A few words from Nicholas Royle
I have two very different editing roles at Salt. Firstly, I am the series editor for The Best British Short Stories, currently reading for next year, with the 2012 volume just out in the shops and available here, and last year’s debut to the series still being widely read and talked about in universities, book groups, front rooms and wherever else people read and talk about books. I was an avid reader of the Best Short Stories series edited by Giles Gordon and David Hughes and happened to approach Salt at the right time with a proposal to start a new series inspired by the Gordon/Hughes series, but with one or two differences. Jen and Chris at Salt said yes and so I started reading.
Although, in truth, I didn’t start reading at that point. I had started years ago. For more than ten years I wrote a quarterly short stories round-up review column in Time Out magazine. Unthinkable now that Time Out would devote space to such a thing. Those were the days. But, in fact, these are the days. The short story, whose health was always the subject of debate during those ten years, is now in excellent shape and is arguably more popular than it has been for many years.
So, I’m always on the lookout for suitable stories for Best British Short Stories, forever reading new stories by British writers that appear in collections, anthologies, magazines and online.
My other role involves the commissioning and editing of new novels. Not all Salt’s new novels, just four a year. My first ones come out in the second half of 2012. They are Stephen McGeagh’s Habit, Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, Kieran Devaney’s Deaf at Spiral Park and Simon Okotie’s Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? They all happen to be first novels, but that is not my brief. It just happened that way. They are all, also, absolutely brilliant. And don’t give me any of that you-would-say-that crap, they are. If you are thinking they can’t be that good or they’d be on Faber’s list or Penguin’s or whoever’s, let me tell you that’s not the way to think. We got to these writers before they had even thought of submitting to the big boys and we are damn lucky to be publishing these books.
My approach to Salt was that they let me run an imprint for experimental fiction. Although this was the initial plan, it was changed slightly, so that I am commissioning novels straight into Salt Modern Fiction and they are, to some extent at least, reflecting my original desire to publish experimental work. Deaf at Spiral Park, a novel about a bear that shaves off its fur and joins human society, sounds like a fantasy but because of the particular narrative techniques employed by Devaney, it’s a genuine experimental novel. Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? is another experimental novel. If you imagine Paul Auster and Nicholson Baker getting together and deciding to write a short novel largely set on a Routemaster bus, you won’t be far off. The Lighthouse and Habit are both more conventional in terms of narrative; the former is structurally intricate, extremely lean and completey engrossing, while the latter is the darkest novel I’ve read for many years.