Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Evernight Editor Emma
To all of you aspiring author’s out there, have you ever wondered what goes down inside an editor’s mind? If so, do I have a treat for you today! Last week, I tracked down and kidnapped an editor. Tied her down to a chair, and made her talk. HAHA. No, actually, she willingly provided me with this information. So I give you, Evernight Publisher’s editor and author, Emma Shortt.
AR: As an editor, what is the first thing you look for in a manuscript? What are some things that make you love a story? What makes you hate/dislike a story?
ES: A great opening! Many editors make their minds up from the first few paragraphs and I’m no different. Don’t get me wrong I’ll read the first three chapters of whatever I get sent, but often, if the opening is poor, I find that the rest usually is as well. I’ve rarely come across a great submission that’s boring but gets better. It’s either fab from the start or not at all.
Authors who are on the ball know that the opening is their hook, and they’ll make sure it’s is a good one. You need to pull your reader in immediately, make them want to keep on turning the pages, feel excited about what’s to come. If I see that I’ll love it.
Yeah, sure it might dip a little in place after that amazing opening, but that sort of thing is fixable—it’s what we editors are for.
AR: So true, Emma. I personally give up on a book if the beginning is boring. What are some of the most common rookie mistakes first time authors make?
ES: Too much show not enough tell. So instead of showing us what is happening, they tell us. An example...
Angelina looked at the hot pink can. It reminded her of a time, many years ago when she didn’t like pinky drink. She couldn’t believe that time existed, after all she drunk gallons of the stuff now. It tasted so good, smooth on her tongue, sparky against her taste buds. In fact it reminded her of a time when... and on she goes with the tell...
Now for the show... Angelina looked at the hot pink can, before picking it up and taking a sip. The liquid was smooth against her tongue, and sent her taste buds into a frenzy. She squeezed the can in her hand, it glinted in the light, and she shook her head. Had there really been a time she didn’t like the taste?
That’s a bit crappy—sorry, I’m running on four hours sleep! But you get my drift yeah? Tell has its place for sure, but it has to be mixed in with some actual action. Rookies sometimes forget this fact. There’s nothing worse than three pages of back story in the form of tell, I’m like show me already!
AR: Showing and telling is a tricky lesson to learn at times. Thanks for giving examples. When reading for pleasure, do you ever find yourself editing the book?
ES: Yes! I wish I didn’t but it’s become par for the course. There are only a few books that I don’t mentally edit as I go, and these are such a pleasure to read. I find it very hard to lose myself in a book these days, and I really miss that.
AR: When I was editing my story for “Indecent Encounters”, I enjoyed the editor’s help so much I actually thanked her for editing my story. I feel like she made me into a better writer. Now, I can’t wait to work with her again on my next anthology entry. I see a lot of authors whose books you’ve edited publicly state their gratitude for your edits. How does that make you feel?
ES: It’s lovely to know the author is happy with you as an editor, it means you’ve done your job properly. I like to help my authors shine, and if I can give them advice and tips which will help with future work, then that’s just great.
I’ve become good friends with all my authors, and I still help promote them whenever I can.
AR: Now for the more controversial questions; I’ve heard of many cases where an author and an editor will not agree on certain changes. Has that ever happened to you and how do you handle that kind of a situation? If not, then how would you handle it if it happened to you?
ES: No it’s never happened to me, though that’s not to say it won’t!
I guess the most important thing to remember is that I would never suggest a change if I didn’t think it was going to make the story better. You’re my author, I want your book to do really well, I want you to sell thousands, and I’m trying to make you shine. I only make a suggestion if I think it will improve the story. If an author was set on not making a small change I’d probably let it pass, so long as it was not a grammar bad, or contributed zip to the story. If it was something big, something structural, I would need to refer back to the conditions of contract. Hopefully that will never happen, I like to build, and keep, good relationships with my authors—arguing over edits is not conducive to that.
AR: Have you ever had to edit a story you didn’t like? What do you do in a situation like that? Do you think it makes a difference as to how an editor edits a book if said editor doesn’t care for it?
ES: No, I don’t edit books I don’t like. This is why I only work with romance, and specific sub-genres within.
I think it would make a difference, how can you champion it if you’re not keen? And your editor should champion you.
