Q&A with Michael Joseph MD & Publisher, Louise Moore

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Louise Moore is Managing Director and Publisher of Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House UK that publishes highly commercial fiction and non-fiction. In addition to working with Marian Keyes, she has published bestsellers from Jojo Moyes, Dawn French, Stephen Fry, Sue Townsend, Sue Perkins, Joanna Lumley, Ronnie Corbett, Barry Humphries and Richard Curtis.

You describe meeting Marian Keyes as a “career-changing moment”. Can you describe what it feels like when you find a new talent you have to publish?

For me, it has been an odd moment of certainty. And reading that ‘voice’ that is unique, and special. And then knowing that you HAVE to have it for your company, no matter what. I remember when someone senior where I worked as a junior editor bought Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs – we all read it, and everyone knew it was going to result in a new genre and generation of writers. It doesn’t happen very often in a career. Sometimes though, an editor can shepherd a career along and think that there is something there, and then an author writes their career-defining book, perhaps six or seven books in. That’s special too, in a different way.

How has your editorial relationship with Marian evolved after working with her since the mid-1990s?

Marian is a dream of an author to work with because despite her superstardom and bestsellerdom, she always wants feedback and critique. It is her novel, and her view that counts ultimately, but I do think that every author —however talented or experienced — can benefit from editorial support. Marian is generous, receptive and open and that hasn’t changed in over twenty years.

Marian’s books don’t shy away from the pain of mental illness. But in an age which calls more and more for trigger warnings, it can be challenging to portray such a sensitive subject in a safe but truthful manner; Netflix has recently come under fire for overly graphic portrayals of suicide and anorexia. As an editor, do you feel an added layer of responsibility in this respect?

We do feel an added layer of responsibility, for sure. But also, remember, it is comforting to read fictionalised accounts of something you are personally going through. It could make you feel less alone and that a particular authorial voice has the empathy to understand and translate what you are going through. I think books, actually, can be a lot cleverer and more subtle about tackling these subjects in a non-voyeuristic and non-simplistic way.

What’s Marian like as a creative partner during the editorial process?

I always remember, and make sure the team at MJ remember too, that we are there first and foremost to serve and protect our authors, the best we can. Of course, we make mistakes. But these should never be for lack of trying or consideration. I have always felt highly protective of Marian, along with the team. Sometimes, perhaps I have been overprotective. I trust her utterly and I hope she does me. We had a pretty straightforward relationship that way from the word go, so I’m not sure that’s changed. I feel she knows me very well after all these years, and we can both pick up a hesitancy in the other. I have learned to wait and listen sometimes, as she doesn’t like to criticise or demonstrate any worries, but sometimes you need to hear it as a Publisher. I never forget that I work on her behalf, and that there is the world of difference between that and just being a ‘friend’. I am her translator into the wider company and then hopefully into the world.

The Break deals with escape, abandonment and human changeability. What are your hopes for this novel?

I want it to be talked about and laughed and cried over; to be an escape and a friend to as many millions of people around the world as possible.

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