Exciting news: what’s been keeping me busy

You may have noticed that I’ve been far less present online since the start of this year. There are several reasons for that: some boring, and some very pleasant indeed.

In this latter category, I am proud to be part of a very exciting initiative. I am one of four friends and literary addicts who have decided (probably against any common sense) to set up a publishing venture to bring more translated fiction to the English-speaking world. Our baby is called Corylus Books, we are planning to launch at the London Book Fair and we are still in the process of setting up our website. But we do have a Twitter handle @CorylusB and a couple of books all ready to go.

Who Are We?

We are passionate readers of crime fiction and literature in translation. We have close connections to several countries, chief among them Romania, Iceland and the UK, of course. We are eager to build bridges between different cultures… and one of the best ways to do that is via literature. The four of us are writers, translators, academics, bloggers, festival organisers, reviewers and publishers, so we have a broad and complementary set of skills. We are starting with crime fiction, because that is a genre we know and love, but we are open to any interesting stories that are well told. We always like a slice of social commentary with our fiction as well.

Corylus is the Latin name for the hazel tree which produces hazelnuts. According to the Celts, hazelnuts confer wisdom and inspiration. In German fairytales, the hazel branch offers the greatest protection from snakes and other dangerous creatures. Last but not least, the Romanian name for hazel is ‘alun’ and the song ‘Alunelu’, alunelu’, hai la joc!’ is one of our best-known folk dances. Plus, like all good deciduous shrubs, it grows profusely in the right climate. All splendid metaphors for our venture.

We all have full-time jobs in addition to this passion project – which is where the madness comes in. So, whilst we are ambitious, we will start small and grow gradually. Nevertheless, we have some some exciting works in the pipeline.

Our Books

Anamaria Ionescu: Zodiac

Four murders in four different locations, each body showing a strange mark (possibly a zodiac sign?). The only thing the victims seem to have in common is that they were all born in the little spa town of Voineasa in the Romanian sub-Carpathian region. The fast-paced narrative switches between the streets of Bucharest and the wooded hills of Voineasa. Sergiu Manta has been forced to work in the shadowy world of state-supported asassins, but he knows it’s not him who’s been carrying out these murders. In the course of the investigation, he locks horns with the local police inspector determined to crack the case. The novel cleverly blends well-worn serial killer tropes with an inside look at a secretive special-ops team.

Teodora Matei: Living Candles

If you enjoy travelling the world virtually through your crime fiction, then Living Candles is the perfect book to convey the atmosphere of the Romanian urban environment. Or at least the murkier side of it: the blocks of flats where the neighbours all know each other’s business, the pensioners gossiping on the bench outside the entrances, the machismo impregnating the atmosphere so thickly, you could cut it with a knife.

These two will be out very soon and ARCs should be available for a blog tour by end of March. So let me know in the comments if you think you might want to take part, and I can give you more details.

Bogdan Teodorescu: Sword

The third book is a political thriller which I have only just finished translating (and still need to edit). It’s called Spada in the original Romanian (Sword in English) and it is by political analyst and professor of election campaigning Bogdan Teodorescu. It was translated into French a few years ago and did quite well there, with Le Monde and other publications reviewing it positively. Among our blogger friends, Emma from Book Around read and reviewed it, called it a ‘stunning political thriller’ and said what a shame it wasn’t translated into English. We are once more in serial killer territory, but the focus here is not at all on the investigation, but instead on how the crimes become a pretext for politics. It is unnervingly, chillingly accurate of the political situation not just in Romania but in many other countries at the present time. So I am delighted that we will finally be able to share it with you! Here is my attempt at a blurb.

Romanian cover of the 2nd edition of Spada. Cover reveal of English edition to follow!

