AO&R turns one and speaks to … Kate Cuthbert from @EscapePublisher

When it comes to Australian publishing houses, Escape, Harlequin Australia’s digital imprint, would have to be one of the fastest growing around. Its managing editor, Kate Cuthbert, is not only fantastic at her job, but happens to be one of the nicest people in publishing, too! Without further ado, I give you Kate.

Tell us about your favourite Australian author, and why they’re your fave?
Yeah, you’re never going to pin me down to just one. Sorry about that – how about the first Australian author I fell in love with? I was fifteen, and driving my mother nuts. She handed me a copy of Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds and told me to get lost. Oh I got lost. So lost. When I moved to Australia eight years later, everything I knew about the country I knew from that book. I’m still wretched about the lack of hot, morally ambiguous priests.

The publishing industry has undergone a lot of change in recent years; do you feel the popularity of digital has helped push Australian authors into the spotlight a little more?
I think the willingness of digital publishers to take risks has certainly helped – it’s meant more stories set in more places world-wide, including Australia, and more variety and scope in terms of voice. The fact that digital readers are following those digital publishers down those risky paths – and encouraging new paths – is also a big plus.

escape-logo.jpg?w=600As an Australian-based publisher, do you think the inclusion of iconic Australian settings (e.g. The Outback, Harbour Bridge etc.) in a novel helps our appeal globally? Or does this not come into play?
I think a good story is always the best tool, but when introducing apprehensive readers to new settings, something familiar, even if just from photos or travel articles, can help soothe a lot of fears. Once readers recognise that Australia is a fun, contemporary, exciting setting, then the whole country is their playground. All that being said, Australia has done a pretty good job of advertising itself, and a lot of work has already been done through TV, movies, and books that have come before. So while I offer up a ‘yes’ to the question, I’d temper it with a ‘but don’t be tied to that idea’.

Let’s talk about Escape. You’re officially more than one year old; what are some of the advantages of going for an Aussie publisher?
I think there’s all the advantages, especially as Aussie publishers embrace DRM-free publishing with no geographic restrictions. You’ve got a publisher that already understands the value of an Aussie setting and voice, one in your time zone who also understands the tax system (this is not something to be undervalued!), and there’s a real chance to meet and develop a relationship with your publisher quickly, through conferences, writer festivals, and events. Australian publishers can also set you up at Australian events easily, or cultivate local opportunities, while still taking advantage of all the social media to help build an international relationship as well.

Can you tell us a bit about what’s on trend in 2014 genre-wise?
I know people have been saying this for years, but paranormal romance is slowing down, and I think the recent surge in YA dystopia has seeded the ground for a new crop of SF writers to blossom. SF has all the pros of urban fantasy and paranormal – world-building, interesting characters, high-risk situations – with new settings, challenges, and characters. Plus SF tends to favour very strong heroines, which is something I think paranormal readers will really respond to.
We’re still seeing demand for Australian rural and small-town settings, and coastal romance is a developing trend. I’d really like to see some gritty Australian-set romantic suspense – there are some great stories out there, but I think the crime families in Sydney and Melbourne could make for some fantastic thrillers.

Finally, what books should we keep our eyes out for coming soon from EscapeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is always such a hard question for me to answer! Obviously, I think every book that comes out from Escape is awesome 🙂 But…okay, geez. Okay. This is Now is a really fantastic New Adult title set in Sydney’s Western Suburbs from Maggie Gilbert that is raw and honest and beautiful and touching and just all the good things that you see in New Adult, with an Australian twist. I’m so excited for Ros Baxter’s contemporary romance Lingerie for Felons, which comes out in March. It’s such a unique story, and Ros has a great voice, and I really want to shove copies of it at everyone I know because I know everyone’s going to love it. And Ainslie Paton has a new novel in April, called Floored that is absolutely delicious.

Would you like to know more about Escape Publishing and Kate? Check out their website here, or join them in the twittersphere here.

BUT WAIT! Do you like prizes?
To celebrate our first birthday, Aussie Owned and Read hosted a blog hop on Australia Day (check out the posts on our linky list here!). We also held a huge giveaway with a heap of great prizes that ends this week, so make sure you hop on over and enter today.
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Lauren (3)

Lauren K. McKellar is an author, editor, and expert interpretive dancer. One day, she tricked Kate from Escape into publishing her debut move, Finding Home. Find out more about Lauren here, or say hi to her on Facebook or twitter.


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