On the Spiral Staircase with Katherine McGuire

Posted by Quirk Books Staff

Katherine McGuire has overseen subsidiary rights at Quirk for a little more than five years. What are subsidiary rights? Well, Quirk is really good at publishing books, and we're good at publishing them in English. But if it's not a book or it's not in English, but it's still based on something we published here at Quirk, Kate's in charge of building the partnerships that make it happen. That means she's got dozens of deals in progress on any given day with foreign-language publishers, Hollywood studios, audiobook producers, even apparel companies. She just returned from the Frankfurt Book Fair to meet with translation rights agents and acquiring editors from over 30 different countries, her book Stuff Every Vegetarian Should Know is out now, and she once snuck a gift-wrapped durian into a company holiday party to sow chaos.


If you were stranded on Mars and could only have one book to read, what would it be?

Given that Mars is a pretty desolate place and I'd do well to get comfortable with emptiness and sitting around with myself, what better time to dig into the writing of meditation teachers like Chögyam Trungpa? If it'll get someone through a 3-year cloistered meditation retreat in the mountains, it'll get me through a sojourn on Mars! I'm not a super-advanced meditator, so I'd probably stick with a semi-accessible classic like Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior or Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.


Tell us about something cool you keep at your desk.

I'm surrounded by a changing pile of foreign-language editions of Quirk books, which I love seeing come in from our foreign partners! Right now I have a Turkish copy of WONDER WOMEN, a Korean copy of HORRORSTOR, a Chinese copy of THE WORST CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK, a Japanese copy of PRINCESSES BEHAVING BADLY, and WARREN THE 13TH in Czech, Spanish, and Slovak all on display.

I've got plenty of other odds and ends decorating my office, including a small collection of ceramic lucky cats, a quilted loon-print wall hanging I won in a 5K race (ed: Kate's loon call is infamous here in the halls of Quirk), some sort of potted tropical tree I dragged in off a neighborhood trash pile years ago, the harshest fortune I've ever seen emerge from a fortune cookie…

Oh, and my mini-kitchen: a rice cooker, plus jars of rice, lentils, and crispy pre-fried red onions from the Vietnamese market so I can have fresh mojaddarah every afternoon for about 25 cents, decked out with whatever fresh veggies I can grab at the farmer's market on the block!



What's your fandom?

My very first fandom as a little kid was the Redwall books by Brian Jacques, and as much as I enjoyed the heroism and adventure, I think it was the banquet scenes that really got me! I've been a sucker for good food writing ever since and have more cookbooks and food essays than could ever fit on my kitchen shelves. With all due respect to our fearless leader Brett Cohen's vodka and bacon fandoms, I'm totally a kombucha and tofu fan…but I can still eat an entire plate of nachos in one sitting and drink you under the table. I'll turn up for any riot grrrl band, and and I love to catch broadcasts of major marathons, though I don't root for any one runner in particular. As far as I'm concerned, if you're a finisher, you're a winner. As for screen-based fandoms, I've watched most of Fellini's movies more than once and have a soft spot for his critically-panned Orchestra Rehearsal, and I also stuck with Downton Abbey even through the bummer seasons. I'm also something of a nerd for dictionaries, linguistics, and lexicography… okay, enough so that I have an old dictionary publisher's colophon tattooed on my arm.


What's an unexpected talent or side effect you've picked up while working at Quirk?

From working with so many international publishers, I can recognize the phrase for "publishing house," "books," or "book company" in about 20 languages, even if I can't read or otherwise speak the language. Verlag, yayinlari, nakladelstvi, forlaget, vydatelstvo, éditions, libri, shobo, kiado, 出版社… also, I somehow ended up writing Stuff Every Vegetarian Should Know, a little book about living fabulously without eating animals, though if you'd asked me five years ago, I would have never said that I thought of myself as the sort of person who "has a book in me!"


If you were a Quirk book, which one would you be?

I like tinkering, and I love a good adventure, so the Nick and Tesla series, absolutely.