First Encounters: Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen

‘Being around her made me more brave’

 Sara Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sara Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 01:00

Sarah Davis-Goff was a publisher’s intern when she found and championed Donal Ryan’s best sell er , ‘The Spinning Heart’. She grew up in Swords, Co Dublin, went to college in New Mexico and has an MA in publishing . She and Lisa Coen set up Tramp Press last year and will publish their first book – ‘Flight’ by Oona Frawley – in April. She lives in Dublin 8


Lisa and I were both interns at Lilliput Press but I was there before her. I was absolutely sure I’d be the best intern Lilliput had ever had. I tried to get in before the boss, leave after the boss left. After that I worked with Dalkey Archive Press and came back to Lilliput as office manager. Then this Lisa Coen character came along and I knew immediately that I was no longer in the running to be Lilliput’s best intern. She was immediately, terrifyingly brilliant.

I should have been disgruntled but she made my job as office manager a lot easier; once I got over my jealousy we became friends. We bonded over books – we both love literary fiction but we’re also big sci fi readers, quite nerdy. We both love Game of Thrones and I grew up devouring Stephen King novels.

We got along really well, started talking about having our own publishing company. It started off as a bit of a joke: we’d say, well , when we’re running our own office this is what it will be like . . . and then one day we weren’t really joking any more. We left with the blessing of Anthony Farrell [Lilliput’s founder], he’s our mentor.

Lisa and I were planning Tramp before Donal Ryan’s success. Things were moving at least a year before his book took off – but I couldn’t have planned it better, we got really lucky. No one deserves his success more – he’s a brilliant writer and a gorgeous person; he’s working on something with us at the moment. But I’ve been given far too much credit for his success, my part in it was very small.

Tramp Press is interested in brilliant fiction, literary or genre, we’re not snobby at all. We don’t have an office, although we have a desk in Fumbally Exchange. We both quite often work from home, chat via Facebook and email, talk every day. We get many hundreds of manuscripts. I really love the slush pile.

I grew up in Swords, was in boarding school from about the age of seven, at Headfort School in Kells, then in St Columba’s.

I was talking to my aunt Annabel [Davis-Goff, an Irish writer who lives in the US]; her daughter had been thinking about going to this liberal arts college, St John’s in Santa Fe. She didn’t go, but I loved it. Eventually I did an MA in publishing.

Lisa’s great fun to talk to: we’ll be sitting down having brunch some Sunday morning, she’ll be talking 19 to the dozen about some book she’s reading, she’s incredibly articulate.

There’s no one better at giving a compliment, she’ll pick out something beautiful to say at a moment when you need it. She’s a lovely friend.

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