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Write On! Interviews: Dialogue Books Founder Sharmaine Lovegrove

Write On! interviews Dialogue Books Founder Sharmaine Lovegrove. The interviewer is Iole Dexter. Originally printed in Issue 19 of Write On! magazine. 

Dialogue Books: Abundance Comes In Many Forms
(c) Robert Rieger

Dialogue founder, Sharmaine Lovegrove, is a force. Everyone who meets her feels it, and I’m no different. We discussed – and at times reframed – questions about identity, belonging, and how good book publishing should expand on the abundance of perspectives and voices our multicultural society affords us.

What Is Dialogue?

Dialogue Books was founded by Sharmaine in 2009 as an English language bookshop in Berlin, just a year after moving there from London. Three iterations later, it became an imprint of Little, Brown. Now on its fourth as Dialogue, it’s a division of publishing giant Hachette.

Refreshingly candid about her success, Sharmaine explains:

“In some ways, becoming a division isn’t as big as evolving from a bookshop to an imprint. However, my responsibilities are dramatically different. For example, how we financially contribute to Hachette and how we look at budgets is crucial. We’ve also launched Renegade Books, our new commercial imprint led by Christina Demosthenous, as part of this continuing evolution.”

In light of a decade of successes, which includes the publication of The Secret Diaries Of Charles Ignatius Sancho, by our Issue 19 cover star Paterson Joseph, this feels like it’s just the beginning. Having officially become a division in January, Dialogue will now be publishing near 50 titles, up from just 12 a year. But, as Sharmaine reminds me, this isn’t without its challenges, either.

The Reality Of Publishing ‘Marginalised’ Voices

Sharmaine rethinks and rejects what is ‘mainstream’ and what is ‘marginalised’. For her, it’s far more important to look at what, or rather who, is deciding this.

“I’m a black queer woman. Why am I minoritised or marginalised? That’s not how I feel or how I live in the world. What I’m aware of is structures. Structural racism and structural inequality where, because of empire and history, people aren’t given opportunities. The ownership of people and the oppression of people, that’s where we’re really coming from with this.”

Sharmaine and I agree that the word ‘marginalised’ doesn’t make logical sense. Why are people who speak multiple languages, have lived in different countries and know a range of food, history, music, styles and cultures seen as being on the margins? Sharmaine also raises the question of why someone with more is being told they are less, wondering aloud who is doing the telling.

What Sharmaine sees is abundance. An abundance of knowledge, languages, stories and experience. Sharmaine’s approach is therefore to: “Doggedly advocate for people who are marginalised, but to also be clear that we are part of wider society and the mainstream.” She adds: “It always surprises me that people look at what’s different, rather than what’s inclusive.”

“I’m from the world,” Sharmaine tells me. And you can feel it. Her eloquence, her vigour and way of thinking so broadly yet simply about the structures we live in, is rooted in her life experience and her commitment to discovering the voices and experiences of others.

What One Book Should Everyone Read?

“The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. It does a lot. The fact it’s so intersectional is incredible. It’s about the human journey; that’s what I love about it.”

What Can We Expect In The Future?

Sharmaine is setting up an advisory board of individuals from a range of sectors some time this year. She tells me she’s not proscriptive about how this will look, but believes having lots of different types of people who love literature will help develop new ways of thinking and engaging with wider audiences.

Also, on the horizon, an incredible 45 books await us this year. These include Swift River by Essie J. Chambers, which Sharmaine describes as the lovechild of The Vanishing Half and Where The Crawdads Sing; Shanghailanders by Juli Min, thought of as doing for Shanghai what James Joyce did for Dublin, and Winter Animals by Ashani Lewis, described as White Lotus meets The Secret History. 

Sharmaine has undoubtedly shaped the landscape of book publishing, making it a diverse space filled with fresh voices and stories for everyone: “That’s where we find common ground and humanity.”

The narratives Dialogue publishes invite us to look beneath the layers and treat people as individuals. “I am speaking an absolute truth,” is Sharmaine’s final rejoinder and I absolutely believe her.


You can purchase books, see what’s coming up and find out more about Dialogue on their website:

Connect with Dialogue Books on Facebook: @DialoguePublishing and on Instagram: @dialoguePublishing

Connect with Iole Dexter on Instagram: @iolewrites


Issue 19 of Write On! is out now and you can read it online here. Find it in libraries and other outlets. You can find previous editions of our magazines here

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It always surprises me that people look at what’s different rather than what’s inclusive.