Tolkien Gateway

Interviews/David Brawn (4-16-07)

The below article is of a chat session with David Brawn on April 16th, 2007. The content should be preserved and not altered save for aesthetic reasons.

<David_Brawn> Hello everyone. Good grief, there are a lot of you!!!
<Beren> Welcome David Brawn
<David_Brawn> Thanks
<Beren> Sorry all chatters i muted the channel
<Beren> to be able to do a Q&A with David Brawn
<Beren> we will reopen the chat after the Q&A
<Beren> You can PM me to ask questions!
<Beren> Welcome David Brawn
<Beren> it is a pleasure you could make some time for us!
<David_Brawn> Hello. (Who he? everyone asks!
<Hyarion|school> For those who don't know who David Brawn is, firstly shame on you, and secondly, he is the Publishing Director of HarperCollins
<Beren> How does it feel to know that you've read certain Tolkien texts before the fans were allowed to?
<David_Brawn> I've been at HarperCollins for 20 years, the last 12 publishing Tolkien, plus some other authoprs estates.
<David_Brawn> It's a great honour reading the texts first. And I have a great editor, hris Smith, who actually is much more knowledgeable about the texts than I am.
<David_Brawn> Chris Smith
<David_Brawn> My typing's terrible!
<Hyarion|school> Ah, 20 years is quite a long time, what was your first Tolkien project?
<Hyarion|school> Ah don't worry, in a chatroom, typing is always less than perfect :)
<David_Brawn> Good question! I think it was The Map of the Hobbit by John Howe. And Peoples of Middle-earth. And the infamous calendar with the upside-down picture. All were around that time.
<Hyarion|school> ah, very cool.
<Hyarion|school> Do you have a favorite project that you've worked on?
<David_Brawn> Illustrated Hobbit by Alan Lee.
<Hyarion|school> Anything particular that made it close to your heart?
<David_Brawn> It was the first one I had the idea for and commissioned. And the idea of the pencil drawings, which has been replicated in CoH.
<Hyarion|school> The pencil drawings are something I love!
<David_Brawn> They are brilliant, and show Alan at his most relaxed best.
<Beren> will there appear a portfolio of those? they are indeed very lovely.
<David_Brawn> The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook has been very successful, and we certainly have ambitions for a Hobbit one at some point. But Alan's been busy...
<Beren> Did you expect the skecthbook to do so well?
<David_Brawn> It rather uniquely enabled us to dovetail the book illustrations with the movie art, which was noce. Originally it wasn't going to have movie stuff, but Alan wanted to put some in and was able to thanks to his agreement with New Line. And he did some new bits and pieces
<Beren> let us go back to the beginning... did you work together with rayner Unwin?
<David_Brawn> Rayner had retired, but was still working in an advisory capacity. I met him for lunch in pretty much my first week, and he used to attend our meeting with the Estate right up until he died.
<Beren> Did you change a lot on the way of publishing Tolkien
<Beren> compared to Rayner Uwnwin?
<David_Brawn> The list had undergone a bit of a renaissance thanks to the acquisition of Unwin Hyman by HarperCollins, followed by the Centenary. But it had quietened down, and my predecessor had to leave because her husband was suddenly very ill. My brief was to try to make some more money!!!
<Beren> Here is a question of Halion (on of the guests pm's): do you think JRRT would have been happy with how your company has handled the publishing?
<David_Brawn> Interesting question. Like so much of what we do, if we only could phone him and ask him, life would be simpler. Instead we have to follow our instincts, and thanks to Christopher and the rest of the Estate, we have to guess what JRRT would have thought. But I don't think we've done anything especially objectionable.
<Beren> How is it to work with the estate?
<David_Brawn> They are very supportive. I've learnt over the years that a softly-softly approach works. Having Rayner Unwin's support was valuable, as they trusted him - he said at our last meeting how impressed he was by what we had achieved, things GA&E could never have managed, and that counted for a lot. And now Chris and I have been around long enough, I think, to be able to judge it fairly well.
<Beren> Yes you truly must have patience... when i hear how long some authors delay a book
<Beren> thinking of Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's
<Beren> Companion and Guide
<Beren> and the book of our previous guest
<Beren> John D. rateliff
<Beren> How you manage all these ongoing projects?
