Q&A with Sam Tranum and Lois Kapila, editors of Love on the Road 2015

We spoke to the talented duo Sam Tranum and Lois Kapila, who answered some questions about their joint venture as co-editors of Love on the Road 2015.  


1.     How many submissions did you read through to select the twelve that were published?

We spent three months collecting submissions from all over the world. Getting submissions from the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand was pretty easy, since there are forums in all those places, on and offline, which feature calls for submission. But we also reached out to writers in other countries that have lots of English speakers, emailing invitations to writing groups in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Pakistan, among other places. Then we spent a couple of months reading all the submissions, which was a lot of fun. 


2.     Since you were working together, did you ever disagree about which should make it into the final twelve or were your decisions relatively unanimous throughout the process?

We kept our opinions more or less to ourselves until the end, and then we compared the lists we’d made of stories we really wanted in the book. The stories we’d each independently picked immediately made the final list. Then we negotiated over the rest of them. It took a while. We got so many high-quality entries that there were dozens we thought could have made it, but we just didn’t have room for all of them, and we wanted the right kind of mix of stories. The negotiations were pretty civil, though. No punches were thrown, no one had to sleep on the couch.


3.     For each of you, which was your favorite and why?

We love all of our stories equally. Each one takes you to such a different place: the meet-cute on the streets of Zimbabwe; the classic American road-trip replayed with a Jewish patient and his black orderly; the encounter between a withdrawn war veteran and his beautiful neighbour in Iran; the odyssey of the young couple from Malawi searching for a better future; the reunion between a woman and her old flame, who has lost the use of his legs.  We won’t list them all, but you get the idea.


4.     During the editing process, did you find it hard to collaborate with twelve different authors?

It’s been fun getting to know all these great writers all over the world a little through this process. They’ve been professional and helpful and easy to collaborate with. Sure, working with twelve authors instead of one takes a few more emails, but it’s worth. 


5.     This is the second time you have held this competition; do you anticipate this becoming an annual competition?

You know, when we started this project, we thought it would be something we’d do once a year — that’s why we put the year in the title of the first one: Love on the Road 2013. But it turned out to be a lot more work than we anticipated, and grew and spread and kind of took over the entire year. Putting out the call for submissions, cataloguing all the submissions, reading all the submissions, getting back to all the authors, assembling the manuscript, editing it, publishing it, doing publicity. So it turned out that doing it every year was a little ambitious. Every two years is a bit better, actually. So that’s why volume two is Love on the Road 2015.

6.     This contains so many different settings, backgrounds, and storylines. Have you found that readers appreciate the diversity of this collection, since it should appeal to a very broad spectrum of readers?

To be honest, this is really a personal project that’s gone public. We didn’t think about how to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.  

We started the project when we were living in India, working at a newspaper, kind of immersed in all the problems of the city and the country and the world – as you are, when you work in news. And an Indian friend of ours was telling us about how he used to hang around the tourist district in Delhi, trying to pick up ‘white girls’, and about some of the things that happened to him along the way. And we thought it would be fun to put together an anthology of stories about people making connections while traveling, stories from all sorts of different perspectives, rather than the usual Eat Pray Love angle. We thought it would be a nice change, something a bit lighter and happier than our day jobs.

So, since then, we’ve just been doing this the way we wanted to, picking the stories we liked, and hoping other people would like them too — which, luckily, they have.    

7.     Are any of the stories more controversial than others? And if so, did it affect your decisions in editing/publishing it?

Sure, some of the stories are more disturbing and darker than others. But we didn’t think about putting them aside because of that. If anything, they went closer to the top of the pile; we probably shouldn’t dwell too much on what that says about us, I guess.

8.     Only one of the stories selected was a true story. Is there a different editing process for stories that aren’t fictitious, since they might be more sensitive than a fictional story?

We didn’t want to limit writers to fact or to fiction. We figure a good story’s a good story, fact or fiction. But there was only one true story in the last collection and there’s only one true story in this collection. Sometimes it seems like writers of nonfiction spend most of their energy trying to get their facts right, and less on telling their tale well.

You can find more information about the book or order it from our website here!