What I’m reading this Christmas: Alison Green, Pantera Press

Alison Green Pantera Press
Alison Green, Pantera Press

Thanks to Alison Green from Pantera Press for talking to Boomerang Books today, and sharing your Christmas picks with us. First, let’s find out a little more about you and some of the books you’ve been working on.

You’re the CEO & co-founder of Pantera Press, what does your job entail?
As a boutique publishing house, we have a small dedicated team. We are all extremely passionate, and often it is all hands on deck! On a day-to-day I work closely with our authors as well as the Pantera Press submissions, marketing, publicity, digital, editorial, design, financial and rights, teams and agencies. I also have a strong focus on our strategic development.

But I’d really say that my job is about making dreams come true. The dreams of our readers, storylovers – who love to get swept up into different fictional worlds. The dreams of our authors – our storytellers who live for writing fabulous tales and getting those stories to their fans. And the great philanthropic works we do in and around literacy and the joys of reading.

How did you get this job?
I co-founded the company in 2008. My background was in psychology and business strategy, and I have always been an avid reader. We created Pantera Press as a response to what we felt was a void in the industry – a home that not only welcomes but also actively seeks previously unpublished authors with best-seller writing potential.

What is different/special about Pantera Press?
Many things! Pantera Press introduced an innovative business model into the Australian publishing industry. We explicitly embraced a fresh strategy to be better support to Australia’s storytellers and storylovers, via an innovative, author-friendlier model with a strong curatorial culture. We designed this so that we could take a great, and longer-term risk in backing new authors. From day one, Pantera Press dedicated itself to discovering new, previously unpublished authors. Writers of great stories that are well written and would appeal to a wide audience of dedicated readers. We also have a strong ‘profits for philanthropy’ foundation that we call ‘good books doing good things’, where we invest in programs and projects around Australia that help close the literacy gap and encourage the joy of reading. If that’s not enough, I should mention that our boardroom table is actually a Ping-Pong table. So if you find yourself in the Pantera Press office, you may be up for a battle.

Killing Adonis J.M. Donellan(Brilliant, I love table tennis!) I suspect you love all the books you work on, but could you tell us about some that you are particularly proud of?
Great question. I do LOVE all of the books that we publish, and in part… that is actually a set criteria for any story we consider for publication (seriously). Be it a latest story from one of our existing authors, or a story from a brand new author there are many things we will consider when choosing a story to publish. Our authors are talented writers who we have handpicked, because we think they are absolutely amazing and see big potential for them. One of the many criteria we have is “even if you are not the target audience for this story, did you love it? And did you want to keep reading”. So I do indeed love all of the books we work on.

Killing Adonis by J.M. Donellan is a book I’m particularly proud of. It’s a really quirky ride, and we’ve had an overwhelming amount of media compare this story to the stylings of Wes Anderson (Writer and Director of The Grand Budapest Hotel). Donellan’s story is a tragicomic tale about love, delusion, corporate greed… and the hazards of using pineapple cutters while hallucinating. This story is for people who enjoy complex storylines that verge on the absurd, who love the scrumptious extravagance of Wes Anderson movies, and who marvel at the moral-driven layers of Roald Dahl. On top of being a GREAT story, the cover of the book is very unique and was created to mimic a leather bound book. It has the look and feel, and it’s certainly something special to hold onto, and to display on your bookshelf.

I also have to mention Sulari Gentill’s award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mystery series. Her series has been nominated and shortlisted for several awards, and won the Davitt Award for best crime fiction. Her latest novel in the series, A Murder Unmentioned has topped several Australia bookseller best-seller lists. And it’s a phenomally engaging and charming series that appeals to men and women of all ages. I’m thrilled that we discovered Sulari and have just released her 9th book in 4 years (yes, she is seriously impressive!).Betrothed Wanda Wiltshire

What is your secret reading pleasure?
As much as I might wish for it… I’m clearly no longer a young adult. However, I take secret joy in reading Young Adult fiction and finding myself in strange new worlds. Wanda Wiltshire’s Betrothed series is a favourite. Her writing is beautiful, and the first book in the series (Betrothed) had me dreaming every night about receiving my invitation to the Faery world of Faera. Wanda explores beautiful themes of friendship, self-discovery and finding ones place in the world. As well as romance, darkness… and how to fly!

I’d also love to tell you about a top-secret Pantera Press book (shhh), it is not yet released – but is coming really soon (February 2015). Akarnae by Lynette Noni, the first book in the 5 book Medoran Chronicles. Akarnae is Harry Potter, X-Men and Narnia rolled into one wonderful story. Believable characters, in an unbelievable world: with Akarnae you must embrace the wonder!

