Tehani Wessely is very busy. She runs boutique press FableCroft Publications, she has judged for the Aurealis Awards, CBCA Book of the Year and the WA Premier’s Book Awards, edited for both ASIM and Twelfth Planet Press, and is current judging coordinator for the Aurealis Awards. In her spare time she works as a Teacher Librarian, blogs athttp://thebooknut.wordpress.com/, and tweets as @editormum75.
1. One of the most appealing books to come out of Australian indie press this year is Fablecroft’s ‘To Spin a Darker Stair’, which contains a single story each by Catherynne M Valente and Faith Mudge. What was your inspiration in putting together this two-story ‘bookling’, and did you have any qualms about whether such an unusual anthology would sell? Do you see a market for more specialised or ‘boutique’ print books, particularly in light of the growing e-reading market?
This little book came from an unusual place! I was reading submissions for Epilogue (formerly Apocalypse Hope), to which Faith had submitted “Oracle’s Tower”. I fell in love with the story instantly, but it didn’t fit with the way the anthology was coming together. I couldn’t let it go though, so I took a punt and asked the very wonderful Cat Valente if she would be interested in permitting me to reprint her amazing story “A Delicate Architecture”, which I had read and adored in Troll’s Eye View. To my delight, she said yes! Kathleen Jennings was obviously the perfect illustrator for the project, and she very kindly fitted it in to her increasingly busy schedule, and the bookling came together.
I have a passion for the printed form, and while I know how important ebooks are to being current in the global publishing market, I am still figuring out what that means for me, in my small publishing operation. I would love to be producing quality ebooks of everything I do, but it’s a skill I’ve not yet mastered, although I hope to work more on this later this year. A book like To Spin a Darker Stair deserves to be held and admired, for my mind – the illustrations and lovely pocket size of it make it so!
I think that boutique books of both print and e-form have a market – many readers are looking for books that take more risks than most major publishers can produce, which is a niche zone for smaller publishing houses to venture into. I love handling books, I love having them on shelves, but many readers are choosing and preferring ebooks, which is great! Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, one file format will become standard, and the purchase of global rights for ebooks will become the norm, which will help the industry stabilise and grown, but we’ll see how that goes!
2. You’ve recently tweeted ‘I’m a curator, not a creator, and I’m okay with that :)’. How important do you think curation is to literature, and speculative fiction in Australia particularly, and how do your dual roles of both publisher and judge contribute to your curating efforts?
Interestingly, that tweet came out of both my day job as a teacher librarian and my editor/publisher thoughts. Curation (and its cousin, gate-keeping) is an essential part of both arenas, and a role which I think is often underestimated. Without curators, the work of talented creators can go un-noticed, or worse, unseen (as in, never published) – our job as curators is to bring together and put forth creative work in such a way that people who will enjoy it will find it. Whether that is as an editor who puts out an anthology, a publisher which produces great books, a librarian or bookseller who buys and displays the work, a judge who shortlists pieces for wider recognition or a reviewer who examines the book critically for a public audience, each role is essential to the ability of readers to discover the work of creators. I think curation is especially important in the currently publishing climate, where e- and self-publishing are such growth areas, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to find quality work even as the number of publications soar.
3. Your publishing house, Fablecroft, has been in operation for just over two years and in that time you’ve put out 4 books, which vary in theme and form. What are your long-term plans for Fablecroft, and is there an overarching vision in what you’re trying to achieve?
FableCroft was formed from the desire to be able to do projects I loved. I enjoyed my time with Andromeda Spaceways, which was a great learning space, and continue to love working on projects for Alisa at Twelfth Planet Press, in various capacities, but FableCroft gave me the freedom to do exactly what I wanted. So far, it’s been fairly eclectic, and given the time and finances, I’d probably continue to produce a variety of projects. There’s possibly a children’s picture book in FableCroft’s future, and who knows what anthological inspiration will strike next?!
It’s probably not politic to say it, but FableCroft is truly a hobby business for me – I love supporting our Australian creators, which is why I do it. I want to be able to provide a place to help discover and nurture Australian talent, and provide readers with good stuff to enjoy. I honestly don’t think I can take FableCroft to a bigger place, and I’m not even sure I aspire to that, at this stage in my life, with three small children and another on the way, but who knows, later on down the track? The future is a nebulous thing!
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Oh, SO many! Let’s see, Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts (so sad this series is finished!), Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan, Debris by Jo Anderton, The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood, everything from Twelfth Planet Press (and nyah nyah, I’ve read books that aren’t even OUT yet!), Eclipse 4 edited by Jonathan Strahan, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, and bucketloads more YA and Children’s books thanks to my CBCA and WA Premier’s Awards judging in 2011! And so many more I’ve forgotten I’m sure (you can check our my Goodreads records to see what else I liked!-http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4023683.Tehani_Wessely) I’m really looking forward to the new Troubletwistersbook by Sean Williams and Garth Nix, and am DESPERATE for the sequel to Debris, Suited, to come out. I’m also keen to read Lee Battersby’s forthcoming book from Angry Robot, The Corpse-Rat King, although I have a feeling it will disturb me, and can’t wait for Rowena Cory Daniells’ new trilogy to be released. Aussies are producing some extraordinary work and I’m loving it!
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think have been the biggest changes to the Australian SpecFic scene?
It’s been interesting to see science fiction stories gaining some momentum – there was a great crop of Aussie SF novels published last year, and a stack of short stories as well. Podcasting is another major change – obviously some podcasts were already in existence two years ago, but some Aussies are gaining international recognition for this, as seen by the Hugo nominations for both Galactic Suburbia and Coode Street, which is brilliant, because both those podcasts showcase Australian work, which broadens the awareness of international listeners of the awesome stuff coming out of Australia. And I guess the rise and rise of self- and e-publishing has to be mentioned here too, because it really is changing the face of publishing in this country – who knows where we’ll be by the next Snapshot!