I’ll give you an example... I was recently asked by another publisher (Not Evernight Publishing, who I do my main work with), to edit a book that I loathed from page one. It was just so far from anything I’d ever want to work with. I declined it immediately—the publisher was fine with that. But truthfully I’d rather have lost the prospect of more work from them, than do a half hearted job (because it would have been), on something I hated.
AR: There are a few big authors who are known for breaking the rules and pushing the limits on writing. One big example is VC Andrews with her incest stories. What is your opinion on breaking the rules? Are there any rules you wish some author would break?
ES: YES, YES, YES. Break them! Break them all!
One thing I just loathe is formulaic writing. This whole idea that stories (especially in romance) should follow a well laid out formula. Grrrrr! NO, NO, NO! Be brave, be different, write the story you want to write, not what you think you should. Readers are notoriously capricious creatures, they don’t know what they want, they don’t know what you can offer. So break those rules, write something fab, then send it to me, and we’ll get it to them.
AR: Are there any editorial rules you wish you could break?
ES: I’m very, very lucky to do the vast majority of my editing work with an amazing publisher, Evernight Publishing. The editorial process is very much, make the book shine. What needs to be done to get there is very much in my hands. I’ve never felt constricted in terms of what I can and can’t do—but then all my authors are fab anyway!
AR: If you could edit any author (and I mean ANY), who would it be?
ES: Kresley Cole, I never mentally edit her, she’s one of the few authors who pulls me totally in. And Philip Pullman who I just adore. His Dark Materials changed me as a writer.
ES: No, I think I’m at more of a disadvantage. Firstly people expect my work to be perfect, but it won’t be. I can’t edit myself like I would someone else. After so many months immersed in the work I can’t look at it with an unbiased eye, so it’ll have the same flaws as any author’s work. Second is the fact that I’m a little pressured in terms of sales. I can’t call myself a good editor if my own books don’t sell can I? So I put a lot of effort into marketing and such, which then eats into writing and editing time.
Then there are other things which miff me. I’ll give you an example... there are author only forums on the internet where editors are banned from going. I guess this is because they like to gossip without their eds and publishers listening in—which is all good, but I’m banned from them, even though there’s one I’d really, really like to join. Doesn’t matter that I’m an author too, I have the editor stamp so I’m not allowed. Another example, I can’t become a full member of the RWA, authors only, and as I’m an editor too I’m only allowed associate member.
So ummm, yeah, disadvantage!
AR: Wow, I never thought of it that way. When you receive a “yes” on a story, does the publisher still make you work with an editor? Do they point out things you didn’t notice?
ES: Of course. Like I said I can’t look on my own work with an unbiased eye, I need an editor as badly as anyone does.
AR: What are some self-editing tricks you use on your own writing?
ES: Once I’ve finished something I’ll send it to my Kindle, then I’ll wait a few days and read it. Seeing it laid out as an actual book throws up all sorts of issues. I’ll also read it aloud, that helps with stilted dialogue and such.
AR: That’s so cool, I do the same thing. Hearing your book out loud can make such a difference. When I read “The Valentine’s Fae” I couldn’t help but smile. It was such a feel-good story that you could read it over and over and not get sick of it. Is that what you planned to accomplish with the story?
ES: Blush, thank you! Yes, I wanted, I always want, to make my readers smile. Even when the story is a little dark I want the reader to feel good about it when they turn the final page.
I write about love because it is the most amazing of emotions. It can push us to the dizziest of heights, and plunge us to the lowest of lows. I want to convey that in my writing and I want the reader to feel that with me.
AR: You just signed a contract on another novel. Can you tell us more about it?
ES: I spent hours upon hours wandering around the Louvre last year, and whilst there I came across a piece that tugged something inside of me, Antonio Canova's statue, Psyche revived by Cupid’s kiss. I fell completely in love with it, and spent a significant amount of time plotting how I could get my hands on it! It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I came away from there (without undertaking an international heist) wanting to capture the image of it in a story. I needed to convey the idea of love locked in stone in some way, and so the The Kiss was born. You can find out more about the storyline here.
