I was approached by Richard from Red Circle Authors to see if I was interested in reading one of the Red Circle Minis, and it being literary fiction with a speculative bent translated from the Japanese, I couldn’t really say no as I can’t think of anymore boxes it could have ticked for me personally.
Red Circle is a small London-based publisher producing some excellently crafted books translated from the Japanese, I’ve received ‘Monkey Man’ by Takuji Ichikawa, and it is beautiful, and this is just one of the mini series of originals commissioned by Red Circle.
Update, I’ve now got all of the mini series.
In their own words
When did you start publishing?
We started publishing in late 2018 when we released the first titles in our series, a series of short Japanese books in English, Red Circle Minis, and our series has been slowly expanding since then. Each of the titles in the series is a first edition, especially commissioned from our curated circle of award-winning writers, and is being published in English before any other language including Japanese, in an “English first” publishing strategy. The reaction so far to this somewhat unusual approach has been really terrific.
What made you want to start an independent publisher?
Though fluent in Japanese I have always wanted to read the very best Japanese creative writing in English and wished that more writing from Japan was available. I am fluent in Japanese, having studied and worked in Japan in the 1980s and 90s, but reading for pleasure in a second language can still be rather challenging. After a busy day’s work picking up a Japanese novel and reading it in Japanese requires concentration and dedication, which I couldn’t always muster when I was tired, and annoyingly many of the books my partner (who is Japanese) recommended and was enjoying at the time weren’t published in English translation.
I asked around and researched the reasons behind this and then decided that instead of just complaining that more needed to be done and that someone should do something to increase international awareness of the many super-talented Japanese authors writing today, I decided to try to do something about it myself, which led to me founding Red Circle Authors with the aim of getting the work of more Japanese authors translated into English and other languages too.
What genres do you specialise in?
We specialise in Japanese fiction and currently publish short form contemporary fiction that span from novelettes to novellas in length. Our Minis have been called: ‘small books for big brains’, ‘beautiful pocket-sized slices of Japanese literature’, ‘their very compactness sets them apart as rather special and even luxurious’, ‘an incredible window into the zeitgeist of modern Japanese society’ and ‘communicating directly and intentionally with Western audiences through fiction’.
We are delighted by the feedback but as a startup we are taking things slowly and currently focusing on our launch series. That said, we do have longer term plans for another series, as well as other exciting new publications.
We are still a small, or perhaps I should say, a tiny independent publisher in our early startup phase. I like to describe Red Circle as a passion project but despite this we are making wonderful progress.
We have a great team of people supporting us and encouraging us onwards, which really helps and makes us optimistic, not just about our own future as an independent publisher, but also how far and widely brilliant Japanese fiction can travel.
Where are you based?
We are London-based but take a distributed approach and have a team of freelancers based in other parts of the UK and Japan; and our translators are based even further a field including in Australia, for example.
Do you have a submission window, if so when?
Currently we only publish works by authors in our curated circle of award-winning Japanese writers. Identifying, meeting and then binging such authors on board takes time and sadly the pandemic has slowed us down considrerably. We currently have eight authors in our circle.
We have more titles in our publishing pipeline but as each title in the Red Circle Minis series is an original and all of our authors are extremely busy writing for readers in Japan we are never quite sure which Japanese language manuscript will be the next one to arrive.
We work out our translation and publishing scheduling once they do. This is one of the beauties of being a small publisher. We can be very flexible and in a sense we thrive on being agile and working very closely with each author and our translators in a way that the major publishing houses probably can’t be. Our approach is very collaborative.
In addition to our books we have also launched an online magazine, The Circle, where we write and publish information about Japanese literature, culture and books.
A lot of the content so far has been written by me, but we also have some other very interesting contributors, which include for instance a highly regarded Tokyo-based British economist and commentator as well as the former Swedish Ambassador to Japan, who, for example, has contributed an essay about Japanese poetry titled: “Poems that Decode Japan’s Intellectual DNA: The Ambassador’s choice”.
Talk about some of your books if possible, upcoming, favourite?
We are still very much in an early phase of our development and what we hope will be a long adventurous journey as an independent publisher so we aren’t really ready yet to talk about our greatest hits.
What was your background in the book industry before this venture?
Prior to setting up Red Circle Authors I worked for Kyodo News as well as the international journal of science Nature and the international publisher Macmillan; holding various roles in London, New York and Tokyo.