The rise of eco-fiction. An interview with Ashland Creek Press Editor and Co-Founder, John Yunker.
July 6, 2014
BENNETT: Tell us about Ashland Creek Press. What kinds of books do you publish?
YUNKER: We focus largely on books with environmental and/or animal themes.
BENNETT: How/where does Ashland Creek Press fit in the current publishing revolution?
YUNKER: We’re playing an important role in bringing eco-literature, particularly fiction, to the world. There is no shortage of nonfiction that deals with the challenges this planet faces, but we believe that fiction has a critical role to play in not only reflecting culture but changing it for the better.
BENNETT: Can I find all of Ashland Creek’s offerings on Amazon and can I get the books in e-reader formats?
YUNKER: Absolutely. Our books are available on Amazon, IndieBound, and by request from any local bookstore. And we also support all eBook formats – via Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo.
BENNETT: How do you like to work with authors and literary agents?
YUNKER: We work with literary agents as well as directly with authors. Right now, we’re temporarily closed to unagented submissions because we are currently sponsoring The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Writing (www.siskiyouprize.com), through September 30, 2014. The winner will receive publication and $1,000. The final judge is the award-winning author Karen Joy Fowler.
BENNETT: What are some Ashland Creek Press accomplishments you’re most proud of?
Yunker: We’re proud of all our books, naturally! But I should mention that The Names of Things by John Colman Wood was a Chautauqua Prize finalist – we were the only small press to make the list of finalists. And the short story collection Survival Skills by Jean Ryan was a Lambda Award finalist in the general fiction category. A number of our novels have also been adopted by university courses, such as The Dragon Keeper by Mindy Mejia and The Balance of Fragile Things by Olivia Chadha.
BENNETT: In addition to being co-founder/editor at Ashland Creek Press, you’re also a successful author. How does your experience as an author inform your work as a publisher and editor?
YUNKER: Midge and I are both authors, and we think this makes us a better press because we are keenly aware of how challenging it is to stand out in a very crowded industry. There are more books published today than ever before, which can make it awfully humbling for authors. But we know what this is like ourselves and we try to keep our authors focused on the long view. Coming from both sides of the fence also, I think, helps us be better editors and author advocates in general.
BENNETT: What motivated you to write The Tourist Trail?
YUNKER: I traveled to Patagonia as part of a volunteer penguin census project. This brief experience, which forms the foundation for the novel, was life changing. At the time I was also closely following the work of the Sea Shepherd Society.
BENNETT: Describe the feedback you received.
YUNKER: Among the best feedback I received was from readers telling me the book taught them a lot about issues they didn’t know about—penguins, whaling, the state of the oceans. And readers also really want to see a sequel, and I’ve been working on one, though very slowly.
BENNETT: You’ve also written plays—tell us about that.
YUNKER: I’ve written two full-length plays so far, both dealing with animal rights issues: Sanctuary and Meat the Parents. A one-act that I recently completed will be published soon by the literary journal Mason’s Road and will be performed later this summer by the Studio Players in Lexington, Kentucky.
BENNETT: What new writing projects do you have in the works?
YUNKER: In addition to working on the sequel to The Tourist Trail, I’m also working on a new full-length play.
BENNETT: Tell us about EcoLit Books. How are EcoLit Books and Ashland Creek Press related?
YUNKER: Ashland Creek Press hosts the EcoLit Books website, and a few of our authors are also contributors. But we keep the site independent from Ashland Creek Press. Our goal is to raise awareness of the books in the environmental genre, regardless of where they originate.
BENNETT: Can you give us your take on the future of eco-literature? Is it already an established category? Are you seeing examples of “eco-thrillers” “eco-romance” “eco-mystery” etc., or is the landscape for eco-lit still taking shape?
YUNKER: Eco-literature has been a critical part of our culture for hundreds of years, though it may not have been labeled as such. Examples would include Moby-Dick and The Jungle. But “eco-literature” is becoming a more commonly recognized term, which is great to see. Now we just have to get bookstores and Amazon to create eco-lit sections!
BENNETT: Tell us about your audience. What kinds of people are attracted to Eco-literature?
YUNKER: Because eco-literature cuts across all genres, the audience also varies widely, which is nice to see. There is often an assumption that only liberal, urban-dwellers are interested in these types of books, but we’ve found that people of all political persuasions and backgrounds are interested in these topics. And this is, in part, why we look at works across all genres, from young adult literature to eco-mysteries to literary fiction. What’s most important is that first and foremost these books tell great stories.
Co-founder, Editor, Ashland Creek Press
John has a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a master’s degree from Boston University. In addition to being an analyst and consultant in the technology industry, he has worked for several publishing companies and is experienced in publishing books in a variety of e-formats.
In addition to his novel, The Tourist Trail, John authored the first book devoted to the emerging field of web globalization, Beyond Borders: Web Globalization Strategies, and has been interviewed by the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, and BusinessWeek. He is a regular speaker at industry conferences and is also a fellow with the Society for New Communications Research.
John's background in film and screenwriting have followed him into book marketing and typewriter preservation