By Evangeline Jennings
Full disclosure. I haven’t slept with Jane Bradley – as far as either of us can remember – and we’re definitely not related, but we do know each other, we’ve worked together in the past, and we will again in the future. In fact, she’ll be publishing a short story of mine later this year in an anthology inspired by roller derby, which is something of a shared obsession. More importantly, she’s interesting, fun, and committed to something that everyone at Pankhearst supports wholeheartedly. An emerging fiction author in her own right, Jane is also the founder and editor of For Books’ Sake.
So, let’s start you off with a contemporary challenge. Tell us all about For Books’ Sake – in no more than one hundred and forty characters, including #TAGS.
For Books’ Sake: promoting and celebrating women writers with daily editorial and nationwide events. Feminism, fiction and much more …
And now, for people with brains, take as long as you like. What is For Books’ Sake and what’s your mission?
We want to give women authors a platform and a voice. To celebrate the cult and classic women writers that don’t get the attention and accolades they deserve, and to shine a spotlight on exciting and innovative emerging women writers. We do that through our publishing projects, our national events programme, and through our daily reviews and features on the site. We’re bored of festivals programmes and prize shortlists where men are the majority. As in so many other areas, we’re a long way from equality in literature and publishing, and we’re going to keep being making noise about it until the situation changes.
You say that you want to give women authors a platform and a voice, but in contrast to your previous book project, submissions for the roller derby book were open to all genders. How did that come about?
Although FBS’s content and core message is all about championing women writers, we want the site to be inclusive to readers and contributors of all genders. With Short Stack, the intent was to address the lack of visible women writers in the pulp fiction genre – at the time of our collaboration, Pulp Press’ author roster was all men. Since then, two of the writers featured in Short Stack have novel deals with them, and they’ve seen submissions and queries from women writers soar.
Cool beans. What was the inspiration for you to start?
The VIDA audit. Among other similar stats (like the ones from this event I went to last year), they really highlighted the gender disparity in book reviews featured by the mainstream media (an average of only 25% books by women writers). Publishing is already so competitive, so it didn’t seem fair that women writers should be even further marginalised. The aim of For Books’ Sake was to counteract that – albeit only a small scale initially – by providing a dedicated platform showcasing women writers.
I know the very lovely and fragrant Alex Herod is your Deputy Editor, but who else is involved in For Books’ Sake?
We’ve got a team of contributors across the UK and beyond, as well as a network of authors, publishers and other organisations who’ve been the best cheerleaders we could have ever wished for, supporting us in all sorts of ways and helping spread the word. (We owe gratitude galore to the likes of Pulp Press, Pamflet, Seal Press, Tara Books, Virago, Cathi Unsworth, Bidisha, Dan Holloway and Zoe Howe, among many more).
Can you give us me some examples of what you have done with For Books’ Sake
Hung out with Sarah Cawood – who I’ve not-so-secretly had a crush on ever since I first became obsessed with Velvet Goldmine many moons ago – and a filming crew in freezing cold temperatures as part of the first ever World Book Night.
Talked roller derby with Margaret Atwood.
Partied on a boat with Pulp Press.
Held an International Women’s Day event where one of our Short Stack authors shouted ‘cuntmustard’ across a public library. (Editor’s Note: It wasn’t me!)
Took For Books’ Sake on tour to Thames Festival, and to exotic destinations like Bromley, Leeds, Lewisham, Wakefield and Hebden Bridge – not a diss, we loved it, but often ended up more rainsoaked than I’d have liked!
Curated the three-day literary line-up for Ladyfest Ten.
Took the most frightening Free Pussy Riot photo you’ll probably ever see.
And what are you most proud of?
Our collaboration with Pulp Press on our first anthology, Short Stack. A collection of the best new pulp fiction written by women, it features ten twisted tales of heroines hell-bent on vengeance, with some healthy side helpings of sleaze, violence, sex and zombies (although usually not all at once). It’s the first book I’ve been involved with from start to finish, and a fun way to introduce For Books’ Sake to a broader audience.
I am an obsessive roller derby fanatic, so I’m really excited to be working with the London Rollergirls on our next publishing project. They were the first roller derby league I ever saw bouting live, and they’ve been brilliantly supportive of For Books’ Sake from the outset – we took the TV Book Club filming crew to see them when we were taking part in World Book Night, and when we putting on regular pub quizzes in London, their team always seemed to win! – so it seemed like a match made in heaven – especially since both organisations make a habit of championing and celebrating fierce, powerful women. So we’re collaborating on a collection of roller derby short stories, which will be out early next year.
