R.G. Emanuelle from Dirt Road Books is here.
Please welcome R.G.
Before we begin, thanks so much for stopping by today for a chat.
I’m happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Tell us about your childhood. Where did you grow up and has your childhood influenced your writing?
My parents emigrated here from Italy, so I’m a first-generation American. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where there has been a large contingent of Italians for decades. As the child of immigrants, my childhood was different from most other kids’. I had to become mature and responsible at a very young age because I had to help my non-English-speaking parents navigate a foreign world, and there was always a sense of “otherness.”
Yes, this influenced my writing quite a bit. Many of my characters are “others” and struggle with identity self-acceptance in their respective worlds. I also tend to include characters of Italian heritage occasionally because I don’t see this community represented much in lesfic.
Books and reading weren’t a big part of your family life. When did you fall in love with stories and at what age did you know you wanted to write?
I probably fell in love with words in the womb. I was reading ever since I can remember, and I collected whatever books I could from whatever sources were available to me. I think I got the first inkling that I wanted to write at 8 or 9, and it was firmly implanted in my head by 10.
What drew you to the publishing industry and what roles have you filled?
Well, like so many writers, I would have loved to write for a living. But my parents, pragmatic and always in survival mode, drilled it into me that I had to get a “steady” job. I thought about different things growing up, but nothing appealed to me as much as words did. So, in college, I figured that if I can’t write for a living, I’d do the next best thing and go into the publishing business. I still remember my first boss telling me during my interview, “You know this is not a writing job, right?” I said, “Yes, I know. But as long as I get to work with the written word, I’m good.” Or something like that. Mind you, that job was at a place that published scientific journals, so everything was gibberish to me, anyway.
Once in the industry, I moved into different areas. I started out in production, which is all about the mechanics of putting together a book or magazine. Then I started editing, and then I was moved into typesetting. I eventually ended up back in editing.
Tell us about the genesis of Dirt Road Books. Did you always want to own a publishing house? How did you, along with the Dirt Road crew, decide to chase this dream?
I think everyone in the publishing industry has a tiny hint of a dream of either starting a publishing house or a literary agency. In most cases, that dream never turns into reality because it’s a monumental task (either road). But that spark was always there, dormant for a while. Then I met Andi Marquette and Jove Belle. They first starting talking about starting a publishing house, and then I became part of the conversation. And then, like the Big Bang Theory (the actual theory, not the show), all the pieces fell together. We had a gathering of all the right people at the right time, and we started our journey as a collective.
We had many, many meetings and conversations about what our vision was, what we wanted this company to be, and where we wanted to take it. It wasn’t a totally smooth ride—whenever you have multiple people with individual opinions doing something, there will be a few bumps. But, ultimately, our trust in each other and our common goal got us through those initial hurdles, and here we are.
How long ago did Dirt Road books come into being and how is the operation going? Do you have plans to expand?
It probably took us about a year to put everything into place. January 2018 marked our one-year anniversary, so we are well into our second year of business. We are doing very well and things are running quite smoothly. We work well together, which goes a very long way to making a company successful. Again, it doesn’t mean we never disagree, but we work things out. Yes, we are currently expanding the operations to include outside authors. We are now accepting submissions, so please check our submission guidelines if you’re interesting in having us publish your work. (www.dirtroadbooks.com/submissions)
What genre(s) do you feel most comfortable writing and is there one that you want to try, but haven’t found the right story to tell?
I love writing paranormal/spec fic, and so I do that a lot. But I’ve also written romance, historical, erotica, and general fiction. I also write nonfiction, which I love as well. I’m the kind of person who likes to try a little of everything, so I test the waters in other genres when I have the opportunity. I’m actually dying to try a steampunk story, but I don’t quite have a story in mind yet. I would like to try and write a mystery someday, but I think that will be further into the future.
Please tell us about your latest release and what influenced you to pen this story.
My latest release is called The Potion, and it takes place in a fictitious neighborhood in Victorian-era Boston. One main character, Vera Kennedy, is a self-taught scientist, trained at the elbow of her late husband, Professor James Kennedy. She is working on a secret formula that she feels will change things for women and offer them freedom from their social constraints. She’s obsessed with this potion and thinks of nothing else. You could call her a mad scientist—she wouldn’t, but you can.
The other main character is Vera’s love interest, Georgette Harris. Like Vera, Georgette is a widow, and her husband has left behind enormous debts that are burying her alive. A medicinals company (what we today would call a pharmaceutical company) wants to buy some of her husband’s work, but there’s missing information in what she gave them. Desperate for money, and certain that her husband once worked with Professor Kennedy, she goes to Vera and pleads with her to help her find the missing data.