What are your must-reads over Christmas? (What’s on your bedside table to read over the holidays?)Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo
There are many. As you can imagine there is a big pile of books, awaiting me for my summer staycation (and I can’t wait). To mention a couple: Tempting Fate by Jane Green (not a relation). Most people seem to assume that my reading list would predominantly contain serious literary fiction, however in high school – fun and romantic stories were what made me the avid reader I am today. I would read 3-4 books a week, easily. And that voracious love of reading is partially what excited me about becoming involved in the book publishing industry. Jane Green was always a favourite. I’ve read every single one of her books at least once, so I’m looking forward to her latest summer read.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo by Luke Ryan. I recently met Luke and heard him speak with one of our own Pantera Press authors, J.M. Donellan, at the National Young Writers’ Festival in Newcastle. He was hilarious, and I’m looking forward to reading his memoir.

John M. Green you are co-founder of Pantera Press with Alison and author of Nowhere Man, The Trusted & Born To Run. What are your must-reads this Christmas?
I want to read Wally Lamb‘s latest novel We are Water over the holidays. He creates characters and relationships, especially difficult ones, so convincingly that I can cry – and often have.We Are Water Wally Lamb

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is also on my list. Not your typical Swedish novel, but a whimsical story my wife keeps putting at the top of my reading pile. If I don’t do what she says, there’s no chance I’ll ever make it to 100 myself.

Marty Green, you’re the Director & Head of Submissions at Pantera Press, what are your must-reads this Christmas?
The Buddha In Your Mirror: Practical Buddhism and the Search for the Self by Hochswender, Martin and Morino. This book came out in 2001 and comes with a foreword by Herbie Hancock. If you’re planning on judging a book by it’s cover, this one has everything. (That’s a little Buddhism joke). I assume that by reading this, I’ll be able to make a lot more jokes.

Here Come The Dogs Omar MusaMoney: Master the Game by Tony Robbins is a plain English book about money and investing that is 700 pages and costs $30 (with all profits going to Feeding America). Here’s my investment advice: read the book and you’ll probably make your $30 back.

Finally, I’ll be reading Here Come the Dogs by Omar Musa over the holidays. Omar is a slam poet from Queanbeyan that did a Ted talk and I met him while he was doing promos for his debut novel and he’s a super cool guy.

Thanks very much for speaking with us, Alison and Merry Christmas!

Something less sweet for the season

Much like festive food, I often find bestselling books to be either too saccharine-sweet or over-stuffed for my taste. So I wasn’t expecting to be instantly charmed when I finally picked up a copy of Jonas Jonasson’s debut offering, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

But it had me at “hello”; from the first paragraphs of the opening chapter that paints – with less than 150 words – a vivid and hilarious picture of a cantankerous centenarian who has no intention of comprising his character in his old age.

“There was less than an hour to go before his birthday party would begin in the lounge of the Old Folks’ Home. The mayor would be there. And the local paper. And all the other old people. And the entire staff, led by bad- tempered Director Alice.

It was only the Birthday Boy himself who didn’t intend to turn up.”

An old man – Allan Karlsson – climbs out of a window to escape his hundredth birthday. He purloins a suitcase, hops on a train and what follows is both the explanation of his amazing back-story and an off-beat adventure for Allan and anyone who crosses his path. Without giving away too much it weaves together a tale of several murders, revolutions, the invention of the atom bomb, Reagan’s Star Wars, and – of course – one man’s mission to find happiness and preferably a glass of vodka to go with it. The novel’s cast of characters includes a hot-dog selling polymath, a cast of criminals, Stalin, Truman and Albert Einstein’s less gifted half-brother, and of course, Allan himself; a man with a gift – or perhaps a curse – for being in the right place at the right time.

It’s been called a “black comic novel that reads like a road trip with Forrest Gump at the wheel’ which it could be, if Forrest Gump was centenarian demolition expert with no intention of relinquishing control over his vodka supply.

Others have likened it to a darkly hilarious Water for Elephants (and indeed the book does contain a renegade elephant) but I think that fails to capture the charm, invention and capriciousness of this fascinating tale. I’m a little more reminded of Warren Ellis’s RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous), and specifically the lighter tone of the movie adaptation, but with this book Jonasson has firmly established he has a voice all of his own and a remarkable story to tell with it.

Jonasson is a Swedish writer with a background as a journalist and media consultant. This book is his first novel and was released in 2009. By 2010 it was the best selling book in Sweden and by July 2012 it had sold three million copies world-wide and had a movie adaptation in the works. If you’re looking for a book for the festive season – whether it’s to amuse yourself or to appease an occasionally cantankerous soul stuffed with overly-rich christmas fare – I can’t recommend this book enough.