<David_Brawn> Works like the Companion and Guide and The History of the Hobbit are true labours of love and really fine scholarship and research. Unlike most publishing these days, they cannot be rushed, so a lot of what I do actually is fend off my own bosses rather than the Estate in ensuring these books are as good as possible and that we are not hijacked by publishing timetables
<David_Brawn> I work on Tolkien, C.S.Lewis and Agatha Christie, plus a few much smaller projects, so I'm able to devote a fair amount of time to these things. As CoH shows, when the big books come along, they can really make the headlines.
<Beren> Are you yourself a Tolkien fan?
<Hyarion> For those just joining us, we are speaking with the Publishing Director of HarperCollins, David Brawn, who handles the publications of J.R.R. Tolkien's works.
<David_Brawn> I am now! When I got the job, I hadn't read any, except for The Hobbit as a child. Like so many, my impression of what he Lord of the Rings represented was coloured by some misunderstanding about the genre, and the scary nature of such a fat book!
<Hyarion> Always nice to see a fan is the one working with the publisher and not someone who doesn't care about the works.
<Beren> Are there any plans to release other unpublished Tolkien materials in the future?
<David_Brawn> We all care a great deal. But I got the job precisely because I wasn't a fan. The Managing Director wanted someone who could be objective and make commercial decsions as well as empathise with the Estate.
<Hyarion> That is probably a good business decision, I think most of us in here would publish just about anything with the Tolkien name on it :)
<Beren> Can you describe your job, as in: what do you do on a daily basis?
<David_Brawn> The Children of Hurin is possibly the last time we'll see something that is as significant in terms of unpublished material. The History of the Hobbit contains a very big chunk of unpublished material, so after that, I'm not sure what is left.
<David_Brawn> On a daily basis it can feel that all I do is deal with e-mails and queries. Much of what I do is reactive. But it includes legal issues, permissions, marketing of any new books, looking at foreign language deals and approvals - it's a very broad job compared to other publishing directors, many of whom spend their time scouting around for new books.
<Hyarion> It must be a very interesting job.
<Hyarion> How do you feel the reviews for The Children of Húrin have been thus far?
<David_Brawn> It became much broader thanks to the films. I got to travel a lot and broaden my skills into film publishing. Narnia is doing that now, too.
<David_Brawn> The reviews have been positive. So much of what we've seen has been speculative, such as a diary piece headed "Let Sleeping Hobbit Lie" a few weeks ago. Completely unfair! But apart from a bit of a stinker in yesterday's Sunday Times (after a glowing article int he same paper a week ago), it's not bad at all. But they're only reviews. It's what you all think that really counts!
<Hyarion> My thoughts exactly, it may not be something a random person can pick up and love, but it's something a Tolkien fan can read through a 1,000 times and never become bored.
<Hyarion> Do you have any known plans for future editions of the book? Someone asks if there are plans for a "super deluxe edition"?
<David_Brawn> Exactly. This book is not going to turn a non-Tolkien fan into a fan, I don't think, but it should open a window for more casual fans on to a wider world, that of the First Age. I certainly wanted to have another crack at The Silmarillion after reading this - suddenly the prospect was less daunting.
<Beren> Do you think that The Children of H?rin will alter public perception of Tolkien's work as a whole, and if so, how?
<Hyarion> Beren, let's slow down, don't want to ask him too many questions at once :p
<David_Brawn> I think it will be nice to have something with a higher profile, so say that Tolkien's didnt just write stories about Hobbits. But as above, I think it's true value will be to broaden everyone's horizons about his writing. We want it to supplant The Silmarillion as the "third book".
<Beren> Will a Deluxe Edition of The Silmarillion be released any time in the future to match that of The Hobbit Anniversary Edition, The Lord of the Rings 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition and the upcoming The Children of H?rin Deluxe Edition?
<David_Brawn> We're still thinking about it. The print run for the deluxe has grown, and if it does well over then next week or so, I think it's quite possible we'll do a Silmarillion. It may be next year though rather than this year for the birthday, as I am nervous about piling on too many expensive editions in one year as some fans can't afford them all.
