I’ve always loved books but when I was young I never imagined you could get a job actually working with them! I grew up in Northern Ireland and no one ever talked about publishing as a possible career choice. At university I studied French and Spanish, with a degree that was heavily weighted towards the literature of those countries. What I loved was understanding the connectedness of books across cultures and traditions – that to understand Don Quixote, you had to view it in the context of chivalresque romances or how the French enlightenment authors were heavily influenced by what was going on in England at the time. I have to confess that at the time I did not spend too much time thinking about what I would do after university, but in my final year I began to think about books and whether I could continue to work with them without becoming a teacher or librarian.
My first job in publishing was doing work experience in the publicity department at Random House, working on the Cape and Chatto lists. I fondly remember my first ring round, when I had to ask literary editors if they had received a book called Badgers on the Highland Edge! I then moved into the editorial department at Cape and had the opportunity to learn from some brilliant editorial colleagues and work on exciting projects. I was very happy at Cape, but when an opportunity to commission opened up at The Women’s Press, I thought this would give me an opportunity both to experience what it was like working for an independent, and to work for a feminist organisation. I worked there for several years before moving to the Orion Publishing Group, specifically the Weidenfeld & Nicolson imprint. I worked at Orion for many years, publishing some wonderful books including The Shadow of the Wind, Gone Girl and the Call the Midwife books by Jennifer Worth. In 2019, I realised it was time for a change and so I was delighted to join the Doubleday imprint of Transworld, as Publishing Director for Fiction. Doubleday is a wonderful imprint and has published some of my all-time favourites, such as The Book Thief and Life After Life. I'm very much looking forward to what the future will bring!
A book that's left a deep impression on me: OK, this is going to sound so pretentious (apologies) but at 18 I read L’Etranger by Camus for my French A level and it opened up a whole new world to me of European literature. Books that ask questions, that challenge expectations, that make you think. I think it was that book that kindled my love for foreign literature and the work of international writers.
A book I'd recommend to everyone: Too many to mention but Perfume by Patrick Suskind and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver would be a start!
The book I'm most proud of working on: Choosing one would be like choosing between children! Each book brings different experiences, you learn something new with each one and each new author. What makes me proud is when I see someone on a train reading something I've been involved with - I always want to tap them on the shoulder and ask 'do you like it?'