Next month, I will be launching a new project, eight cuts gallery, to break down barriers between the arts, to act as an installation space bringing writers, artists, filmmakers and musicians together online and in the physical world around key questions, and to bring extraordinary writing to the world's attention. A week or so ago I sent out some very preliminary feelers, and I have already discovered some amazing people doing fantastic things. This week, I got to chat with one of them, Grace Andreacchi, author and managing editor at Andromache Books
1. I love the fact that Andromache is a tiny press yet you have music, and you have shorts mixed with poems, and novels and novellas, all in together. I imagine you looking at the work first, and wondering about the medium second. Would that be fair?
Yes, that’s how it is. The whole idea behind Andromache is to put things out there that are extraordinary, that deserve to see the light of day, and have no serious chance in a commercial environment. ‘A little corner of excellence’ – that’s what we strive to be. I became aware that music publishing has gone the same way as that of serious literature, as poetry and I thought – Why not? As a dedicated music lover, I felt a great desire to do something here as well. As a writer, I understand the imperative to write well and damn the consequences. I want to make a place for others who feel as I do, and are as dedicated as I am to their art and to their craft. Which sounds horribly solemn – but we’re not that!
2. I'm intrigued that Andromache's titles (and, indeed, their covers) feel as though they fall into two camps - there's the decidedly classical (in the Latin & Greek sense), as one would expect from the imprint's name; and yet there's also the black and white, Beat-feel of Clearout Sale and Out There. Was that conscious?
I’m very open-minded about genre, style – all of that. I try to match the look of each book as closely to the content as possible. I design all the covers myself, and there have been some headaches, but in the end each one is a thing of beauty, that expresses something simple and straightforward about what’s lurking inside.
3. You say you don't take submissions, but for people to get in touch if they feel their work would be of interest. I love that - it's exactly our policy at Year Zero. Can you explain why, and how you find material?
My first commitment is to write, I’ve very little time for editing and can’t afford to be overwhelmed by random submissions. One must draw the lines rather closely and stick to them. Having said that, I want to leave the door open for the happy few. I haven’t gone looking for material, writers come to me and if I love their work and we get along, then we’ll do a book.
4. Could you explain why you offer your ebooks for free?
This is right at the heart of my whole philosophy – ebooks are the wave of the future and there’s no particular reason to charge for them – they don’t cost us anything to produce. They cost us in time, to be sure, but everybody at Andromache is working for the sheer love of it, nobody gets paid for this. We can’t give away print books, obviously, because we have to pay the printer. But whatever you charge for a book, it is in fact a gift. There is no meaningful correlation between the money you pay for a book and the heart’s blood that went into it. Ebooks allow this equation to be made completely manifest. We are not a business at Andromache, we are a service to writers and to readers. We are giving you a gift. The whole electronic revolution in publishing has made it possible for serious writing to get up on its hind legs and do a dance! Here we are, look at us, how beautiful we are!
5. What's the one thing that drives what you do at Andromache?
I believe in the power of literature to affect us all at the deepest levels. And I believe that art should be uncompromising in its excellence.
6. One doesn't have to scratch the surface of today's literary world very much to find some incredibly exciting things happening. Does it bother you that by and large the public is utterly unaware of most of it?
Oh now, ‘the Public’, you know, that’s a very slippery concept, ‘the Public’. Who is this ‘Public’ whose unconsciousness should afflict us? I have no illusions in the sense, I’ve been round the block a few times, I’ve been published by a couple of very well regarded literary houses, and ‘the Public’ remained, to all intents and purposes, unaware of my existence. I’ve certainly attained a far higher degree of visibility in the two years since I’ve been working with Andromache than in the preceding twenty-five, struggling upstream in the commercial waters. There is a very intelligent, hungry Public out there, and they love what we do, and they read us, and we love them too.
7. Do you think we are in exciting or depressing times for literature?
Oh exciting, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Depressing was ten years ago… I remember how it was very well, having sent out one’s really rather good work to every conceivable and inconceivable destination only to be told the same old same old… ‘wonderful but there is no market for this’. All of a sudden we don’t need a ‘market’ for literature. We can connect directly with readers all over the world. It’s the biggest revolution since the printing press, and the results will be equally astonishing. Already those nay-sayers who were wringing their hands over the rubbish that would result from self-publishing are having to eat their words. Sure, some rubbish gets published, but nobody pays any mind to it. The power is back with the writer, where it should be.
8. In five years' time, Andromache will be...
A little corner of excellence in an ever more beautiful literary world.