Naomi Rosenblatt is President and Publisher of Heliotrope Books, an independent publishing company in Manhattan. Known for publishing unique categories such as the “brilliant hybrid,” “Fictive Memoir” and “Typographic Novel,” we wanted to know more about her series, the MEMOIR NOIR. We asked writer Allegra Vera to meet with the amiable boss as she successfully picked her brain on publishing, employment and the ever-elusive MEMOIR NOIR.
By: Allegra Vera
Allegra: I met with Naomi, President and Publisher of Heliotrope Books, a downtown Manhattan based independent publishing company at Cafe Reggio in Greenwich Village on a sunny afternoon. Naomi founded Heliotrope Books in 2006 and has over 25 years of publishing experience under her belt.
AVW: Tell me about Heliotrope – the beginning, the premise.
NR: Heliotrope was created partially from my frustration with the publishing industry. Working in publishing in the 90’s, which I did before founding Heliotrope, was completely different from the post-2008 malaise. I dedicate myself to doing a couple of really good books a year with a hope of introducing new voices that should be heard.
AVW: Tell us about your Memoir Noir series.
NR: Memoir Noir popped out spontaneously when I designed the back cover of Royal Young’s FAME SHARK in 2013. Typing “memoir” as the book’s category, the word “noir” followed, and thus a sub-genre was born. FAME SHARK, a ruthless exposé of the narrator’s susceptibility to decadence — substance
abuse, obsession, and bartered sex — exemplifies the “memoir noir.”
Neesha Arter’s account of the sexual assault she endured as a minor and her subsequent battle with anorexia, and Kate Walter’s portrait of her Lesbian partner’s abrupt sabotage of a decades-long relationship also
qualified for the category. Lianne Stokes’ cheeky, hilarious Below Average, what it means to be able to laugh when you fail at everything, even losing your virginity. Numerous famous memoirs, such as Angela’s Ashes, qualify. A “Memoir Noir” is not a rosy, sentimental remembrance of times past, but a candid and often painful account.
AVW: What are your thoughts on the current publishing industry landscape?
NR: In order for the publishing industry to save itself, it needs to nurture new promising authors, which is what I try to do. If they don’t do that, and they stick to corporate, the industry is going to choke itself. But I’m not completely against big publishing; they are doing some great things. There are some little ripples of change happening. Alternative voices are just as viable; we shouldn’t just recycle the same people [authors].
AVW: Before finding my voice as a writer, I struggled throughout my mid to late twenties trying to get a job in publishing. All I could find was freelance and temporary work. What are your thoughts on an educated person not being able to find even an entry-level job in publishing?
NR: I can hear from your speech that you’re a writer. It’s humiliating for all of us – artistic, gifted people – that we are struggling so much. If enough people create an –again – alternative culture, there’s hope. We don’t recognize what we’ve accomplished because it’s not reflected in a job title or a salary.
Naomi is confident about 2016 for Heliotrope, which is a fully booked year for the company. She is already discussing titles for 2017. It’s important to work with the authors, she says. And that, to me, is the essence of what the publishing industry should be.