We had the good fortune of connecting with Chantelle Aimée Osman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chantelle Aimée, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?
Well, answering this question is kind of cheating for me, because I’m going to choose a book out of my own line, THE SOUTHLAND, by Johnny Shaw. Before this book, he was known for his novels that were noir…but with a humorous twist. THE SOUTHLAND was a departure for him, and a huge eye-opener for me. Johnny grew up on the Calexico/Mexicali border, and has a perspective on border issues that puts even someone (me) born and raised in Arizona to shame. The story centers around three women living in Los Angeles: Luz works multiple jobs to provide for herself and her teenage son Eliseo in Mexico, who she hopes to have join her someday. Nadia, a former journalist with PTSD, fled Mexico and tries to stay hidden from the dangerous men that she exposed in Sinaloa. Ostelinda works as a forced laborer in a garment factory, having been deceived by coyotes and imprisoned. When Eliseo comes to the states only to go missing, Luz is lost. One wrong move could get her deported, and she has no option but to investigate her son’s disappearance on her own—intersecting the three women’s lives. Seeing these issues on the news every day in Arizona doesn’t really prepare anyone for the personal impact. Reading Johnny’s book, you can see that these are not just stories, but individuals, and how terrible things could happen to anyone brave enough to reach for the American Dream.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m the editor of Agora Books, the first imprint of Polis Books, a NY publisher. I started working as a freelance editor in 2007, and was lucky enough to meet a couple of amazing authors, Michael A. Stackpole (of the prior page’s shoutout) and David Morrell (who wrote Rambo) who really helped launch my career by providing resources and recommendations—it’s truly amazing how much word of mouth can grow a business. I was able to set up my own shingle and make a living as a result. I also, through networking and conferences, got to know a lot of people—authors, editors, agents, publishers—in the industry. Fast forward to 2018, when I was talking with publisher (and author) Jason Pinter of Polis Books about the lack of diversity in the crime fiction genre, and thus Agora was born. We both felt that the crime/mystery genre has always existed to shine a light on society, and issues of justice, and a lot of voices doing just that were missing from the shelf. As a result, Agora focuses on crime fiction dealing with unique social and cultural issues. My first line, which debuted in September of 2019 has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony, Lefty, Macavity and Strand Critics awards, those and subsequent titles have been on multiple “best of” lists, as well as being featured in The New York Times, The New York Post, Entertainment Weekly, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. I, personally, had the honor to be named a 2020 Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree, for my work at Agora.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My number one place for out-of-town guests, or a night to celebrate is The Wrigley Mansion (wrigleymansion.com), not just because of their amazing mountain-top views, but because of their magnificent wine list and exceptional food—which, I’m happy to tell you is available for delivery during COVID-19. We’ve spent more than one holiday “with” them during lockdown! Another go-to is George & Sons (georgeandsonsasiancuisine.com) another locally-owned business, which has several locations in the valley. I love taking out-of-town guests here because the service is so wonderful—once you’ve been in they never forget your face, and make you feel like a celebrity! I’ve not had a chance to miss going there, either, because they are featuring take-out service only, and ensuring only the best safety regulations both from staff and people coming in to get their orders. If I’m venturing a little farther afield, House of Tricks in Tempe (houseoftricks.com) which features an award-winning menu which is unparalleled, in addition to amazing atmosphere. They are open for take-out right now, as well as very strictly monitored dine-in (and they have a lot of patio room). I am, however, looking forward to going in person to some new offerings once it’s safe to do so, a few of the places I’m looking at: ALMA – a solely women owned/operated business in the Scottsdale Seville (almascottsdale.com) SNOOZE (an a.m. eatery—snoozeeatery.com) and COLD BEERS & CHEESEBURGERS (cold beers.com), both in Pima Crossing.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’ve got to give it up for fellow Arizonans: Michael A. Stackpole (michaelastackpole.com)—a multiple New York Times bestselling author, who not only is a pillar of the Arizona (and national) writing community, but who was instrumental in my success as an editor. Dr. Jami Kupperman (icamclinic.com)—a dear friend, who, between her non-profit medical clinic, her clinic in Scottsdale, and her telemedicine practice, has kept many Arizonans safe during this volatile time. Amina Akhtar (aminaakhtar.work)—former fashion writer and editor, who has worked at Vogue, Elle, Style, New York Times, NYMag and more, whose debut novel #FashionVictim came out in 2018 and is now a proud resident of Cottonwood, AZ. She keeps me sane (well, relatively) and writing!