Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Behind the Books, with Dundurn Press President Kirk Howard

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Kirk Howard

We love to talk to writers about their processes and inspirations, but it's easy to forget once you're curled up reading that it takes a village to create a great book, from design and publicity to sales reps and production managers.

In our Behind the Books series, we talk to the many unsung heroes of book publishing, from editors and marketers to booksellers and digital strategists. Today we're thrilled to speak with Kirk Howard, a man who has shepherded hundreds of great Canadian books to publication since founding Dundurn Press in 1972, a feat for which he was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. He was inspired to start and run Dundurn after hearing a speech by iconic Canadian publisher Jack McClelland.

Kirk tells us what a typical day looks like for the President of a Canadian publishing house, the importance of making Canadian history vibrant and accessible to readers and what books are currently on his own nightstand.

Open Book:

How long have you been at your current job?

Kirk Howard:

Over forty years.

OB:

How would you describe Dundurn's publishing aesthetic?

Kirk Howard:

Dundurn’s motto is “Canadian authors telling Canadian stories,” and that statement accurately reflects our publishing mandate. We always strive to highlight the best writing this country has to offer, and to make engaging Canadian fiction and non-fiction (especially history) accessible to readers at home and abroad.

OB:

What does an average work day look like for you?

KH:

An average day typically involves reviewing sales, responding to emails from authors, meeting with our publishing board to discuss new acquisitions, and otherwise managing the company. I also frequently meet with authors and participate in industry events.

OB:

What's the best thing about your job?

KH:

Seeing a finished book and knowing how much creative work has gone into it.

OB:

Tell us about a memorable work experience in book publishing.

KH:

I was recently a guest of Their Excellencies David and Sharon Johnston at Rideau Hall for three nights. Dundurn recently published Matrons and Madams, the debut novel by Sharon Johnston, and I had the opportunity to join Her Excellency in Ottawa in support of the book’s launch.

OB:

When you were a kid, what was your dream job?

KH:

I’d have to say working on a newspaper, which I did in high school and in college.

OB:

What book or books could be found on your nightstand right now?

KH:

Fighting to Lose: How the German Secret Intelligence Service Helped the Allies Win the Second World War by John Bryden and Waterloo: Four Days that Changed Europe’s Destiny by Tim Clayton.

Vist the Open Book Archives for more Behind The Books interviews.

2 comments

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I really enjoyed the interview of Kirk Howard, but found myself asking for more. I'm sure there is far more to a "typical day" in the life of the president of a Canadian publishing house.

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