Our interviews tend to descend into self indulgent silliness at some point. Before that happens, I want to find out a bit more about you and FBS, so … you inherit 5 million dollars the same day aliens land on the Earth and say they’re going to blow it up in two days. What do you do?
Start some sort of punkalyptic stand-off against the alien overlords? Preferably featuring an assortment of ridiculous Tank Girl-style showdowns and costumes changes along the way. Or another option would be a monster festival of live music, roller derby, intoxicants a-go-go and all their associated shenanigans, financed with my new-found millions. But that sounds like it’d involve too much admin for my liking. Also, wouldn’t money lose its value if everyone knew they’ve only got two days to live? Am I overthinking it? Or not thinking enough? Am I supposed to seduce or barter my way to safety onboard the alien spaceship? It’s all gone a bit Hitchhiker’s Guide…
And what is your favourite Winona Ryder movie?
Beetlejuice or Drop Dead Fred.
Um. One of those movies is Phoebe Cates.
In that case, I’m an idiot. But I do really love Drop Dread Fred. And I’d convinced myself it was Winona. Can I amend my original answer to Beetlejuice?
Of course. It’ll be our secret.
Digging a little deeper now:
Bikini Kill or Hole?
Hole, but only because I found them first – and I’ll always be in love with “Rebel Girl”
Same here! Do you have a favourite Hole song?
Obvious choice, but “Violet”.
Spice Girls or Bananarama?
Boo! Patti Smith or Poly Styrene?
Yeah. It’s no-brainer. But I lost interest in Patti Smith after “Wave”. I think PJ Harvey became my Patti Smith.
For me, there’s no comparison. Patti wins PJ every time. Though I’m not so obsessive about Patti’s latest albums (Banga in particular was a definite disappointment), she’s still amazing live, and the hits still hit me as hard as they ever did.
Winona Ryder or Natalie Portman? Winona –unless it’s Natalie Portman in The Darjeeling Limited. Then all bets are off.
Top or bottom? Depends! Bottom with a bit of fightback.
Are you sure we never? Oh, never mind. Fifty Shades Of Grey in more than fifty words?
I haven’t read the books, so I probably shouldn’t comment, but I find a lot of what I’ve read about them problematic. There are positives – it’s prompted people who’d long since stopped reading to buy books again, it’s got women all over the world discussing their sexualities, and it’s got a far wider audience admitting to reading erotica – but there a lot of negatives too in terms of the power dynamics, the backlash from the BDSM community, and the more general criticism of the writing quality. So I’m staying well away..
Fairy Nuff. Despite the deeper statistical truths that we’ve already touched upon, three of the most commercially successful authors of this millennium have been JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and EL James? Does this mean anything?
Women authors can be just as commercially successful as their male counterparts? Despite what you think of their chosen subject matter or writing style (or lack thereof, in some cases), there’s a common theme to their success; they’ve taken a pre-existing genre and made themselves synonymous with it, spawning copycats a-go-go. That says more about the authors (and their publishers) ability to market themselves and their work – I know EL James was initially an underground sensation, but its high street explosion has to be credited in part to Random House – than their creative and literary merits. To me, it showcases the need for more investment into authors from publishers. Commercial success isn’t created overnight, even for EL James.
And now let’s close by talking about your own writing.
(Jane writes about sex, violence, naughty teenagers and strange cities, sometimes all in the same story. She’s been published in the UK and America, most recently by the likes of Nib Magazine and Papercut Press in New York.)
Where do you find your inspiration?
Teenage misdemeanours are a recurring theme, whether it’s the usual teen holy trinity of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, or more offbeat and extreme situations or worlds. I find the idea of that formative time period inspirational – everything is in flux and it’s exciting to tell a story where the outer and inner worlds of the characters are just as volatile as each other.
And where do you find the time?
In the dead of night, with the cat giving me evil glares and everyone else asleep. Or more usually, I don’t, and then have a temper tantrum about it and bolt myself away for a weekend. It’s hard. Maybe you’re not supposed to admit that, but there it is.
Are you working on anything now?
I’m tentatively experimenting with amping up the performances of my fiction with a DIY soundtrack. So far this has involved lots of faffing about with sound effects, so I’ve been loving it.
And you can see Jane faffing around at Word V Music #2 this weekend – Sunday March 3rd, at the Thirsty Scholar pub in Manchester. She probably won’t be performing to the Banana Boat Song, but let’s pretend she will.
And now, those all important links.
For Books’ Sake – http://forbookssake.net/
For Books’ Sake on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ForBooksSake
Personal Website – http://janeclairebradley.com/
Twitter – @forbookssake and @jane_bradley