A Q&A with Our Founding Publisher

What inspired you to start Atticus Books?

Atticus is the perfect example of an untrained creative writer being disillusioned by the mysterious world of literary publishing. Over the years I had failed to submit my random writings to journals and publishing houses mostly because I was undisciplined and had such a tough time finding my niche and following rules. If I had a chance to rename the press, I’d call it the Island of Misfit Toys.

My primary goal initially was to encourage writers to persist with their dream of being heard. I didn’t much know what I was doing until I started doing it. Once word got out and submissions rolled in at an alarming rate, I realized that I had nicked an artery. I’ve been bandaging bodies ever since. Atticus is like one of those urgent medical centers. We consider treating all drop-ins—and we’re good enough to get the job done, but we’re ill-equipped to handle complex cases and major calamities.

I guess what most inspired me was the desire to help writers whose confidence had been shaken by the conformity of the vacuous establishment find a home.

When and how did you get it started?

Atticus began to take shape in early 2010 after I attended a small press book fair in New York City. I had intended to open a bookstore/publishing house in the DC metro area, but I didn’t have an appetite for sure bankruptcy. So instead of risking my family’s well being on a brick & mortar retail operation, I left a solid corporate job with an aerospace society to try my hand at running an underground indie press. An unconventional and perhaps deranged move, yes, but I had the support of a loving wife whose job allowed me the luxury of pursuing an offbeat career path while being at home for our tween daughter.  

What made you think to name your press Atticus Books? Does the name have some special significance?

The Harper Lee character Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird), of course, had the biggest influence on my decision. Our tagline—“Where Distinct Voices Become Legend”—speaks to the press’s main objective of identifying narratives with memorable main characters. However, the name initially rose from an old sign I had stumbled upon at an antique co-op in Leesburg, Virginia. As I starting developing the mission of the press, I soon learned that Atticus Books had been the name of a used bookstore in DC, co-owned by publisher and writer Richard Peabody (Paycock Press/Gargoyle Magazine) and Lucinda Ebersole. After reading their reason for naming their store (namely, inspired by the writer, publisher, and bookseller Atticus, Titus Pomponius), I was sold. 

I know that just because a press is ‘small,’ it doesn’t mean it is short-staffed. How many people make up the Atticus Books team?

The Atticus Books team has evolved from a handful of full-time paid staff to a rotating host of unpaid interns, third-party vendors, and independent contractors. Atticus relies on the steady contributions of talented peers such as David McNamara (sunnyoutside press) and Adam Robinson (Publishing Genius) for interior composition, artists Nuno Moreira, Yevgenia Nayberg, and Jamie Keenan for cover design, Itasca Books for distribution and fulfillment, and Bookmobile for short-run printing.

Atticus Review, our house’s weekly online journal, is made up of a dozen volunteer editors and writers whose dedication and loyalty to indie lit are fierce. Christopher Linforth recently took on the duties of editor-in-chief and leads a passionate staff led by managing editor Keene Short, fiction editor Michelle Ross, poetry editor Michael Meyerhofer, creative nonfiction editor Rachel Laverdiere, and mixed media editor Matt Mullins.

Do you believe the works published by Atticus Books make a statement about literature, what it can or should accomplish? If so, what statement?

Our collection of “genre-busting” fiction titles speaks to the sheer breadth of wildly imaginative writers yet to be discovered. Novels, novellas, short story and flash fiction collections, hybrid memoirs, retellings of classics and parables—all written by people with something unique and pertinent to say about being human. One hundred years from now, if civilization is so lucky, people will still be reading works by these writers and understanding how much their narratives reflect the nature of men, women, and life in modern society.