A petty criminal is found dead in the streets of Bucharest,killed with a single stab to the throat. Initially, the police believe it’s a fight between gangs, but when two more deaths follow in quick succession, all with the same MO, it becomes clear that Romania’s capital city is facing one of its first recorded instances of a serial killer. The press are eager to run sensationalist reports and give the killer the nickname Sword, after the weapon used.  But there is an added complication: all the victims are from the Roma (gypsy) minority, and all of them have a police record. While the police struggle to find any leads, politicians have no qualms about using the case to score points against their opponents. Is this some misguided vigilante – and will the majority population start seeing Sword as a saviour rather than a criminal? The race is on to find the killer before interethnic clashes engulf the country, but a series of blunders at all levels leads to an escalation of conflict. Originally published in 2008, the novel is remarkably candid and prescient about racism, the rise of fake news, manipulation of the truth and political corruption. This astute political thriller will remind readers of TV shows like Borgen or West Wing.

Sólveig Pálsdóttir: The Fox

Icelandic author Sólveig Pálsdóttir has only been writing for seven years, but she is a rising star in her native country. She’s been translated into German and we hope to introduce her to an English-speaking audience in late summer/early autumn.

Icelandic cover of The Fox.

A young woman, one of Iceland’s immigrant community, vanishes without trace soon after arriving in the village of Höfn, so suddenly that there are doubts that the vulnerable young woman had even been there at all. Her disappearance, some suspicious events in the town and an isolated farm spark the interest of Reykjavík police officer Guðgeir, who is spending time working as a security guard in Höfn while he recovers from trauma in both his professional and his private life.

Finally, if you are attending the London Book Fair on the 10th of March, come and speak to us at the Romanian pavilion/stand. We will be talking about our new venture, our books and our future plans in an event organised by the Romanian Cultural Institute that day. Also, if you are coming to Newcastle Noir on 1-3 May 2020, you will have the opportunity to hear the author of Sword speak and get your hands on drippingly new (ink barely dried) copies of the English translation of the book.

84 thoughts on “Exciting news: what’s been keeping me busy”

  1. My very best wishes for your success in this exciting venture. Those titles sound terrific and will look forward to the opportunity to purchase and read them in English. Corylus is an excellent name for your publishing venture.

    1. Thank you for your very kind words. I hesitated for a long time before getting involved (I love the concept but wasn’t sure I could cope with the extra workload) – but you know what they say. If you want something done, give it to the busy person!

        1. Well, a couple of those are gory. But the political thriller is really far less about the crime and much more about how it is used as a pretext for political gain, so that should be do-able…

  2. Oh that really is exciting news – congratulations! I have read so little in translation – Homer, Virgil, Plato, Balzac and Mauriac, etc at school, but since then I think it amounts to Francoise Sagan and, more recently, Philippe Georget’s mysteries – Summertime, All the Cats are Bored, and Autumn, All the Cats Return (which are set around Perpignan, and no, neither is about cats….) I’ve certainly never read anything Romanian or Icelandic., so I am looking forward to reading these. Very best of luck.

    1. Funnily enough, I’ve read the Philippe Georget ones too and reviewed one or two for the Crime Fiction Lover website. I hope you will like the books we publish – I always like crime fiction that digs a little deeper into a particular country’s culture and social life.

    1. Aww, you’re a darling, thank you! Always grateful for a review, whether as part of a blog tour, or on Amazon or Goodreads or your blog! So I hope you will read and like one or more of those titles!

    1. Probably insane to start something like this when I’m working full-time, have two kids with exams, a commute, and am also trying to write my own stuff… but when was I ever sensible?

  3. What an epic idea! Good luck – doing this with a full-time job is inspirational. Can’t wait to see how it develops, and please use me for publicity purposes if you can (for instance, if there are going to be hard copies of the ARC, we at Heywood Hill would love to have a look…)

    1. Thanks, I’m very pleased… although I realise there will be even less time for my own writing. But at least I’m doing something I love, instead of boring divorce paperwork.

  4. Oh, how wonderful, Marina Sofia! What a fabulous venture, and I can’t think of anyone better suited for it. I couldn’t be happier for you, and I wish you every success. You’ve got some interesting titles to start with, and I know you’ll get more.

