ALU Summer Book Club: Intro to Yaga

This summer’s book club theme is of the supernatural crime thriller variety: last month we read the Indigenous crime thriller Humane by Anna Marie Sewell (Stonehouse Publishing); this month we’re sleuthing the genre-bending comedic fairy tale meets thrilling whodunit Yaga by Kat Sandler. Today we chat with Playwrights Canada Press Publisher Annie Gibson about the book: “I love that the answer to the mystery seems simple, but you’ll never quite guess the ending.”

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Book club with us and get 15% off Yaga until August 31!

From Dungeons & Dragons, to Castlevania, to John Wick, many are familiar with the fearsome character of the Baba Yaga, a witch who famously lives in a mobile house (on chicken legs, naturally). Her story has traditionally been a villain’s one: we hear about Baba Yaga’s exploits through her “victims,” frequently the men in her taloned-house’s crosshairs. In Yaga, Kat Sandler’s award-winning play, Baba Yaga is finally allowed to tell her own story. What ensues is equal parts hilarious and introspective, giving voice to this troubled character and letting her stand on her own two legs.

Y (clicking begins a PDF download) and then buy your own copy here on All Lit Up for 15% off (or find a copy from your local indie using our Shop Local finder). Read on for our interview with Publisher Annie Gibson.

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Interview with Publisher Annie Gibson

All Lit Up: Playwrights Canada Press has published several of Kat Sandler’s plays. What first drew you to her work? Why was Yaga a must-publish for the press?

Annie Gibson: I just love the way Kat draws you in with comedy then reveals so much more underneath. This was true of Punch Up, the first book by Kat that we published, and is especially true of Yaga. I remember seeing the play for the first time, before even reading the script, and chuckling softly through the second scene where Kat reveals the power dynamics at play between the characters, and how those subtly shift as the characters get to know each other, or as one character thinks they’re in control. And the dialogue! Kat writes excellent dialogue that pulls you in—you want to read the next line right away. The word I’d use to describe Yaga is “delicious” —I want to savour every part of it from beginning to end.

ALU: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process behind publishing a play?

AG: Much of the substantive editorial work on a play is done during the production process. The actors and director will work with the writer in rehearsals to shape the play into the best possible version for audiences to watch. And what a cast this play had to help get it in shape! Kat Sandler was also the director of the premiere production of Yaga so was able to see how her writing came through wearing the director’s hat.

Once we get the script at Playwrights Canada Press we’re mainly checking to make sure there are no inconsistencies and that things are spelled correctly! But we’ll also work with the playwright to make sure what they’ve written is coming across to a reader in the way they intended. The way an actor interprets something can be very different from someone sitting down to the read the script and we want to make sure we’re serving both.

ALU: Playwrights Canada Press is known for producing some downright gorgeous books and Yaga is no exception. How did the press approach the cover design? 

AG: We asked Leah Renihan—who did an awesome job designing Kat’s earlier play Mustard—to design the cover after discussing the general direction with Kat. Her notes were really helpful—she was circling around the idea of a neon sign, the shape of a chicken coop, and big impact: sexy, dark, and modern. Being a director, Kat knows how to provide good detail to a designer to explain her vision. Leah came back with seven different possible directions and we all liked the one that became the final cover! It was refined from the original idea and really works for the play—it’s got the tone just right. We like working with our authors to make sure they’re happy with the cover design of their books.

ALU: What can readers look forward to in Yaga? What do you find most compelling about the play?

AG: This question is super hard to answer without giving anything away! But I will say this is a play that builds momentum as it goes. It starts with a slow burn then grows in intensity until it explodes at the end. There’s a mystery so you’re following the detectives as they unravel what’s happened in this small-ish town where everyone knows each other, and everyone’s keeping secrets. Add in the legend of Baba Yaga, but make her sexy and smart, and you’re in for a wild ride! I love that the answer to the mystery seems simple, but you’ll never quite guess the ending. As you’re reading the book, you’ll keep thinking you know how it ends but know you’re not quite right. It’s really satisfying!

ALU: Did anything surprising happen on the way to publication? Any anecdotes you want to share?

AG: There was a pandemic? That was surprising! The book was originally scheduled for publication in the fall of 2020 and was delayed until the spring of 2023. We’re happy to get it out this year so we can share it with others!

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Thanks to Annie for answering our questions! Get Yaga here on All Lit Up for 15% off, all summer long.

Keep on top of all summer book club happenings here.