Hi everyone, and this morning I’m delighted to welcome Natasha Bardon to the blog.
Natasha is a Publishing Director for the Fantasy imprint at HarperCollins. Although I’m a crime writer, I started out reading fantasy novels so I was delighted when Natasha agreed to an interview. Read on for how she started out in the industry, how HarperVoyage stands out as an imprint and what she has been up to during lockdown.
Over to you, Natasha…
1) How did you first become involved in the industry? Was it something you always wanted to do?
It wasn’t really something I’d considered before leaving university. I had a few ideas about what I wanted to do, but nothing concrete and I’d always loved reading much more than anything else. So when an opportunity came up to do some work experience at Fourth Estate (another HarperCollins imprint), I took it. From there I held various positions in sales and marketing, but I jumped at an editorial assistant job that came up at HarperVoyager as Fantasy was by far my favourite genre at the time. Luckily I got it and the rest is history!
2) What does your job role entail on a day to day basis? Has it been any different in lockdown?
I manage a brilliant editorial team at HarperVoyager and I commission onto the General Fiction and Borough Press lists, so it really is quite busy! Apart from attending various meetings – acquisitions and cover art meetings are easily my favourite – I’ll have the usual mix of admin as well as reading and editing. I block out days for editing, keep my admin and inbox organising to Monday and try to make myself available for anything else that might come up the rest of the time.
3) Are there any limitations of your job role in lockdown?
I think there’s a certain type of creative energy that’s fed by interaction and so, inevitably, lack of interaction changes that energy. I wouldn’t say there are limitations, but it’s definitely been about overcoming the challenges lockdown has thrown at us. Luckily for me a lot of my work can be done at home, so I feel very fortunate and privileged in that regard. I definitely miss my team and the office environment though. It’s amazing what you learn and get inspired by just being around your colleagues in the office. I also miss books! I miss seeing the books coming in from the printer, discussing books with colleagues and cooing over books other imprints are working on.
4) What makes the HarperVoyager Imprint stand out in the fiction market?
That’s such an interesting question! The obvious answer is its authors! They are all amazingly talented, incredible individuals. Lockdown for me (and I know I’m incredibly lucky!) has been a treat, because I have been working on some absolutely wonderful books that are coming out next year, books such as The Desert Prince by Peter V. Brett, Threadneedle by Cari Thomas, Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey and Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff. To have been able to work on these wonderful books at such a weird, draining, upsetting and emotional time for everyone has made me appreciate my job so much.
It’s not just next year though, HarperVoyager has been publishing books such as The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty, The Black Hawks by David Wragg, The Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron and The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant that have shaken up the fantasy market over the last few years.
There are also many more hugely talented authors on the list, but I don’t want to just list our books! So if we do stand out in the market it’s due to a combination of our authors, our commissioning team (who are utterly brilliant), the wider marketing, sales, publicity, design and production teams who are so fantastic at what they do, our readers who don’t necessarily buy our books because it’s a Voyager title, but I hope they will always inadvertently find a book of high quality, creativity and imagination in a beautiful package because it is one, and of course none of that hard work would go anywhere without the booksellers who love and champion our books. Fantasy and Science Fiction inspires such dedication and love from its fans. It’s always so wonderful to see.
5) Do you have a favourite genre of novel? Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I don’t regard any genre as a guilty pleasure! I think if you’re reading a book then there’s nothing to feel guilty about. I love all genres and often flit between them. I love my role as Publishing Director of HarperVoyager, but I equally love commissioning onto the General Fiction and Borough Press lists. I have two books I’m hugely excited about next year coming out on the crime thriller list for example. The Murder of Graham Catton by Katie Lowe (author of The Furies) and Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams.
6) In lockdown, what books are the first you reach for? Do you have any that you have reread?
I think it’s the second time in my life where I’ve just not been able to read. I’ve read for work and I bought a remarkable fantasy called The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi that managed to break me out of my inability to focus, but before that I was really struggling. I often turn to books for comfort and escape – something I feel everyone has needed this year – so to find I just wasn’t able to settle into a book was hugely difficult.
7) In lockdown, what are you currently watching on television? Do you have a favourite drama that you watch religiously?
I re-watched The Girlmore Girls because, despite its faults, it’s still a comfort blanket for me and one I reach to often when I just need some low-stakes TV. We also made our way through the Marvel movies again – a lot of fun. I also started replaying Dragon Age 3 and inhaled The Last of Us 2 when it came out.
8) On a Friday evening when you leave your desk, what’s the first thing you do? On the weekend, what do you do to relax?
Well at the moment I’m attempting to launch a calligraphy shop as I find it so relaxing and just love to do it. Other than that I’ll draw or cook which I’ve been doing a lot during lockdown! On weekends it’s normally submission reading, any editing or mentoring prep I need to do and of course seeing friends and long walks with my incredibly cute miniature schnauzer Edie. I’ve been going to the lido a lot since it reopened and have been enjoying it immensely.
Thank you for visiting the blog today Natasha. Finding out more about your job role was fascinating so thank you so much for your time to take part.
Bio: Natasha Bardon is publishing director of HarperVoyager, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperCollins. She works on brand authors such as George RR Martin, Robin Hobb, Peter V. Brett, Sabaa Tahir and Jay Kristoff as well as emerging stars of the genre RF Kuang, S.A. Chakraborty, Kester Grant and Saara El-Arifi. She also commissions onto the General Fiction, Borough Press and Historical Fiction lists.