Q&A with Rachel Cattle of Joan Publishing

Q&A with Rachel Cattle of Joan Publishing

The publishing project of London-based artists Rachel Cattle and John Hughes, JOAN is an independent publisher of contemporary interdisciplinary writing, supporting feminist, queer, and idiosyncratic voices, and innovative fictions. We caught up with Rachel to fire off some questions about their relationship with publishing and literature...



Tell us a little about your publishers… what is it that you do differently?

Me and John are artists, and as well as writing we’re as interested in art, music, tv, film and live space - so this all plays a part in how we go about thinking about the books.


Why did you choose to get into publishing?

We didn't have any kind of plan or strict idea at the beginning - we didn’t exactly think about what publishing would involve… if we had, we probably never would have started! But we’re both really interested in DIY practices, and JOAN has been a way to get the kind of writing we feel is important/interesting into the world - and perhaps it’s also been a way to form a new kind of art space…JOAN is art? The hardest thing is having the funds to keep going...the best thing is feeling like you’re part of a brilliant community - shout out to MOIST, also to trailblazers like Isabel Waidner and Jen Calleja.


Which book throughout history do you wish you’d published?

 Probably something that sat under someone's bed or in a drawer and still hasn’t seen the light of day.


What are you looking for in a manuscript - what makes for a book that you simply have to publish? 

 It’s a gut reaction…something that feels right...and in many ways it depends what we've just published - we're always on the lookout for something new, so it's probably going to be nothing like we've published before. At the moment I'd quite like to find a JOANish sci-fi novel or a crime drama as these are both things I don't generally read and I like the idea that someone might draw me in with a new take on something like this. But having said that...I'm open...I really don't have a prescriptive idea.


What can people expect from you in the next 12 months?

Next up are Catkin Sail by Jona Xhepa, and The Quiet Act of Loving Bones by Katie Willis, which both explore the interior worlds of women through language - I'm really excited about these! Volker Eichelmann's, Not Just a Little but Completely is also coming up…a film/poem homage to German performance artist Valeska Gert, and later in the year we have Sharon Kivland’s take on Roland Barthes with Her Discourse. Stuart McKenzie, artist and musician is working on a book which might well come out this year too!


What has been a significant book from your backlist, in your development as a publisher?

They've all been significant in different ways.


What are you reading right now? 

Stet by Diana Athill. I've re-read it every year since starting JOAN. It’s a brilliant gossipy tale of thirty years of working as an editor at Andre Deusch publishers - each time I read it I'm a bit further on with JOAN and something new chimes with what I'm experiencing. I also recently read Is Mother Dead, (I think Vidjis Horth is an amazing writer…I loved Long Live the Post Horn! as well…picked it up mainly due to the exclamation mark…) I also went to Tate Britain recently and wandering through the re-hang I came across She/She by Linder, which incorporates photo’s and text - I loved it…


And Rose Finn Kelcey’s The Restless Image, which I’ve known for years


To come across it by chance was great - it’s one of my favourite artworks, and I’d say I ‘read’ these as much as I read books.


What was your first job in the book world?

I've never worked in the book world. I work as an art lecturer. JOAN isn’t a job, although it takes up most of my time these days and I wish it was a job, as in, I wish I could earn a living from it. But we've both been interested in artists publishing practices for years - John has previously been involved in a small press and I’ve worked collaboratively on a number of publishing projects and published my own zines and books. 


What are the greatest threats to independent publishing at the moment? 

Lack of cash!


Favourite book?

Impossible question. When I was a teenager I’d get get crushes on a particular band, and now I get book crushes. Recently I was entranced by London Rose, by Fanny Howe…and Bear by Marian Engel took me somewhere quite else. Maggie Nelson’s Bluets is important to me.


Favourite book in translation?

Again impossible…too many to say… I sped through Eunuch, by Kristina Carlson (Lolli) recently, partly because I loved the cover and I fancied being in the 12th Century rather than the twenty-first…although of course, the book mirrors the now brilliantly. We’re hoping JOAN will publish some translations in the future.

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