<Hyarion> That is great news indeed
<Beren> so also no special hobbit this year?
<David_Brawn> We are re-releasing the hardback edition with a reworked cover, going back to the original painting, which has previously been recoloured in garish tones. It should have a couple of extra features not in the previous hardback, but the deluxe edition will still be the most lavish in terms of content, complete with the 50th anniversary intro by CT.
<Hyarion> That should make a lot of fans happy.
<Turin> enlightening Q&A session, David_Brawn :)
<RJaroszewski> Beren: Get a second channel set where people can deposit their questions. That way you should get less double-questions.
<Turin> oh there's more? cool
<Hyarion> David_Brawn, how much time do you think you have left to spend with us?
<Hyarion> so many questions, unfortunately there is no way we'll be able to get to them all
<David_Brawn> OK. I'm good for about 10 minutes. Then Security kick me out of the HarperCollins building to lock up!
<Hyarion> ah, hehe
<Hyarion> okay let's see
<Earendilyon> perhaps Mr Brawn would be so kind to answer the other questions later in a personal mail to Hyarion and/or Beren?
<David_Brawn> Thnk I wanna be here all night... ;-)
<Marcel_Buelles> It would be great to have you here all night :)
<Hyarion> Earendilyon, yes, we'll definitely see if we can work something out.
<David_Brawn> And yes, I can answer emails that can be posted later.
<Earendilyon> D_Brawn: just hide under your desk :D
<Eru_PT> I have a question... can I do it?
<Sothaeros> You've opened the floodgates there, David
<Beruthiel> or, maybe visit us here at your leisure?
<David_Brawn> Can do. I'm at Waterstones in Piccadilly most of Tuesday for the UK release eevnt.
<Eru_PT> HAd HArper Collins accept since the beginning the idea of publishe the CoH?
<Hyarion> David_Brawn, that should definitely be a fun event. Is there anyone here going to be attending the Waterstones event?
<David_Brawn> Absolutely. Christopher actually wanted ourt opinion as to whether it was good enough (!), but we loved it!
<Eru_PT> Since when do you know Christopher Tolkien?
<Hyarion> Is there many books that have to be turned down that relate to Tolkien?
<Beren> When did Christopher first propose to do the Children of Hurin? And how was the date picked? Does the 17th of April has any connection?
<David_Brawn> The spin-off stuff. People send us good ideas about Middle-eath encyclopaedias etc., but we have to be careful not to get carried away by our enthusiasm. The Estate is keen to ensure only bona fide Tolkien material is represented - it's tempting for authors to invent or speculate on material Tolkien himself did not intend. The film books are a separate strand, so more leeway is allowed there.
<Hyarion> Gotcha
<David_Brawn> For CoH, we wanted to publish during the London Book Fair, because of the international appeal. Originally it was March, but the Fauir moved dates, so we had to. It's publishing in eight languages tomorrow, with another 20 in the pipeline over the next year.
<Eru_PT> Do you have one copy of every Tolkien book that you published? :)
<Hyarion> I know a lot of the international fans are excited it's a world wide release, most don't have to wait months or years for their edition to come out
<Beruthiel> can't wait till my HC copy of COH arrives next week. :)
<Sil> is Hungarian among those other 20? *is hopeful*
<David_Brawn> I knew about CoH 12 years ago - there was a file then. But Christopher only complete it in February two years ago, and then took anotehr year to craft his intro and appendices, and we used that time to get Alan Lee on board.
<David_Brawn> Hungarian was agreed in the last couple of weeks, I think.
<Beruthiel> wow, 12 years, impressive
<Akhorahil> What about a Norwegian translation?
<Melianna> David_Brawn, what are the names of illustrators besides Alan Lee, John Howe and maybe Ted Nasmith that you cooperate with?
<David_Brawn> Yes, Norstets are publishing that.
<Tinfang_Warble> Yes Sil, Húrin gyermekei.
<Earendilyon> translations suck, anyway ;)
<Marcel_Buelles> Germans are very happy about the translation - thx a bundle!
<Akhorahil> Norstets, isn' that a Swedish publishing house?
<Sil> wow, that's good news, we didn't have an official word about that.
