Six with Chris goes international today with editor Bénédicte Lombardo

Bénédicte is my editor in France and happily we’ll be meeting for the first time next week at the London Book Fair. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to travel to France several times in my life so it was a huge thrill when Bénédicte emailed me with the news that she was publishing the Iron Elves in France. After publishing studies in Paris, Bénédicte found a position as an assistant in a small publishing house, Editions Joëlle Losfeld. General fiction mostly. She worked there for 8 years and in 2003 had the opportunity to replace one the most famous SF/fantasy editor in France who retired. Bénédicte grabbed it with a crazy excitement and is now in charge of the Pocket and Fleuve Noir lines. She’s always loved all the genre literatures and science fiction especially. As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Bénédicte also works as an editorial adviser/consultant for two other imprints of the Editis group (Presses de la Cité and Pré-aux-Clercs).

1. Why did you choose publishing for a career?

I’d like to sound original but I’m afraid to say I chose publishing for my passion of literature. That’s not a bad reason after all. As a kid, I wanted to be an astrophysicist but I missed the path to a scientific career. But with SF books somehow I’m still looking at the stars. At first I was interested in selling rights abroad but during a job meeting, someone told me I had no real capacity for commercial fights. And eventually I knew I was into editorial matters, contacts with writers and reading all day long.

2. What’s the future look like for book publishing?

I’m optimistic about books. I’m not into e-books I’m afraid. I don’t really like to have to read on a screen. I understand, though, that this new way of reading appeals to many people, especially young readers very familiar with new technologies. Of course it’s very convenient when you’re a publisher to read books and manuscripts on e-readers. Nowadays, we receive books by email up to 80% of the time. Anyway, I guess books will always be part of our life and our culture. When you love books, you like the objects, too. A solid and sensual piece of paper, its smell, its cover… And whatever form books take, you’ll always need publishers to do the job. Maybe that’s one of the trades where no robots would be able to replace us. I hope so…

3. What advice would you give someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

First, passion.
Second, be a polymath and learn how a publishing house operates. It’s very useful to know how the people around you work: publicity, sales, marketing, press, bookselling, manufacturing…
Third, forget about your weekend!

4. What author or publishing insider living or dead would you like to meet and why?

I met Michael Moorcock and Stephen Baxter, so I’m happy now! But here are a few others whose work gave me shocks: Sylvia Plath, Angela Carter, Howard Fast, James Purdy, Horacio Quiroga.
There’s one French publisher, very famous in France, Eric Losfeld. I worked 8 years with his daughter, Joelle, a publisher too, who became my dearest friend. And it would have been an honor to meet her dad. He was free, open-minded, brilliant, funny, and transmitted the whole thing to his daughter.

5. If stranded on a desert island without the cast of Lost (or the S.S. Minnow,) what five books would you want to have with you?

Awful choice. A perfect anthology of 8000 pages with all my favorites! And can I also have the last episode of Lost?

6. Why do books matter?

I guess they can change you, they can change your way of looking at the world around you. And of course they entertain and sometimes give you the feeling that you’re getting smarter!

Merci, Bénédicte!

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