Excerpts from the interview:
“I didn’t make the usual progression from reader to fan to professional. I was never a fan; I was always the daughter of a pro. Not just any pro, since Don was a maverick and did a lot of things that were controversial. I first went to a convention when I was six, and the fantasy books I was most familiar with were the Oz books. My father read the entire Oz series (only the ones by Baum Don was a Baum purist because he felt the later writers were too cutesy) aloud to me, many times. So I came into this field as kind of a blank slate, and the first thing I saw was the writers and how they responded to my father. Many people loved him, and many feared him.”
“The high point of my childhood experience at conventions was Baycon 1968 in Oakland. I remember the excitement of it all sliding down the fire slides, the big eucalyptus forest behind the Claremont Hotel where we all necked with our convention boyfriends, the tournaments on the lawn.... And I remember at the age of 16 thinking, ‘No convention can ever be this wonderful again, so I should never go to another.’ Famous last words! But after that I really did feel I’d had enough. Both my father and mother had strong personalities, and in order to be strong myself I really had to spend most of my youth fighting against them to retain my individuality. It was a sink-or-swim situation. I think by the time I left for college, I was ready to go as far away in every possible sense as I could get. Fandom was so different then. The fervor with which people held their grudges, had their opinions, and fought with the people on the other side of the fence was all very familial in its rage. When I left fandom, I think it was like a rebellion against my family, since I associated fandom with my parents.”
“My father was genuinely self-motivated, not other-directed in any way, and he could never have achieved what he did if he cared what anybody else thought. So the fact that he was so difficult, so antisocial, helped make him as great as he was. The most obvious example is Tolkien. Today I meet people and frequently the only thing they know about my father is that he published the unauthorized Lord of the Rings. He was vilified for that, but what really happened from his point of view was interesting. When he called up Professor Tolkien in 1964 and asked if he could publish Lord of the Rings as Ace paperbacks, Tolkien said he would never allow his great works to appear in so ‘degenerate a form’ as the paperback book. Don was one of the fathers of the entire paperback industry, since before he spearheaded the Ace line he was the originating editor-in-chief of the Avon paperback list in 1945, so he took this personally. He was very offended. He did a little research and discovered a loophole in the copyright. Houghton Mifflin, Tolkien’s American hardcover publisher, had neglected to protect the work in the United States. So, incensed by Tolkien’s response, he realized that he could legally publish them and did.
“This brash action (which ultimately benefited his primary competitors) was really the Big Bang that founded the modern fantasy field, and only someone like my father could have done that. He did pay Tolkien, and he was responsible for making not only Tolkien but Ballantine Books extremely wealthy. He was bitter about that, and frankly that’s probably why he never got the Hugo he wanted. But if he hadn’t done it, who knows when or if those books would have been published in paperback? Tolkien died in 1973, and his son Christopher respected his father’s point of view. What would have happened to Lord of the Rings in terms of the public consciousness? And who knows what would have happened to the entire fantasy industry?”
“My father never really cared for fantasy, but by the early ’80s the fantasy market had become much larger than the science fiction market (with the exception of a few authors). His heart wasn’t really in publishing hardcovers either, so he made me the first hardcover editor at DAW while he was still alive. I put C.J. Cherryh in hardcover, and I should have done it years before should have put Downbelow Station in hardcover but it was a different world then.
“Now we probably have the longest books in the field, we spend more on cover art than any other company, and we edit aggressively and assertively. We’re also striving to make the packaging more sophisticated, although it’s hard because we don’t want to lose our core readership. But I’m finding that many middle-aged people still want to read fantasy and science fiction they just don’t want to be seen doing it! So one of the tricks of the trade is to make the books look a little more upscale.
“In some ways Sheila and I still have old-fashioned values as publishers. We own the company and we are extremely loyal to our authors. I think we recognize we are DAW: we’re like its mama bears, and we protect our company. We take everything personally, but we also love our authors and fight for our books with ferocity. We’re not a standard distributed list. Our arrangement with Penguin is more like a partnership. DAW owns every book contract, so Penguin can advise and we say, ‘We’ll think about it.’ We don’t have to do what they tell us. The company is ours, its reputation is ours, and we’re keen on maintaining that reputation.”