Whilst I was writing it I fantasized about a cover with Canova’s statue on, but I never imagined it would actually happen. When I saw the cover art for The Kiss I was blown away. It is, in my opinion, the most beautiful cover I have ever seen.
AR: Now that I know a little more about the book, I can’t wait to read it. If you could publish with any publishing house, no matter how big or small, which would it be?
ES: Harlequin, specifically the historical line. I adore Harlequin Historicals, and it is one of my overriding ambitions to get one of those purple books with my name on!
In terms of my paranormal work I am very, very happy with Evernight. The professionalism, the attention to detail--it's everything I want, and more, from a publishing house.
AR: Now onto the more personal questions. Romance is a very popular genre in books, movies, even music. What, in your opinion, makes a good real life romance?
ES: I’ve always been a big fan of romance, and I used to read these amazing books and yearn for something similar in my own life. Everyone wants to find someone they can fall head over heels with, man or woman, it’s a basic human need. I met my husband to be a while ago, and dear lord our romance has been like something out of a novel, ups, downs, tricky times—we’ve had it all. And now here we are, nearly a decade later, and I am as wildly in love with him as I’ve always been.
It’s those moments when you see each other after several hours apart, and your fingers touch, creating a little spark on one another’s skin. Or the butterflies when you’ve know you’re going to see each other. Or a shared moment of amusement in a crowded room just by looking at one another, and knowing what the other is thinking. It’s things like laying your head on his chest and feeling every single cell in your body relax with contentment, being enamored by the cadence of his voice, and the look in his eyes. It’s also, and I think this is very important, about finding pleasure in one another’s bodies. Sex can be fun, silly and exhilarating—but when you love the other person its also deep and meaningful.
Overall it’s about making each other happy to the best of your abilities, and being mindful how damn lucky you are to have found one another.
AR: That is so romantic! Do you like to travel? Where would be your dream place to live?
ES: I do, but funds do not allow it very often! I don’t like the actual act of travelling mind you, I hate the stress of it, but I like to see new places, and enjoy new experiences. Paris draws me back over and over again—and my idea of heaven is to have a little apartment there. Also my chap hails from Cyprus, and has a family home there, so at some point we’ll have to spend some time over there.
AR: You’re a mother. Many people say being a mother is one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs out there. Do you agree?
ES: It’s the most amazing thing I have ever done in my entire life. I adore my girls, they are the reason for everything I do.
Vix, my eldest (she’s sixteen), is my best friend. We can talk for hours, we like the same TV shows, the same music—even if she wasn’t my daughter I’d want her as a friend, we have such fun together. I’m constantly and continually amazed that she’s actually mine, she’s maturing into this lovely, sparky young woman, and I have to pinch myself sometimes.
Bear, my youngest (she’s eleven), and no I didn’t actually name her Bear, her actual name is Sarah, is the cutest thing in the whole darn world. I just want to hug her all day long. She has this amazing vocabulary, and a really mature wit—she makes this quips out of nowhere that have us all in stitches. Again, I’m amazed that I got so lucky to have two fantastic girls.
Difficult? No there’s nothing difficult about being a mom (excluding the massive financial outlay my girls demand), it’s massive fun. I’ve loved every second of it and loathe the fact that they’re growing up. My dream was always to have a house filled with kids—I got two, and I’m the luckiest woman alive to have been given them.
AR: Your kids sound great. What is the most valuable life lesson you ever learned?
ES: It all comes out in the wash. Yeah crappy stuff happens, yeah life can be a bitch, and some days can be hard, but you know what, it all evens out in the end.
AR: If you could give anyone any piece of advice about anything, what would it be?
ES: To always be yourself. Do not let anyone try to change the person you are, EVER. There is nothing more kickass than being you.
AR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
ES: It could go one of two ways.
Either I’ll be living in Paris, writing and editing my romance, and living on cupcakes—with my husband, and my two grown up princesses. Or I’ll be lucky enough to have some more children, will live in England, writing and editing my romance—with my husband, my two grown up princesses, and my new little ones.
I’ll feel very blessed whichever I get.
AR: Both sound really good and I wish you luck getting there. Also, good luck on selling your books.
ES: Thanks for having me along today Angelina
AR: Thanks for coming along Emma.
To buy "The Valentine's Fea", click here.