We Want You!
Commissioning Editor, Hatti, talks about why she loves Lafiy and what she is looking for in submissions right now
I’m very excited to be working as an Editor with Lafiy Press, as I believe wholeheartedly in our core ambitions: to publish new, inspiring voices, and provide opportunities for writers who might otherwise be overlooked by monolithic publishing houses. Publishing is a big world, with a lot of money moving through it, and I (as I’m sure many of you are) am scandalised by how little of it makes it to the pockets of the majority of authors.
In the last few years, even as there have been laudable drives for greater diversity and equality in publishing, it still seems that there has been little in the way of real progress. How many times have you seen an advertising campaign describing a book as “the new something,” “the something for Generation Z”; “the Black something” or “if someone was female”? This sort of marketing – and the mindset it is indicative of – is lazy, and reductive. Lafiy want to do things differently; to provide a space for our authors to be themselves, without needing to draw (sometimes quite tenuous) parallels between their work and something that has previously proven popular. Books have to sell, of course, and our model relies on that, but my personal belief (and one that the whole Lafiy team share) is that if the writing we publish is authentic, truthful and bold, the readership will follow.
"How many times have you seen an advertising campaign describing a book as “the new something,” “the something for Generation Z”; “the Black something” or “if someone was female”? This sort of marketing – and the mindset it is indicative of – is lazy, and reductive. Lafiy want to do things differently; to provide a space for our authors to be themselves, without needing to draw (sometimes quite tenuous) parallels between their work and something that has previously proven popular."
So what am I looking for from submissions? You might have seen that I’m particularly interested in fantasy and speculative fiction, but those are huge umbrella terms. Let me try to answer the question by asking one of my own: what’s the first book you remember being unable to put down? That first sense that stopping reading – one more page, one more chapter – might sever something important?
For me, it was a book called Spindle’s End, by Robin McKinley. It’s not particularly well-known, and on the face of it, not particularly special. The plot is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, which sounds a bit old hat now, but it was published in the early noughties, so well before the trend’s re-emergence in the mid-2010s. Spindle’s End is a children’s book, but it’s also very much not, asking questions about the nature of wishes, of spells; of family and friendship and destiny and free will. It’s a book that’s got a lot of magic in it, but that also has a great deal to say about the world we live in. I picked it up in an airport bookshop in the USA when I was ten, and I’ve probably read it once a year ever since. My copy is dog-eared and mangled and has taken a few too many baths for something made from paper, but it’s there every time I turn to it: the first book I truly loved.
Good writing changes the way you see the world, even if only for a few minutes. Spindle’s End spoke to me in a way that nothing previously had; the first book I read where I had the sense that if I looked very hard from the corner of my eye, I might see the world that it conjured, waiting for me just around the next corner. That’s what I’m looking for from the submissions we receive to Lafiy Press: something that makes me stop, close my eyes, and wonder why I’ve never quite looked at that thing in that way before. There’s a memorable sequence in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (a novel I adore) describing the appearance of distant mountains in a night-time storm, the vividness of which has always made me pause and look out of the window. Another in Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel, where a character has the sense of “regrets crowding in around him like moths to a light,” and which I have always found equal parts beguiling and horrifying. I mine books for these moments of indrawn breath; of absolute recognition. They appear not infrequently, yet never predictably, and they always leave me wanting more.
"Good writing changes the way you see the world, even if only for a few minutes."
That’s one of the reasons I’m eagerly anticipating the release of Bolt From the Blue, the second novel from Jeremy Cooper to be published with Fitzcarraldo Editions. Cooper’s previous novel, Ash Before Oak, was moving and understated, masterfully balancing joy and despair, and I’m really excited to read his newest work. I’m also hugely looking forward to Patricia Lockwood’s debut novel No One Is Talking About This. Lockwood is an established poet and essayist whose work is filled with dark, stinging humour, and prior to her novel’s release I implore you to read as much as you can of her work, maybe starting with her poem Rape Joke or her recent Diary entry for the LRB, Insane After Coronavirus? Other anticipated reads for this year include The Library of the Dead, first in a new YA fantasy series by T. L. Huchu, bringing Zimbabwean magic to the streets of Edinburgh; The Prophets, a black, queer historical romance by Robert Jones Jr., which is already garnering comparisons to Toni Morrison and James Baldwin; and Milk Fed, by Melissa Broder. Broder’s previous novel The Pisces was a fantastically bizarre mash-up of millennial life-crisis (why limit yourself to “mid” in this day and age?) and Angela-Carter-style dark, sexy fairy tale, so I’m intrigued to read her follow-up, which promises to be a novel of appetite, in all its incarnations.
With lockdown continuing for another couple of months at least, I’ll be itching to get back to my local bookshop. So many independent booksellers have been fantastic about pivoting to click and collect, bravely standing up against the monolithic power of A-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but I still yearn for the serendipitous joy of browsing the shelves, and the wonderful feeling of looking for something you don’t know until you find it. It’s a sensation that I’m reminded of as we start reading your submissions to Lafiy Press, and that I’m sure I will have again when our first releases come out later this year. I hope that finding our distinctive covers on the shelves of their local bookshop will give my browsers-in-arms that same magical thrill of finding something truly special.