    1. So kind of you to say so! Yes, I hope we will always have a good selection of titles which should appeal to all kinds of readers. It will only be small to start off, but that’s all we can currently handle.

  5. That’s spectacular news, Marina! 😀 I truly wish you all the best in this new venture – we definitely need more advocates for translated fiction. Count me in for any ARCs as well 😉

    1. Great to hear, thank you! We are considering Greece as well – generally, countries that are less represented in the crime fiction genre, although it does depend on translator availability too.

      1. Do let me know if you need any help with Greek crime fiction – there are some novels that I’d definitely like to see translated into English 🙂

        1. Please, translate Petros Markaris’ trilogy about the Greek crisis. (Two billets on my blog, the last one is coming soon)
          It’s an excellent way to understand what happened.

        2. I believe two of Markaris’ books have been translated into English, but are not terribly well-known. And yes, I do hope we can get something going on that front.

    1. Well, you know, no publisher wanted to hire me (too old, insufficient publishing experience), so I thought I’d create my own… No, seriously, it was more a fortunate accident, but am very thrilled. I know you are not much of a crime reader, but I hope we will find something suitable for you too.

    1. I don’t think we’re expecting to retire on a yacht any time soon, but as long as we raise the profile of some lesser known authors and countries, we’ll be happy.

  6. This sounds so exciting. MarinaSofia, and I must say each of the books you’ve listed sounds great! I don’t really do blog tours but would be happy to read and review any of them, and also to interview you and/or your partners on the blog once a couple of the books are available for people to buy, if you’d be interested in that. Very best of luck with it – woohoo! 😀

  7. Wonderful news, Marina. You must be so excited! Wishing you every success with Corylus Books. I can’t think of a more passionate advocate for crime fiction in translation.

  8. I love this! And the books sound intriguing too. I wish I lived in that part of the world so I could come to the London Book Fair. I will keep an eye out for the availability of the books in English because they sound very intriguing. Best of luck with your new venture!

    1. They should be available worldwide as e-books (I’m relying on some of the others in our group who know more about international rights), so hopefully you’ll be able to get your hands on them.

  9. Congrats and good luck, Marina! I’ve never done a blog tour before, so no idea what I need to do, but I love crime fiction, so let me know. I can also promote Corylus on my blog, do an interview with you, or anything that might help. And suggest Greek crime fiction, if wanted 😊

    1. Thank you so much for your offer! We have some links to a Greek publisher, so may well investigate that further too. And you are always welcome to review, it doesn’t have to be part of a blog tour. Will keep you updated.

  10. Congratulations! Great that you can carry out a longtime dream. I look forward to seeing these books over here across the pond. One book you mentioned on your blog awhile back existed only in Romanian which you said you’d like to translate. Was it one of these?

    1. Yes, absolutely: it’s the political thriller. I tried to alert some publishers to it a few years ago, but no one seemed interested, so I’m doubly pleased that we’ll be able to publish it ourselves!

  11. Wow. This is brilliant news. I wish you and your colleagues every success with the new venture and look forward to reading some of your titles.

  12. Oh, good. Will these books only be available in ebook format? If so, I better get a Kindle or some kind of ereader. This from a confirmed Luddite. I’d be using a quill pen on papyrus if I had a choice. Will you let us know when the books are available?

  13. I’ve not been around much either but I’m very glad to have been alerted to this. (Thanks Paula.) Many congratulations, Marina, to you and your associates. I wish you every success with this exciting new venture!

  14. I’m late to the party but congratulations, really. I’d love to do something like this here.

    I’m very very happy that Spada will be available in English as it was in my Translation Tragedy category. I can’t believe this is a happy ending after meeting Teodorescu’s publisher at Quais du Polar.

    Best of luck to Corylus Books, we need more publishers who are ready to bring us the world. I was yesterday at a conference about Gallmeister and its success story.
    They said that the key of their success is that independant bookstores supported them and made their books known to readers. They invested time in meeting with libraires and getting to know each other. (sorry for the French but the English language really misses the word libraire)

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