Interview with Katie Rainey
Katie Rainey is a publisher with Dead Rabbit Books.
WG: We had the opportunity to meet recently at a reading for the Disability Literature Consortium in which Raymond Luczak was one of the presenters. On the Dead Rabbits website you have a write up about him Luczak as well. As a publisher, what about Luczak's work interests you and how did you come to learn about it?
KR: We love Raymond. We heard about him through Kristen Harmon, a professor at Gallaudet University. She had some work published through Handtype Press, which Raymond runs. I'd never heard of the press before, so I decided to reach out because we love connecting with other literary folks. Raymond responded and we had a great conversation, so I really wanted to feature him and his work on our blog. I think he's an incredibly intelligent and honest writer. His views about literature and writers with disabilities are just so smart and clear. I think everyone should get to know Raymond's work. We had the pleasure of meeting him in person at AWP and seeing him sign his work at a reading. It was excellent. I think I could watch Raymond sign his work all day long.
WG: We are familiar with Kristen Harmon's work. In fact, her short story "What Lies Ahead" (as well as one of Raymond's) is in the anthology of short fiction The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked. That leads me to ask if Dead Rabbits has a special interest in the work of Deaf writers and about what other work by Deaf writers you might have published.
KR: Well, we haven't published any books yet! Our first title is due out in September. But yes, we certainly have an interest in Deaf Authors – particularly because Brian (our Executive Editor) is a CODA and I learned sign language for his parents. I got really immersed in Deaf Culture when I was learning, so highlighting the work of Deaf Authors is definitely a passion. We're currently looking for manuscripts, so if you know of anyone… We're open to work by all writers, regardless of age, gender, race, disability, etc. We have a passion for Deaf Writers because we know they don't get as much attention as other marginalized groups. Although, Ilya Kaminsky is definitely turning that around right now.
WG: Can you tell us a bit about your first title? What appealed to you about the work that made you feel you wanted it to be your first publication?
KR: So the first title to be released from Dead Rabbits will be Emerald City by Brian Birnbaum on September 15th of this year. You may already know that Brian is a Co-Founder & the Executive Editor for the press. We're starting with his book for a number of reasons. The first is that we knew when we started the press that we were going to have some mistakes and challenges on the way. We didn't want to make those mistakes on other people's books, so Brian generously offered for his novel to be the guinea pig. We're doing the same thing with our second novel, Anthropica by David Hollander due out Spring 2020. David is a close friend and is well aware that there might be some mishaps in our learning process. We feel this is really important starting out – to make sure that we have a solid and thoughtful process in place for new writers when they come on board.
However, the second reason we're starting with Brian's novel is because it is an incredibly good book. I've been privy to experience this novel in various iterations as Brian has worked and reworked it over the last five years to make it into the polished piece that we'll publish in September. Brian as a writer is exactly the kind of writer we want to work with and this book is the kind of work we want to publish. His journey to get this published is something we've seen over and over in the publishing world, and this is what we aim to address. For context, Brian had an agent a few years ago - a junior agent working under Susan Golomb at Writer's House. That agent loved his book and was working with him on edits. However, that agent abruptly left the industry soon after, leaving Brian to start all over and query from scratch. His novel was up for consideration at many publishing houses, but when we decided to start this press, Jon Kay (our third partner) and I asked for him to publish through us and he quickly agreed, knowing what our mission is and how we want to support writers in the long run.
This book is wild. It's thoughtful and funny and heartbreaking and is written with incredible depth and language that just sings. Truly, when I read it for the last time, I looked up at Brian and I said, "I wish I had written this," which I feel is a great marker for a great book. Brian is a superbly talented writer and I'll share the book jacket description with you and your readers:
Set in Seattle, Emerald City follows Benison Behrenreich, the hearing son of deaf royalty. His father, CEO of a multimillion-dollar deaf access agency, has bribed Myriadal College officials for Benison's spot on their powerhouse basketball team, where he struggles to prove himself and compensate for his father's sins.
Julia Paolantonio has recently lost her father to a drug relapse. Her mother ships her off to live with her estranged granddad, Johnny Raciti, during the summer before her freshman year at Myriadal. Johnny offers her a deal: bring him Peter Fosch – tormented college dropout and the best drug runner west of the Cascades – and he'll give Julia's freshly widowed mother a board seat on his mobbed-up securities firm.
When Benison's father is arrested for defrauding government subsidies for the deaf, the Behrenreichs are left vulnerable to his company's ruthless backers – namely Johnny Raciti – forcing Julia and Peter to navigate the minefield left in the aftermath.