At first, Vera is annoyed by the interruption of her work when she is so close to perfecting her formula. But as Georgette continues to pester her, Vera finds herself attracted to her, much to her frustration. Georgette is attracted to her as well, but neither trusts the other. They are thrown together when they’re presented with a multi-layered mystery: What was this project their husbands were working on? Who are the other people involved? What connection did this project have to their husbands’ deaths? And what exactly is making those strange noises on the upper floor of Georgette’s house? Most of all, will Vera and Georgette get past their distrust of one another to make their relationship work?
What was one of the best moments of your life?
I had the good fortune of working at a travel magazine (albeit briefly), and I had the opportunity to go on a press junket to France. While there, the tour guide took us to the Formule 1 racing school in St. Tropez, and I got to ride in the back of a two-person Formule 1 race car and go around the track. I didn’t get to drive it, but believe me, it was better than any ride at Six Flags.
By the way, I had to wear an orange jumpsuit to take that ride, so I know for sure that if I ever end up in jail, I am so not going to look good in those uniforms.
In addition to creating stories, you enjoy whipping up new dishes. What’s one of the best meals you’ve prepared and who was it for?
Okay, now you’ve stumped me. I’ve cooked so much over the years, it’s hard to say what the best meals were. But I can tell you about the meal I am most proud to have contributed to. It was a group effort while I was in culinary school, and it was for what I guess you can call a “final exam.” My group had to come up with a theme, and then prepare a multicourse meal, from appetizer to dessert, incorporating all the meal-planning criteria that were required, and make it all vegan, for approximately 100 people. I suggested we do Peruvian, and together we created a menu that was truly spectacular and on par with any 5-star gourmet meal. The night of our dinner went (almost) smoothly and the food was amazing. Even meat lovers were impressed. I was very proud of us.
What three things can’t you live without? (Coffee, hot shower, ect) And, what are three things you hate? (Spinach, cleaning the toilet, ect)
Can’t do without: 1. Definitely coffee. 2. Right now, dark chocolate with sea salt. 3. My computer.
But I like the hot shower thing. That would go on my list for sure.
Hate: 1. Ironing. 2. Radishes (probably the only vegetable on earth I hate). 3. People getting away with shit (that’s the Libra in me).
What’s one of your quirks that influences your writing?
I tend to obsess over the right word or phrase. So, I can get stuck on the same sentence or paragraph for a long time until I finally tell myself, “Just write the damn sentence and fix it later.” I have many bouts of anxiety over finding the right words, and it delays me. I have to stop that.
Thanks so much for chatting today.
Thank you! I enjoyed answering your questions. I’m very excited about The Potion, and I hope everyone enjoys it. Cheers!
Release date: April 2018
Vera Kennedy, widow of Professor James Kennedy, wants to be a scientist, but in Victorian Boston, that isn’t an option for women. Nevertheless, after assisting her husband in the laboratory with his experiments, she has learned everything she could through his unintended tutelage. After his death, she continues his work until she veers off onto a different path with her own experiments, which threaten to consume her to the exclusion of all else.
Georgette Harris, widow of Professor Roland Harris, has been left destitute in the wake of her husband’s death. He had amassed mountains of debt and left Georgette to pay it, in any way she could, and now she occupies a dilapidated and mostly empty mansion with what little food her remaining housekeeper can scrounge. So when a medicinals company wants to purchase a formula that Roland had proposed to them, Georgette searches for it without success, and then discovers evidence that her husband had worked with James Kennedy. Armed with this information, she seeks the help of Vera in uncovering the missing formula.
But Vera is not one to give up secrets easily, though she is inexplicably drawn to Georgette. Despite her reservations, she considers Georgette’s request, and they soon discover that both their husbands were involved in an experiment layered in deception and danger. Together, they sort through mysterious clues and talk to unscrupulous men in order to discover what that outcome was supposed to be and in the process, they may discover something far stronger between them.
MEET THE AUTHOR
R.G. Emanuelle is a writer and editor living in New York City. She is the author of novels, novellas, and short stories, as well as co-editor of several anthologies, including the Lambda Literary finalist All You Can Eat. She is a co-founder and co-owner of Dirt Road Books, and blogs regularly at Women & Words.
CONNECT WITH R. G. EMANUELLE
Thanks so much for stopping by today.