What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
We see a lot of exciting novels and nonfiction books by women, brilliant books about big issues. We have three books coming out next year from Aimee Liu, Donna Hemans, and Ellen Meeropol that involve mothers being separated from their children. It’s a subject that’s on all of our minds this year. The time when literature was dominated by old white men is over. Strong women and writers of diversity are walking forward and claiming the stage.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
We are interested in nonfiction books about what’s going on in our culture and environment. Our country is in the middle of great change, and we look for writers who address that change. We love eco-fiction. We have a book coming out this fall called Pigs by Johanna Stoberock,which is a crossover YA book, an environmental novel that retells Lord of the Flies. We would love to find more books like this. It’s Calvino-esque, a thicket of language, a roil of plot, and it makes you think about the planet in a new way. We are looking forward to more books like that.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
We are taking a break from pain porn—entire novels in which, after the characters go through terrible suffering, they graduate to further suffering. We know the Buddhist idea that life is suffering and the sooner we accept that the better, but we like literature which helps us rethink our world. Maybe we’ll be ready for books with unmitigated suffering again, but we are taking a break.
What do you want to change about publishing?
We like the continued shift toward more dynamic events in bookstores, events with food, music, and conversation. The changes we want are already happening: more diverse representation of authors and stories, stories outside of the New York scene, and real life—gritty and up-close. We want to keep changing from static events where the writer stands up and reads at you.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Los Angeles is a unique place to be in publishing because there is not a lot of infrastructure or book media compared to New York or even San Francisco or Minneapolis. But here, you can make it up and figure it out like one makes poetry or movies. California is a place people go to reinvent themselves. That’s certainly what I did. I ran away from the cult where I grew up and came to Los Angeles. Books had saved my life and given me a road map to the world, so when I got to California, I went to graduate school. When I got to Los Angeles, I thought this place could use a publishing company. My friend Mark and I got one started in 1994. Twenty-five years later, we are thriving, publishing nearly 30 titles a year, our books translated into several languages. Red Hen has a literary center in Pasadena. Los Angeles is a place you can make dreams come true.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Working in the book world is a privilege. We love ideas, and we are makers so we get to find stories and make books.Kate Gale is managing editor of Red Hen Press, editor of the Los Angeles Review, a board member for the Poetry Society of America, former president of Pen USA, and former president of the American Composers Forum, LA. She teaches in the Low Residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska and has authored and edited over 10 books, six librettos, and multiple essays and articles. Kate received her Ph.D. in American and English literature from Claremont Graduate University and sat on the judging committee of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, one of the most prestigious literary awards in American letters.