Editors of Avast! Michael Earp and Alison Evans reinvigorate the theme of pirates in a brand new anthology by transgender authors

Tell us about Avast! What’s unique about it?

Avast! is the first anthology of its kind to be traditionally published in this country! It’s fiction entirely written by transgender authors, each exploring the prompt of pirates.

Why pirates?

Why not?! When we were offered the chance to choose a theme ourselves, we wanted something playful but with an undercurrent of the political. Once the idea of pirates had entered the discussion, it refused to leave, being an obvious winner. 

How did you choose the contributors? And what does each one bring to the book that is special?

There are so many trans authors to choose from; it was hard to narrow it down! The final selection was all creatives we knew, and we loved their work. We knew they would each respond to the theme well, bringing something unique, and we were keen to showcase a variety of different styles and perspectives. 

What was the editorial process?

It was magical watching the stories unfold! Some contributors were new to writing a story of this length, or even new to crafting a narrative to a brief, so we worked with them all to navigate any hurdles they faced. We edited them together, each reading and responding, then we discussed it and honed our feedback for a preliminary round of edits. This meant that we could send the stories to Georgia Richter, our publisher and editor at Fremantle, for her expert opinion and a fresh eye once the drafts had been developed initially. 

There are multiple genres represented in the work – did each of you specialise in one particular area or did you edit all of them equally?

We acted as equals, relying on each other throughout the whole process. Neither of us had edited a comic book script before, which was fun, being new for us! Michael has had a little experience editing poetry in previous collections, but we approached the whole project as a team. There’s also a large amount of trust between writers and editors, and we had to trust that the authors knew what they wanted to achieve. It was our job to pose questions and react enthusiastically, to help their stories shine. Ultimately, it’s their work that readers are going to love.

Was there a different approach required for editing say prose versus poetry or the graphic novel novella?

Yes and no. In the bigger picture, you still have to make sure things are coherent, that characters come alive on the page, but these other forms have the added element where space and/or illustrations can take over from the words or contribute to the narrative. In the same way that a writer of prose has to pick and choose which details will best contribute to the story, the elements of form found in poetry and comics are carefully chosen for their literary meanings too.

What did you learn from this process?

One of the real joys of writing and editing is the collaboration you can do in the process. Sharing your work can be enriching. There’s an excitement and a pleasure to be had in commissioning a story from someone and then seeing, months later, what they have made. Ultimately, we were driven by a desire to see more stories by trans creators out in the world, and if we had eleventy million dollars, we’d gladly commission new work constantly!

What advice would you give others who are looking to curate works of this nature?

Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, but you need to be flexible as creatives respond to prompts in unexpected and exciting ways. That’s the thing with sailing into the Great Unknown! 

Avast! Pirates Stories from Transgender Authors is out now and available from all good bookstores. A launch will take place at the Williamstown Literary Festival on Saturday, 12 June.

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