This is another post where we revisit alumni we have profiled in the past, as a way of looking at how careers evolve. In this case we follow-up with Evan Munday, who we last profiled in 2014, when he had been nominated for an award for his children’s series, The Dead Kid Detective Agency, which features episodes from Canadian history. His life has definitely changed! Thanks to Evan for participating.
JLH: It’s been six years since we chatted with you last; how has your career progressed?
EM: I’ve stuck with the whole book publishing thing. There are now two additional books in my Dead Kid Detective Agency series (Loyalist to a Fault and Connect the Scotts). I did a stint as festival director at The Word On the Street Toronto festival, and – for over two years – I’ve worked as Publicity Manager on books for young readers at Penguin Random House Canada. I’m still in the book publicity business, but have moved to a larger publishing house, and has focused on kids’ books: from picture books to young adult.
JLH: Is this a direction you anticipated? Was it a logical move, or did it just feel organic?
EM: It wasn’t one I had anticipated, but since I was writing kids’ books on the side, it did make a fair amount of sense. I was working within that children’s publishing sphere as an author, so the hiring folks at Penguin Random House – reasonably – felt I might do an okay job handling some publicity in that sphere, as well. That said, after the festival job, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to continue working in book publicity – it can be physically and emotionally draining, as fun as it sometimes is – but the kids’ book world presented new challenges.
JLH: Was there a steep learning curve? What do you wish you’d known beforehand?
EM: Publicity for children’s books, as you can imagine, can be very different from adult books. There are different media contacts and venues, different types of events, so there was a lot to learn. I had experienced some of these things as an author, though, so I wasn’t starting from scratch. That said, I wish I’d known how big the YA festival circuit is in the U.S. Canada has book festivals with YA programming, but only about one dedicated YA festival. But south of the border, there are a whole number of large festivals – often taking over massive high schools for a weekend – featuring the biggest names in young adult fiction. That was something of a revelation to me.
JLH: How has it been balancing your identity as a writer with your position in publishing? Do you find there are perks as a writer to being publishing?
EM: That’s hard to say as I haven’t written all that much since taking up this current position – though that has little to do with the work. More importantly, I recently became a father, which means that writing books has taken a bit of a backseat. (Sleep has somehow become more coveted than writing time.) That said, I wrote all my previous books while working full time in publishing, so it’s just a matter of setting aside some time for my own writing. Sometimes, there’s a temptation to act as your own publicist for your books – after all, you know what to do, right? But I try to make sure I’m supporting my great publicist at ECW Press, and doing what I can without stepping on anyone’s toes. Of course, there are perks to being a writer who knows how the other side of the ‘curtain’ works: you know who to suggest your publicist send books to, you know (to some degree) what works in promoting books and what’s largely a waste of time. I would say the greatest advantage is that it gives you realistic expectations about writing. If an author doesn’t know how publishing works, they may not realize how few books are reviewed in media, how difficult it is for your book to wind up on a table in a bookstore. Having realistic expectations can make everything a more pleasant, less stressful experience.
JLH: Finally, because I do like to ask, what are you reading for fun?
EM: Probably not the answer you’re expecting, but I am finally reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I’ve listened to the Kate Bush song for years, so I figured now is time to hear what all this fuss is about! (It’s really great – a real page-turner! I don’t know why I waited so long.) But I can recommend few more recent books, as well. The Cursed Hermit, the second Hobtown Mystery Story by Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes, is one of the best, weirdest comic series in a long time. Like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew written by David Lynch and directed by Guy Maddin. And Andre Alexis’s Days by Moonlight is a wild, mind-altering road trip into rural Ontario unlike anything you’ve ever read. Finally, Amanda Leduc’s Disfigured looks at fairy and folktales (some you know well, some you’ve never heard of) through the lens of disability, and if you – like me – like nothing more than analyzing stories, figuring out what they’re telling us and why – you will love this book.