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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

#9 Pat Walsh

20 Questions With Mourning Goats
Pat Walsh

Pat Walsh has been the editor of multiple Mourning Goats interviewees and has taken some time away from the slushpile to help us here! And, I'll say that his book on publishing is by far my favorite book on the subject, it's witty and doesn't sugar coat the world of publishing, like most books. Enjoy interview 9, with MR. Pat Walsh!  

1. What comes to mind when you hear, “Mourning Goats?”
It’s funny. That’s the most common question that I’m asked about publishing. All I can say is that my thoughts on mourning goats are a matter of public record and I stand behind them.

2. You've had the opportunity to work with a lot of upcoming authors on their first books, what were some of your favorites and why?
As feeble and wussyish (sp?) as it sounds, I don’t have favorites per se. The great thing about working with authors on their first books or at least their first novels is that the experience is always different. I’ve been lucky to work with the likes of Jack Pendarvis, Mike Kun, Craig Clevenger, Stephen Elliott, Michelle Richmond, Michelle Tea, Mark Dunn, Joey Goebel, Amy Koppelman, Samantha Hunt, Elisabeth Hyde, Joe Di Prisco, and Stephen Tunney and many others over the years and it’s been great.  

3. Being an editor, how hard is it to write anything? Are you constantly second-guessing yourself?
I’ve written three very different books. One was a rant on my personal annoyances, one was a long, self-deprecating joke, and one was a business narrative co-writer gig. Each book was very different and each had challengers. Do I second guess myself? No, absolutely not. Well…maybe. Definitely sometimes. Or not.

4. I hear you’re currently working on a new book, can you tell us anything about it?
I’m translating the collected works of Ovid into Esperanto limericks.

5. What books are you most excited about that are coming out in 2011 from Macadam/Cage?
Very excited about One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy by Stephen Tunney and Under the Harrow by Mark Dunn, which both came out in December. Upcoming we have a debut by a new author named Julie Trimingham, a new work by Joe Di Prisco and a new work by Robert Kalich.

6. In one interview you said that the fastest acceptance of a manuscript took less than a week, what book was it, and what made it a must have?
Many of our acquisitions took less than a week. One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy did most recently. I don’t think, however, that the speed of acquisition is a true indicator of quality, just good timing.

7. What is your take on e-publishing? Some say it’s going to take the place of “real books,” what do you think?

People want what they want and they want it faster and cheaper. They’re not wrong. Most artistic delivery methods experience disruption and it’s almost always good. From the printing press to “talkies” to radio to digital music. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. It’s just true so deal with it. If people still want books on paper, it will always be available to them.

8. You took a break from Macadam/Cage from 2005 to 2008, what happened, and why did you go back?

I got fired - but in a good way. Long story obviously but I wanted the management to head the company in a particular direction and they chose another. There were no hard feelings and a few years later, they asked me to come back because things weren’t going the way they had hoped.  

9. What are a few of your favorite or strangest submissions you’ve received?
We have a file in the office called “When Hell Freezes Over” that is filled with the strangest and most insane submissions. I never let it leave the office and only staff and interns can see it.

10. You were in the world series of poker, how did you get involved? How did you do?
I wrote a book proposal outlining my plan to take a lot of money from a New York Publishing House and use it to play poker. Penguin bought it and I bought a ticket to the 2005 WSOP. I sucked.

11. What would you consider the most successful book that Macadam/Cage has put out? Why?
In what sense? Most books have had some impact which has made them successful. We’ve had books that enjoyed literary and financial success like the Time Traveler’s Wife and The Contortionist’s Handbook and Ella Minnow Pea. We’ve had books that launched many writers’ careers.

12. You have to have one of the best jobs in the world, after the San Francisco Chronicle, how did you get started as an editor?
I do love my work and would do it until the day I die, if that’s possible. But it’s been a very difficult few years. I lucked into the job, really. I was supposed to be M/C’s first author but my book sucked and the Publisher needed help reading the submissions. Before long I had business cards and I let the book die a merciful death, unseen by anyone’s eyes.

13. Macadam/Cage is responsible for a few of the authors we’re going to be interviewing here at Mourning Goats, can you remember what was going through your head when you read Craig Clevenger’s first novel (The Contortionist’s Handbook) or Joey Goebel’s (The Anomalies)?

Craig’s book was an immediate revelation and I wanted it immediately. I received nothing but enthusiasm from the Publisher and we bought it very quickly. Joey’s book was sent in the slush and I also immediately fell in love with the damn thing. The Anomalies is a very special book in that it was lighthearted but deeply moving. His later works have been more literary and show the amazing talent he has.

14. What’s the most common mistake that you are seeing in submissions at Macadam/Cage?
Dear Ms. Walsh…

15. There were a lot of money issues at Macadam/Cage over the past few years, how are things looking now?
Things are still very tough and the future is always uncertain. It has been a very long slog and there have been many casualties along the way, most notably our relationships with some of our authors. We are still working our way out of a financial pit and it’s very hard. But things are getting a little bit better every day so we just have to hold on.

16. What does a normal day in the life of Pat Walsh look like?
It begins (and ends) with two and one half hours of personal grooming. The morning is dedicated to berating the interns. The afternoon is spent drinking my lunch. And the evening is devoted to Dancing with the Stars. Actually, my day is triage. Dealing with whatever problems arise between sunset and sunrise. I mercilessly chase money owed to us. And I shamelessly promote books via email and telephone.

17. 78 Reasons Why Your Book Will Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might, is a blunt book on publishing, do you think more wannabe writers need this kind of wake-up call?
I didn’t write it for wannabe writers. I wrote the book for writers who keep getting rejected. I never thought all 78 reasons applied to any one person. I hope it would give writers a brief glimpse into the failings of the publishing industry and the mistakes, sometimes minor ones, which lead to rejection.

18. I’ve read a lot of interviews from authors being published by Macadam/Cage, and they speak very highly of the press, what makes Macadam/Cage different?
We took chances on a lot of writers that New York had dismissed or ignored and writers are, by and large, very loyal. I’ve always thought that our Publisher, David Poindexter, was the thing that made our house special. But I was wrong. He’s actually a prick. (Just kidding). David poured millions into the idea that great books can find an audience regardless of marketing bias, publishing trends, and profit and loss statements.

19. I read somewhere that you write fiction as well, are you currently working on anything?
I don’t write fiction. I’m sure I have a novel inside me but I’m also sure I have some sort of malignant tumor inside me too. The two are locked in a race to kill me.

20. Your book gives some of the best writing advice I’ve ever read, for those that haven’t read it, what advice would you like to pass on to them?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, buy new debut fiction. Don’t stick to buying writers you already know from used book stores. Ask your local bookseller for a recommendation and read new authors. And if you like them, don’t keep it to yourself.

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