WG: I can see how with Brian's experience as a CODA would make this a great first candidate for publishing and, of course, I'm sure the recent college cheating scandals, which include bribing college sports teams, puts an even more relevant spin on the book. Realizing that your website says you publish "books that matter in ways that matter," I'm wondering how a person who is considering submitting a manuscript to Dead Rabbits would know that it might be a good fit. Do you have any thoughts on that?
KR: Great question. We do list our guidelines on our submissions page, but to get an idea of what we like (since we don't have books out just yet) I would recommend people listen to/read our podcast (the transcripts are available for our Deaf & Hard of Hearing Community). We talk a lot about what we're looking to publish and who we like on that. Additionally, we spent a lot of time crafting our values for this press, trying to be thoughtful about what we want to put forth in the world and how we want to do that. You can get a pretty good idea of things we like on our missions page.
For me personally, I love language that is unfamiliar and just cuts through in strong, paratactic ways. I love books that take risks and are unafraid to challenge their readers. Specifically, I've been moved over the years by books from authors like David Mitchell, Ottessa Moshfegh, Anne Carson, David Foster Wallace, John Hawkes, Sergio De La Pava, Anthony Doerr, etc. Anything with a striking literary backbone. Recent authors I've fallen in love with are T Kira Madden, Michael Bible, Bud Smith, Mark De Silva, Barbara Browning, N.J. Campbell, Dolan Morgan… the list goes on. There are so many authors I love. Perhaps that answers your question? Basically, we're looking for quality work that takes risks and is playful – for writers who love what they're doing. Other than that, we're open to seeing what's out there.
WG: In addition to publishing books, one of the things that Dead Rabbits is involved in is the creation of podcasts. Can you talk a bit about these – how they got started, the kind of guests you are looking for, etc.?
KR: Yes! The podcast was actually my brainchild, so I'm totally happy to talk about it. Back when we started the press, I was also beginning to work on the publicity for Brian's book. I realized quickly that while social media has its place, it wasn't really capturing Brian as a writer and artist in the best way. Or at least I didn't feel like his audience was getting the full view of him & how intelligent he is. We were listening to Joe Rogan's podcast when the idea came to me. I thought Brian would be the perfect host of a podcast: he's smart, funny, and charmingly transparent. He is also just extremely curious about people. So we gave it a shot. And it's working! Our audience is growing rapidly and we love making the podcast. Although literary in nature, we often deviate off topic and talk about a plethora of interesting things. Our guests vary. We know a ton of people who circle in and out of the literary community, so we just take them as they're available and willing to come on the podcast. We're always looking to talk to new people about literature and art, but we're also looking for guests who are fun. Our podcast is anything but boring, that's for sure.
A side note, we've also made the podcast available for our Deaf & Hard of Hearing community. We make the transcript of each episode available on our website, so we have both listeners and readers.
WG: In addition to the book publishing and podcasts, are there any other activities the Dead Rabbits is involved in that you would like to tell readers about?
KR: We're a community-oriented organization. So the writing community is a big part of what we do and who we want to serve. The press started out of a reading series that we've been running for the last five years in NYC: Dead Rabbits Reading Series. Over the last five years, we've had the privilege to host over 250 writers and artists at our series, and we're so grateful to the community we've built. With that on our minds, we aim to start reading series in other cities to help uplift the communities therein. We're currently working on creating a Dead Rabbits Artist Salon in Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as another reading series in Seattle. We're in talks with other folks who want to bring Dead Rabbits to their cities, so to your readers I would say if you're interested in having/running your own reading series, reach out! We love to partner with other people & would love to help other communities develop their own reading series.
WG: What about your own writing? Have you written or are you working on anything that you would want to tell us about?
KR: Well, that's a story… Currently, I'm sitting on a novel that's waiting to be edited. I finished a draft after two and a half years last May, waited a few months, made some more edits, then my partner, Brian, made edits. Now, I'm just trying to give myself space between to breathe and to let the thing settle. I plan to get back to it this summer and start redrafting. Eventually, we'll publish it through Dead Rabbits, but it isn't ready yet. We're all about literary patience at Dead Rabbits, so I'm not in a rush. Of late I've mostly been writing nonfiction articles for various sites. You can read some of that work on my personal website.
WG: Katie, thanks for taking the time to take part in this interview, and good luck to Dead Rabbits. Is there anything that you want to add or want the reader to know about it before we close.
KR: I really appreciate you asking all of these thoughtful questions. It's great to have the opportunity to talk about all the work we've been doing and what we're excited about. For your readers, I guess I'd like to say that we're a really open community and always looking for new writers and readers and literature lovers to join us. So if you've got something you'd like to do, but need help with, reach out! The possibilities through collaboration are endless.