<David_Brawn> Alan Lee and John Howe are our favourites. We keep looking for more, but no one comes close. Ted is brilliant, of course, but we've not had much opportunity to do much with him of late.
<Sil> which publisher will it be? Europa or Szukits?
<Tinfang_Warble> Norwegian: Húrins barn. Tiden Norsk Forlag is the publishing house I thought...
<Eru_PT> Mr. Brawn, just for curiosity: Do you have one copy of every Tolkien book that you published? :)
<Akhorahil> Sounds about right (the Norwegian with Tiden)
<David_Brawn> Oh, I've got my Scandinavian publishers mixed up again, have I? But anyway, definitely a Norwegian one coming.
<Johan> I think the Norwegian translator is online here
<Marcel_Buelles> Ask Nils :)
<Tinfang_Warble> Ha, he is indeed!
<Nils_Ivar> Indeed I am. :)
<Beren> for info on translations!
<David_Brawn> Oh, how embarrassing.
<Akhorahil> haha
<David_Brawn> I have most of what I published in my office. But people 'borrow' them and sometimes I can;t replace them.
<Marcel_Buelles> Could you explain to us how much leeway national publishers have in translating books/ doing their own publications on Tolkien?
<Hyarion> David_Brawn, I must say I love the new, after the release will there be many updates to it or is this going to be something we can look to frequently?
<Akhorahil> Just leafing through the Silmarillion again here (in Norwegian for the first time in a while)...good translation work, Nils
<Sil> OK, but this is new, that there WILL be a Hungarian one.
<Mithrennaith> I don't think we have the Dutch translator online, but I read a preliminary version, and so has Johan, I understand. I heard he had some comments yesterday but unfortunately I wasn't there.
<Nils_Ivar> Many thanks, Akhorahil. But let's not distract attention from what David has to say.
<Mithrennaith> I second Marcels question, by the way
<Johan> We will talk about the Dutch translation later, Mithrennaith
<David_Brawn> The Estate has the right of approval over translations, but they rarely have to exercise it. We have such established links with the publishers overseas that the quality control is really good. They always get the best people they can for the job. We're more circumspect about local spin-offs - there are some less than brilliant books on Elvish in different countries, for example, which I know irritate certain people...
<Mithrennaith> Good, Johan!
<David_Brawn> The man with the keys is coming. (He used to have a gun, but now he has a mobile phone ;-) ) Any last questions?
<merpdotcom-afk> ciao for now
<Marcel_Buelles> Thank you so very much for being here. Great chat!
<Beren> thank you so much for coming by
<Hyarion> Thank you a million times over for taking the time out of your busy schedule to spend some time with us David, it's been fantastic
<Beren> it was a big pleasure! good luck the coming days in London
<Johan> and for staying so lon at work
<Eru_PT> well, one last question: in few words, how can you describe the CoH?
<David_Brawn> I've enjoyed this. Good practice fro my two-fingered speed typing!
<Mithrennaith> thanks indeed, it was a great pleasure hearing from you!
<Hyarion> This Release Party would not have been anywhere as successful had it not been for Mr. Brawn
<Sothaeros> Hope all goes well at the launch!
<Stevnhoved> Thanks a lot!
<Melianna> Thanks you lot :)
<David_Brawn> CoH - it's a big story in a small book. And yes, it's dark, but it's going to shed new light on Tolkien for the fans. And I hope they like it.
<Sothaeros> hantanye
<Sothaeros> Quenya -thank you
<David_Brawn> Now you're showing off!
<Sothaeros> Thanks for your time, David
<Eru_PT> well, i don't have any questions! I just can say: thank you! Hantalë!
<Marcel_Buelles> Aure entuluva! Tomorrow! :)
<luinil> Cheers! Thanks so much you've been wonderful
<Earendilyon> D_Brawn: I hope you'll be able to answer the other questions Hyarion and Beren have in store for you!
<Hyarion> We will be posting this transcript on and for those who missed anything.
<Orome> grazie, italian thank you! ;-)
<Thomas> thank you so much
<David_Brawn> Thanks you too. And well done on the on-line launch party. It's really impressive. I'll attend to some more questions, if they'd like to send them to me.
<David_Brawn> Bye now.