Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Chemistry of Strange Fiction: Interview with Amanda Rutter

Last week, YA readers rejoiced at the announcement that Angry Robot is starting a sister imprint for lovers of teen fiction called Strange Chemistry. Launching in September 2012, Strange Chemistry will release five titles, and then a new book each month after that.

Taking the helm of this speculative fiction venture is editor and blogger Amanda Rutter. She took some time with me to talk about what readers can expect from Strange Chemistry and where she sees YA heading in the future.

Sharon: Would you tell us a bit about how the new imprint came into being?

Amanda: Well… Over the last two years, Angry Robot has become more and more recognized for producing very high quality SFF novels – and Marc Gascoigne (being the head honcho and all-round Robot Overlord) started to think about how to achieve world domination in this particular market! In actuality, he saw the massive impact that YA fiction has had, and the superb novels that are being published in this arena already, and figured that it would be a brilliant direction for Angry Robot to move into. He had discussions and meetings with various important people, who agreed that YA was a natural progression for the company, and the result is Strange Chemistry.

Sharon: What type of book submissions are you hoping to come over your desk?

Amanda: The very best in Science Fiction& Fantasy YA, of course! In all seriousness, I am hoping for novels that showcase strong protagonists (both male and female) and explore the issues and themes that concern teens. I would like to see more science fiction oriented submissions. I think we’ve seen a healthy mix of fantasy, horror, dystopia and romance within YA, but where are all the robots and spaceships? If I could introduce more teens, via YA science fiction novels, to fantastic adult authors such as Peter F Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds, I would be more than happy.

Sharon: Strange Chemistry is currently only open to submissions via an agent. Will Strange Chemistry have an 'Open Door Month' like Angry Robots?

Amanda: I hope so! I am in discussions with Marc and Lee about what form their Open Door Month will take in 2012, and whether the YA will be directly included in that or whether we’ll do it completely separately. After the wonderful success of the AR Open Door Month, it really appeals to me to reach out to all those unagented YA authors who potentially have brilliant novels that we can publish.

Sharon: Do you have any books already in the works for the Strange Chemistry imprint?

Amanda: I’m afraid I can’t reveal too much at this stage, thanks to discussions going on behind the scenes and contracts being negotiated, but I can say that I have read some WONDERFUL manuscripts and I’m so excited about bringing more information about these first few titles to you as soon as I am able! The quality has been amazing so far.
Strange Chemistry Editor: Amanda Rutter
Sharon: Tell us a bit about your background and how that helped you land this gig?

Amanda: As the press release for Strange Chemistry mentioned, I have been a blogger for a few years now (on my personal blog Floor to Ceiling Books; on as a contributor to the Malazan re-read; and on Fantasy Literature as a guest reviewer). I also took on a freelance editing gig with Morrigan Books, and was one of the organizers of the Genre for Japan appeal. Basically, I took every opportunity to be a part of the brilliant SFF community, since fantasy and science fiction have always been an interest of mine. During that period, I have had contact a number of times with Marc and Lee – for instance, Angry Robot was one of the first publishers to commit auction lots to Genre for Japan. Interestingly, I do believe it was a negative review of an Angry Robot book that first brought me to their attention, which just goes to show that negative reviews can be useful! I think the real clincher in the role being offered to me was the opportunity I took to become a reader for the AR Open Door Month. I spent a great deal of my own time reading through over half of the 994 submitted manuscripts, and I believe this demonstrated my passion and commitment. It doesn’t hurt that I am a massive advocate of YA novels! In the SFF field, I fear that the role of YA novels is still not entirely understood, and so I welcome the chance to make real connections between those who read SFF and those who read YA. It will be fantastic to see younger readers of Strange Chemistry novels move onto adult SFF novels!

Sharon: You're well known in the blogging community, are you going to feature blogging as part of Strange Chemistry?

Amanda: Definitely! I have already published a post to the Strange Chemistry website, detailing how the imprint was named. In the future, I have plans to blog about the process of picking submitted novels and details about the day-to-day job of being an editor. I will also be showcasing interviews and reviews with Strange Chemistry authors through the website. Most of all, I will be looking to connect with YA bloggers and readers, and inviting them to contribute to the Strange Chemistry website. I want it to be fully interactive! 

Sharon: Is there anything else readers and authors need to know about Strange Chemistry?

Amanda: Basically, Strange Chemistry aims to bring the YA market fantastic books through a variety of exciting mediums. We are embracing the eBook revolution, we are recognizing that bloggers have voices that should be heard in the championing of excellent books, and we are intending to introduce more people to the progressiveness of YA fiction.

Sharon: Where do you see the YA publishing industry heading over the next few years?

Amanda: I see it as a time of great excitement and turbulence. The increasing numbers of people who are using eReaders makes this a fascinating period in the publishing industry. In terms of YA specifically, I believe there will be more award recognition for sterling works (after the success of such authors as Patrick Ness); I think even more adult publishers will look to move into the YA market; and I think there will be an ever-increasing adult readership. Personally, I’m hoping for another massive series (like Twilight or The Hunger Games) to make a splash and lead the YA market in a new direction – it would be even better if Strange Chemistry were to publish it!

Sharon: What creatures and themes would you like to see more of in YA writing?

Amanda: I’m more of a themes person than a creature person. Themes can embrace various different settings, situations and characters, and allow great freedom in publishing. We’ve seen a lot of novels carrying themes such as eternal love, survival, and growing into adult roles – I would love to see now themes such as optimism and hope for the future. The world has become such a dangerous and depressing place that I think YA fiction should provide some escapism. Not to the point of ignoring the fact it is happening, but allowing teens to see that there might be a way out.

I would also like to see fairytales embraced as a means of telling a story. Authors such as Charles de Lint and Robert Holdstock have used this to great effect (in fact, Charles de Lint has also written some novels in the YA arena as well), and I would like to see more of this.
Rapid Fire Questions:

Cats or dogs CATS!

Ghosts or Aliens ALIENS!

E-book, hard back or paperback PAPERBACK!

Salad or veggies SALAD!

Unicorns or centaurs CENTAURS!

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  1. A fantastic interview! I love Angry Robot's books, so I'm really excited to see what comes out of Strange Chemistry!

  2. great interview! I've followed Amanda a bit on Floor to Ceiling Books, and trust me, she HAS taken every possible opportunity to get involved in the interational SFF community. Just goes to show what hard work and dedication can bring to bloggers! Go Amanda!

  3. de Lint and Holdstock were huge teen influences for me. As were many of the great fantasy writers, who started in the 80s, like Patrica C. Wrede and Pamela Dean, etc...

    Can't wait to see what Strange Chemistry comes up with!

  4. How cool!!! Thank you so much for this interview, Amanda!