What are some upcoming trends?
The notion of trends always trips me up. I never consciously follow what seem to be “trends,” since I find that by the time you’re following one, it’s changing or over. And in terms of fiction, it never seems to be a good idea to follow a popular subject (as vampires were a few years ago) unless you’re fully in love with the book itself.
That said, a book I’m really excited about that we’re publishing this spring, Heidi Pitlor’s The Daylight Marriage, has already been grouped with books that in some way resemble Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. And unfortunately, I can’t broadcast to people that I loved Heidi’s book and was in no way meaning to chase after Gone Girl readers. Nor does she get a chance to tell people that she wrote her book before that “other” book about a wife was published. All of which is to say that what might look like “trends” are sometimes the products of the media grouping like books together. (And yes, sometimes, when it pertains to vampires, they are trends.)
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Because I come from a long line of physicians (though I myself am squeamish), I tend to be drawn to medical narratives, and I wish I saw more of those. I’m always intrigued by those explorations of a mystery illness that run in the NYT. And given how many changes have occurred in medicine over the years, I think that someone could write an amazing history and exploration of the transplant business (because it really is a business at this point). In general, I would like to see more narrative nonfiction. And I’m always hungry for a great meaty novel, the sort where the sentences are ones I want to write down and remember, but one also where I’m propelled forward by the drive of the narrative.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
This feels like a trick question. I had no idea I’d ever want to read about horseracing until I read Seabiscuit, and then I told everyone about that book. I really was sure I didn’t want to read a memoir about aging parents until I read Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? and I’ve read it now more than once and bought multiple copies. I was pretty positive I wasn’t a natural reader for apocalyptic fiction until I read Station Eleven, which I loved. I didn’t think I’d want to read about a group of high school friends who stay in touch over the years until I read The Interestings, but all week long I’ve been thinking of great sentences and moments in there. Every good writer undoes my expectations for what can be said and done with any story or topic.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
One thing that distinguishes Algonquin is the smallness of our list, which allows for all books to receive close scrutiny, whether it’s in the editing process or in the marketing and publicity process. I never have to rush books into production before the author and I are fully satisfied with the final draft. And the publicity and marketing departments have the time to create campaigns for each book that are truly singular. It’s an incredible payoff when we see our books succeed and often overtake books at much larger houses with deeper pockets. You know, sort of a David and Goliath thing. Makes me proud.
Kathy Pories has been a senior editor at Algonquin Books for 19 years. She acquires literary fiction and narrative nonfiction and has been the editor for the last five winners of the Bellwether Prize. Authors she has worked with include Bill Roorbach (a finalist for the Kirkus Prize), Rebecca Lee, Michael Parker, Wendy Brenner, Robert Olmstead, Lauren Grodstein, Hillary Jordan, Heidi Durrow, Gabrielle Zevin, and others. She received her Ph.D. in English literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.