The Well-Traveled Book
Why does Interlink Books exist?
Frustration is the mother of all inspirations. Back in 1987, I was a young, angry student activist, unhappy about US foreign policy and America’s interventions abroad. So when I finished college, I started a publishing house without knowing anything about publishing. I wanted to publish socially and politically engaged nonfiction that inspired informed debate and critical thinking on topics and areas of the world often misrepresented or ignored by the Western mainstream media. That was then…
It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to survive and support a family on income from the sales of radical books. Today, in addition to important current affairs and history titles, we publish a varied list that specializes in award-winning fiction-in-translation, cultural travel, ethnic cooking, textile art, and illustrated children’s books from around the world. Interlink is unique because our publishing program offers a global, cosmopolitan perspective. We aim to give our readers a genuine, non-Western experience and knowledge of a country: its history, its culture, its literature. We take our mission very seriously, and my staff and I are passionate about promoting dialogue, cross-cultural learning, and a greater understanding between the US and people in the rest of the world. We like to think that what we do brings the world closer to our readers and makes a contribution toward bringing the people of the world closer to each other.
Tell us about the role of design in your offerings.
For us, a book is a work of art. If you own an Interlink cookbook, travel book, art book, or a children’s picture book, you will be able to tell immediately that design plays a very important role in every title we produce. Our readers have come to expect high quality, fresh design from us; it is the first thing they notice and praise when they come across an Interlink book. That is why we devote a lot of resources to ensuring that our titles stand out in a very crowded publishing field. As an independent press, we don’t have a lot of advertising dollars at our disposal. So we rely heavily on design to make us visible and sell our books.
What constitutes a good book?
Some books inspire and transform, others teach and inform, while others are magical, touch us deeply, or make us cry. Books have the power to alter lives and spark revolutions—inner and outer ones. What we read defines who we are and how we think, how we play, how we act, how we love.
Nearly twenty-five years ago, we set out to publish the best of the world’s contemporary fiction in translation and bring to North America the once-unheard voices of writers who have achieved wide acclaim at home but are not recognized beyond the borders of their native lands—especially women writers from the developing world. I am passionate about this kind of publishing. I believe that reading fiction is the best way to learn about people and places far away, and I preach about it at every opportunity. Like music and art, literature is the doorway to a country’s soul. It speaks to the heart, tells you what history books hide, what mindless media does not reveal. It entertains and mesmerizes us while it takes us on a journey through the hearts and minds of people. It allows us to see different perspectives, to empathize, to understand, to imagine, to think—all are important ingredients in a work of fiction. In short, a well-written, well-edited book entertains as well as enriches one’s life.
Share any interesting challenges currently facing the press.
Running an independent press is always filled with drama and numerous challenges. But nothing is insurmountable; it’s just hard work. To talk about publishing challenges in the span of a short interview is, shall we say, very challenging. I don’t know where to start. We’re understaffed, overworked, and underpaid; we all wear many hats, and we’re always racing to make deadlines. But we love what we do, and we get so much pleasure from publishing wonderful books and from working with amazing authors. We won’t trade our jobs for the world. Publishing, in my view, is not a job; it’s a way of life.
Our most recent challenge has been going through the process of digitizing nearly nine hundred backlist titles. The popularity of eBooks has taken us by surprise. We have recently concluded an agreement with PGW’s Constellation for the management and distribution of our eBooks, and we have outsourced all the eBook conversion. But checking every title to make sure there are no mistakes is a huge amount of work when you’re already stretched too thin. It is finally coming along, and we are doing it in batches of fifty titles at a time.
What Interlink titles are you excited about?
We have books I am thrilled about in every category we publish. In current affairs, we have two very important titles that inform in an election year. A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget (with a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich) is a comprehensive resource on what every American should know about how our government raises and spends our tax dollars. Jackson Katz’s Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood offers nothing less than a paradigm-shifting way to understand the dynamics of presidential elections and why Americans will always elect men as presidents.
In world fiction, we are publishing new novels from three of my all-time favorite authors: A Hand Full of Stars by Rafik Schami, A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta, and Thinner than Skin by Uzma Aslam Khan.
In travel, we have titles about London that are perfect for visitors during the Olympics, including Café Life London, Secret London, A Traveller’s History of London, 100 Best Paintings in London, The Beatles’ London, and many more. You won’t see similar titles from mainstream publishers.
Finally, if I may brag a bit, no one publishes cookbooks the way we do. Here are four to look out for this season: Orient Express: Fast Food from the Eastern Mediterranean by Silvena Rowe, Small Planet, Small Plates: Earth-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes by Troth Wells, The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian: Modern Recipes from Veggiestan by Sally Butcher, and The Yogurt Cookbook: Recipes from Around the World by Arto der Haroutunian.
Michel Moushaeck is publisher of Interlink Books in Northhampton, MA.