New Books in German interviews Aina Marti, Founder and Publisher at Héloïse Press. Héloïse publishes books which give voice to emerging and well-established female writers from home and abroad.
NBG: Hi Aina, thanks for taking the time to speak to New Books in German, not least as you must be busy with publicity for What Concerns Us? What drew you to this title, and what do you think readers will enjoy?
Aina Marti (AM): Hello Sarah, it is a pleasure talking to you, too. What Concerns Us is a book with many female elements; new motherhood, breast cancer, postnatal depression, and the relationship between sisters and their mother, to mention a few. It touches upon many important topics that affect many women worldwide, which is precisely what made me feel that the stories of Rahel, Fenna, and their mother could resonate with many women. I also liked the fact that all female characters are very strong despite the hardships they all experience – there is no room for self-pity. It also presents a very straightforward style that simply shows things as they are, with no intention to dissimulate anything. Descriptions of breast milk, for example, are really striking. I think the ways in which the female bodies are represented are faithful to reality. It does feel refreshing.
NBG: Are you going away this summer? Will you be packing any books?
AM: I am going to visit my family in Costa Brava. I am not packing many books as I will be working on a couple of manuscripts. Hopefully, I have time to finish reading a couple of fantastic Spanish books I started a few weeks ago!
NBG: What sort of books really stand out for you?
AM: I like books where you can feel like you are inside the character’s head and heart, seeing all her contradictions and complexities materialise. Stories about women navigating life expose all that is hidden deep in most of us, those parts you rarely reveal to anyone.
Héloïse Press …aims to bring together a myriad of experiences of women across the globe. So, it is not just stories written by women, the story also needs to show a female perspective and experience of the worldAina Marti
NBG: Congratulations on establishing Héloïse Press. Can you tell us a little about the press and your ambitions for it?
AM: Thank you! Héloïse Press focuses on intimate female stories, that is, on women’s lives told from a very personal perspective. It aims to bring together a myriad of experiences of women across the globe. So, it is not just stories written by women, the story also needs to show a female perspective and experience of the world.
NBG: Can you tell us a little about your subscription model and why you chose it?
AM: The subscription model is for the readers who love the press and wish to read all books published each year. They pay a more economical fee – I think this is the main point: to make the books more accessible for those who really enjoy them. They also receive the titles in advance and have free tickets for our events. More perks will come soon!
NBG: What sorts of voices do you wish we heard from more often?
AM: I personally would love to hear more stories from women living in very different cultures from mine, for example, the Gulf countries. How does it feel not to be able to go for a run or drive a car? More interesting even, are our experiences deep down really that different? What do we have in common? I would love to bring those stories here.
NBG: August is #WomenInTranslation month. How can initiatives like this help to amplify women’s voices?
AM: WITmonth is actually a bit redundant for Héloïse Press, if you think about it! Every month is women’s month for us! I find it quite worrying that we still need to dedicate a month to remind people that women all over the world write and that the only way to access that is by translating them. I think the only way to truly amplify women’s voices is to publish very good literature written by women.
NBG: What are the most exciting parts for you in bringing a book to market? Is it possible to single them out?
AM: I don’t even know where to start! Being a publisher is absolutely fascinating. When you have a book in your hands, it is magical to think that you have made that a reality. You have produced an object that occupies a space in people’s lives, you have brought a story to many homes. My favourite part is finding new voices and new books as well as going through the editing process and taking care of even the smallest detail in every text. Some discussions with authors and translators have been fascinating. I think I enjoy the process more than the result!
NBG: How did you get to where you are – what led you to become a publisher?
AM: It has definitely been my passion for literature and my appetite for risk-taking that brought me here. During my doctoral studies, I became aware of many beautiful books by women that were not in English – that was one of the triggers. I love the idea of women sharing stories, and that’s what I decided to go for!
NBG: Do you think people have any sort of barrier when it comes to reading titles in translation? If so, how can we overcome this?
AM: I do not know if people have barriers or if it is an urban legend; clearly, in other countries, this is not a problem. In any case, if those barriers exist, it is a real shame. I would imagine that both total transparency in the production process and publishing excellent translations are the best antidote.
NBG: How do you hear about new titles? How does it work when a book comes to you in a language you don’t read?
AM: There are mainly three ways I learn about new titles: publications like New Books in German, for example, which exist in many languages and are extremely helpful, are one of my sources. Then, translators and agents often pitch me new titles.
When I cannot read the original, well, then it depends. I am publishing a Swedish book next year and, for that, the agency sent me a very long translation sample. That agency, in particular, has very long samples for all their works. That was enough to see the style, the plot, etc clearly.
For other languages, for example, Arabic, a translator sent me a pitch from Arabic, and she had already translated a significant part of the original. In that case, there was no funding for her but she had chosen to do it. In my experience, when translators really like a work, they do quite a lot of the translation to pitch and this is extremely helpful. Then, I would ask the translator other questions I may have about the book.
NBG: How can a translator grab your eye with an unsolicited pitch?
AM: Well, as the website shows, I am open to pitches from authors and translators. The most important part for me is the sample. It is the first thing I read, even before the summary. I like reading something with no expectations or preconceptions. If I like the sample, then, I would read the other information sent by the translator and, eventually, get in touch.
NBG: How do you think social media influences readers? Do you use it?
AM: That is a good question and for me, it is the mystery question! With all marketing and publicity, it is always like this: you never know what has a greater impact on sales but I definitely think that you need to be on social media and always send review copies to social media influencers. As the word itself indicates, ‘influencers’ have influence and this is how things work nowadays!
Read on…for an interview with the author and translator of What Concerns Us, published by Héloïse Press.