One thing that writers should keep in mind is the truth that sometimes publication really does boil down to timing.
Jorge Enrique Lage’s Freeway: La Movie, to be published by Deep Vellum in October, is a perfect example of the right book at the right time. It was introduced to us—as so many of the translations we publish are—by the book’s remarkable translator, Lourdes Molina. Upon my move to Dallas in 2013 to found Deep Vellum, Lourdes was one of the first people I met, as she was finishing up her PhD with the Center for Translation Studies at the University of Texas in Dallas. We kept in touch over the years, working on various literary endeavors together in Dallas and through Southern Methodist University, where Lourdes is now a senior lecturer. She first submitted a sample of Freeway to us in 2017, but the timing wasn’t right—for a million reasons that had absolutely nothing to do at all with how amazing the book is, how fantastic the translation was, or the value it would add to our list. That’s sort of how it is in small press publishing: There’s the right time—a tiny bit of the time—and then there’s all the rest of the time.
But we kept in touch with Lourdes about the project, and she sent us Freeway’s full translation in 2020, mid-pandemic. During that time I was able to read in full the remarkable work Lourdes had done bringing Lage’s playful, prophetic, and rewarding Spanish into an English translation that kept the inflections of Lage’s Cuban Spanish intact, bridging and dancing upon the tiny watery divide between our nations and languages in a way that was exactly what I needed to see, especially when looking at Deep Vellum’s list with its glaring omission at the time of any Cuban authors. We’d fallen in love with many other Cuban sci-fi writers over the years, including Yoss, published by our friends at Restless Books. So we knew American readers like us, and like Yoss’s readers, were hungry for the kind of adventurous literary sci-fi that Lage and Lourdes had put together.
Freeway was the right book, right translation, right author, and right translator at the right time for Deep Vellum. We reached out to Lage’s rights agents at the Indent Literary Agency to strike a deal, then struck a deal with Lourdes: The rest is literary history. I can’t wait for readers to enjoy the journey through a near-future Havana upon Lage and Lourdes’s Freeway.
At Deep Vellum we pride ourselves on the diversity of the authors on our list: who they are, where they’re from, the style of literary art they produce—the whole thing. As a nonprofit publisher, we’re always looking for what’s missing: what’s missing in the books coming out in the publishing industry, as well as what’s missing on our own list. As a small press, we can only do so much; but we can always do better!
—Will Evans, publisher, Deep Vellum