DBF Interviews: Sarah Davis-Goff (Tramp Press)Published 30/10/2015
Ahead of the launch of the second title in their Recovered Voices series, we talked to Sarah Davis-Goff from Tramp Press about how the series came about.
Q: The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle is the second title in Tramp Press’ Recovered Voices series. Can you give us a brief description of how the series came about and what it aims to achieve?
The Recovered Voices series is a bit like a Search & Rescue mission for literature. We spend all year looking for and reading wonderful works that people haven’t heard of to bring fresh to readers. It’s really fun, actually: lots of people email us to suggest titles that they’d love to see back in print, and it’s like a treasure hunt.
We’re not the first or only publishers to try this: obviously Stoner by John Williams was a huge success for Viking Press a few years ago, and Persephone Books in London does a wonderful job of finding great books that have been lost and fallen out of print.
Essentially it comes down to trying to do what we do best (finding exceptional fiction for readers) in as many ways as possible. We got into business because we thought that talent was being overlooked, and talent can also be overlooked simply by being forgotten, for no good reason!
Q: What was it about the Gothic ghost story that drew you to it? Why do you think it was overlooked upon its original publication?
We’ve both always loved genre fiction and ghost and horror stories in particular, so finding this fantastic story about a haunted house by an Irish writer was a lovely surprise. Funnily enough it was really successful when it was published – they even made a movie out of it (apparently it’s a favourite of Martin Scorsese!), but it’s fallen out of the public consciousness since, so it’s a real treat to be re-presenting it.
We spoke to Luke Gibbons last year and he suggested The Uninvited because it’s a novel he loves. He teaches it every year and it’s always difficult to find copies for his students, but her persists because it’s such a rich text. This is exactly the kind of thing we’re looking for. The book didn’t fall off the radar for any better reason than that no one thought to reprint it.
What we love about this story is that it’s a wonderful suburban gothic ghost story, a bit of an Irish Haunting of Hill House in the way the supernatural explanations are propped against sensible new science. It’s also a Freudian goldmine, as manifold versions of the ‘right kind’ of mother are presented to the reader, alongside unconventional family units. With 2016 coming up too, as Luke said, this writer’s committed eloquence needs to be retrieved in the coming decade of commemorations.
Q: You mentioned to me before how the series will include writers who are still with us, but whose writing has been neglected, so how do you think that will affect the public reaction to them, or will it?
I think readers are simply looking for great reads and generally don’t mind that much where the work comes from. One slightly negative thing about the book trade is how quickly titles are moved through the market: they’re nearly like film releases, in that they only get a few weeks at the cinema, or in the bookshops. So if a title isn’t a huge success right away it can sometimes be overlooked, and that won’t have anything to do with its quality. At the same time, even if a title does well, the next generation won’t necessarily have heard of it. The Recovered Voices series is a way to reflect on and to celebrate the brilliant work that’s gone before.