lot of questions like “Should song titles be italicised? What about album titles?” And “What the hell is rote grutze?” Once the text is locked in the next steps will be layout and cover designs. After that it will be proofing and printing. Then publicity, launches, promotion, sales … there’s always something on the go.
Oh, and somewhere in amongst all this I also make time to write my own stuff …
What advice do you have for people just starting out in your field?
There’s no single route to become an editor or to get involved in small press publishing. Many people volunteer with established presses or literary journals, others simply start their own. The only advice I would give prospective small press editors and publishers is to go in with realistic goals. Know what you want to publish, and why you want to publish it. This will help guide you when making big decisions later on.
Very few small press publications make money or catapult their authors into stardom. That’s not to say the work is of lesser quality than what’s produced by larger publishers, it’s just that small presses are limited by resources, time, and (of course) money. I think this is an important thing to consider. If you’re going to publish books, you need to approach the business side of publishing with a business mind. As a “creative” person this was the hardest adjustment I had to make. To sell books, you need to sell books. You need to talk to people. You need to plan for marketing, reviews, promotions, launches. You’re going to have to do budgets and chase up invoices – all those things that your average writer would hate doing (understandably). It’s a necessary evil, but if you take care of the books behind the scenes, you can keep putting books on the shelves.
For writers my only advice would be to value your own writing. We live in a world that celebrates creativity, but rarely rewards it. Very few artists make a living from their chosen art forms. Many “well known” or “successful” writers have day jobs to pay the bills. As such it’s easy to view writing as expendable, as not being necessary to get through the day. It’s up to you to place importance on your writing. You may never write a bestselling novel or an award winning screenplay, but that doesn’t mean that short story or poem isn’t worth investing time and effort in – even if it’s just for you.
Do you have any exciting things coming up?
After a quiet year last year, 2014 is shaping up big for Blemish Books. We have two books planned for release. The first is a novella by Nigel Featherstone called The Beach Volcano (I know, great title, right?). We are super excited about this one because it follows up Featherstone’s previous Blemish novellas, Fall On Me, which won the 2012 ACT Writing and Publishing Award (fiction), and I’m Ready Now, which was recently shortlisted for the 2013 ACT Book of the Year. The Beach Volcano will be the perfect bookend for what we call Featherstone’s “Launceston Trilogy”. We’ve been working with Nigel for almost five years on these books. It’s been an amazing and rewarding journey.
The second book we have coming out this year will be a very Canberra focussed collection of poetry and images. I can’t say too much right now (it’s all still super-secret), but I can say that this book is quite unlike any of the titles we’ve done previously. That’s one of the cool things about being a small press; we get to try out new things – just because we want too!
For my personal writing I have some exciting projects on the horizon. In May my short play “The Unexpected” will be performed at the Ten Minute Quickies at Eltham Little Theatre in Melbourne. That same month it will also be taking part in the SoACT TEN x 10 Playfest in Wagga Wagga. I have a short film “Un/Divided Attention” in pre-production in Brisbane. Hopefully it will be released sometime later in the year. I also have some poems popping up too, including a piece in the forthcoming Grapple Annual (proudly Canberra-based!)
We love recommendations – anything caught your eye lately? Maybe it’s a book you couldn’t put down, or a film that you wanted to immediately rewatch, or a website that made it to your bookmarks.
I absolutely love Paul Auster’s novel (novellas?) The New York Trilogy. I try to read it at least once a year. This book changed the way I look at fiction. It showed me that you can explore truly existential ideas in a way that is interesting, thought provoking, yet remarkably accessible. It’s basically a detective story that’s not a detective story. It’s one of those books that doesn’t make sense, which is why it makes perfect sense (kind of like life). Auster’s other books are damned good too.
I’ve also recently started reading a lot more comic books. I’ve always enjoyed comic book movies and superheroes, but it wasn’t until recently that I picked up some of the lesser known comics and began to understand how cleverly subversive the comic book genre can be. Sure, there are big muscled super-men, magic, aliens, mutants and time travel, but beneath all the spandex and super villains this genre has an amazing capacity to unpack ideas and lay them out in all their absurdist glory. Do yourself a favour, pick up a comic book and take a look. They’re not just for kids. They’re serious story telling. Same goes for video games.
And if you get a chance be sure to check out the TED talk by Young-ha Kim called Be an artist, right now! It tells parents why they should celebrate when their kids start to lie. Best advice ever.
This interview is part of a series for National Youth Week 2014 called Writerly Types. Click here for yesterday’s interview with Jack Heath.