Cheryl Robson, founder of Aurora Metro Publishing, is a producer/director of several short independent films, most recently ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Island’ which was nominated for Best Short Film at Raindance, London 2015. She worked at the BBC for several years and then taught filmmaking at the University of Westminster, before setting up a theatre company. She founded Aurora Metro 25 years ago and the company has published over 150 international writers. As a writer, she has won the Croydon Warehouse International Playwriting Competition, and as an editor, she recently worked with Gabrielle Kelly on Celluloid Ceiling: Women Film Directors Breaking Through, the first global overview of women film directors.
Are your parents great readers?
My mother still is a great reader and I remember reading just about everything in my school library aged ten.
Did you want to become a publisher from the start?
I worked in TV for several years then ran a theatre company before trying publishing. I am also a writer and filmmaker − publishing has the advantage of being able to move deadlines back on projects.
Has your vision from when you started Aurora Metro Publishing 25 Years ago changed?
Yes, we have broadened our range considerably from women’s work and drama to fiction, non-fiction and YA fiction with authors from all over the world. But we do run a competition every two years for women novelists called ‘The Virginia Prize for Fiction’ so we are still keen to promote new female voices.
How do you balance originality and profitability publishing general-interest rather than educational or technical books?
Originality and profitability don’t always go hand in hand. Publishing fiction is like playing the lottery, you never know what will be successful. Non-fiction seems to be more predictable in terms of sales.
Your views on writing?
A distinctive voice and a fine story well-told are key. Pace is important too along with great characters who change or gain some wisdom.
What makes you decide to publish one writer, and not another?
A combination of factors − an accomplished work, a willingness to do some self-promotion, good timing, zeitgeist.
Your views on marketing?
Essential to market every book, both traditionally and via social media. We also try and get our authors into literary festivals and have had authors talking in festivals from Glasgow to Singapore to Melbourne in the last year. The narrow range of books reviewed by the national press is frustrating but becoming less important.
How do you deal with your colleagues − are you very involved, or do you just let them get on with it?
As I spend a lot of time abroad they mostly get on with it. But they do need to be energised and motivated from time to time to get behind a project.
How do you relax?
I go to the south of France and sit by the sea with a glass of something chilled.
Your chief characteristic?
Your chief fault?
Your bedside reading?
Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Your favourite prose author?
Your favourite poet/playwright?
Your favourite heroes?
Hamlet, Atticus Finch, Gregor Samsa, Gatsby.
Your favourite heroines?
Anna Karenina, Katniss Everdene, Lisbeth Salander, Alice.
Your greatest achievements?
Two grown-up daughters. Winning a Gourmand Special Jury Prize for Peace with author Robin Soans for The Arab-Israeli Cookbook. And having my film ‘Rock n Roll Island’ nominated at Raindance Festival, London.
Your favourite motto?
Read the BookBlast review of Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema, Melody Bridges & Cheryl Robson (Eds.)
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