Monday, February 25, 2013

February Features: My Lovely Editor!

I know that many of you readers are eagerly pursuing the creative writing life and hoping to some day step into the wild, weird, wonderful world of publication. So I thought, as part of these February Features, to introduce you to a slightly different side of professional fiction.

And my lovely editor, Rochelle Gloege, has agreed to do an interview!

I have been working with Rochelle since Heartless first sold. She has been an invaluable help getting my books to the very best possible level of polish before they go to print. She has an excellent eye for details, a great sense of pacing, not to mention boundless supplies of grace and encouragement . . . all necessary skills for a good editor. I have loved working with her for every manuscript and learned so much from her experience!

So please give her a warm welcome, and be certain to leave comments thanking her for her time. (Editors work under crazy schedules, so I was thrilled she managed to squeeze an interview in!)


Welcome, Rochelle! I'm so thrilled to have you here today on the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! First of all, please tells us a little about yourself! What hobbies do you enjoy? Favorite music? Tea or coffee? Big or little family? Any pets?

Rochelle: Well, if you’re sure your readers really wish to hear about me… I’m an editor, after all, and so naturally less fascinating to the public than an author!

You’ll scarcely be surprised to learn that reading is one of my favorite hobbies. I also enjoy cooking, gardening, spending time with my family and friends, hiking, cross-country skiing, and traveling, though I don’t get to do a lot of the latter right now. As for music, I listen to a wide variety of genres—Over the Rhine and Storyhill have been longtime favorite bands—but if I were forced to pick one album today, I’d choose Gungor’s Ghosts Upon the Earth.

Tea is my drink: a blend of Assam and Ceylon in the morning and jasmine green pearls in the afternoon. If I’m really tired and need to be on alert, I’ll drink a latte with a little honey.

My husband and I have two inquisitive elementary-age children, a girl and a boy, to keep us on our toes. And our fifteen-year-old long-haired dachshund keeps a watchful eye on all of us!

Can you tell us a little about your work? What is the job description of a line editor, exactly?

Rochelle: My actual title is senior fiction editor, and I’ve always thought substantive editor or content editor better describe my job than line editor, since I often work with authors from before the time they have a manuscript. Once the author submits a partial or complete draft, I comment on the big-picture items of character development, plot, viewpoint, structure, pacing—all of the elements that give a story its life and dimension. It’s my job to stand-in as the intended audience and alert authors to both strengths (which I hope they build on) and potential weaknesses, things that might stand in the way of the story they want to tell.

Only after an author revises the manuscript do I begin the finer, more detail-oriented work people frequently associate with line editing: editing for clarity and author intent (what does the author mean?), continuity (within a book and, when it applies, a series), coherence, and conciseness. Since I edit fiction, the emphasis on brevity varies more than it might with nonfiction; some genres simply require more detail, and not every author is meant to be as spare a writer as Hemingway! Generally I leave questions of grammar and fact checking to the copy editor, though of course I tend to those items as well when I notice them. It’s unwise to assume someone else will catch a mistake!

Ultimately, my goal as an editor is to help authors write their best possible stories, and I pray for wisdom in that task. Readers should only notice the work I do insofar as they don’t notice my editing at all; a good editor doesn’t leave tracks.

When did you decide that a career in publishing was for you? How did you get started?

After my freshman year, I did an unpaid internship at the publisher where I now work. I loved books, and the idea that I might be able to make a living by working with them was energizing. I tailored my major (communications with a concentration in writing) to the end goal of getting a job in publishing and took coursework in everything from writing (creative, essay, journalistic, ad writing, technical) to English literature, philosophy, logic, theology, and art and music history. I even took a course focused on the Chicago Manual of Style, the style Bible for most book publishers.

Were you a bookworm growing up? What were some of your favorite books?

Absolutely I was a bookworm! I read whenever I could, and I read aloud to whomever would listen—my four younger siblings provided a usually willing (I hope!) audience. Because we lived twenty miles from the nearest library during many of my growing-up years, I read whatever I could get my hands on, and I reread my favorite books multiple times. The genres I found myself most drawn to were mystery and fantasy, and the books I returned to most often were those by Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as Watership Down, The Secret Garden, and The Little House books, which I found surprisingly easy to relate to, being I lived on the edge of a big woods!

How did you end up working for Bethany House? Did you work other editing positions before the one you have now?

My initial internship was invaluable in exposing me to many aspects of the editorial process: For eighteen months, I evaluated fiction and nonfiction manuscripts for their publishing potential, proofread, and entered editors’ corrections (some substantive or line editors still edited only on paper in those days, something almost unthinkable now!). That last aspect gave me a window into the true nature of an editors’ work—it was extremely helpful to see the choices respected editors had made and consider why they might have made them. After that, I put in my time, working for a publisher of nonfiction self-help books and then a publisher of gift books, moving further up the ladder of responsibility with each position. Nearly twenty years ago, Bethany House hired me to edit their young adult and children’s books, and eventually I became the editorial director of that area of their publishing line. I missed working more directly with manuscripts, however; for the past ten years, my focus has been on editing fiction for adults.

What sorts of skills do you think benefit someone wanting to become a fiction editor?

Read widely and deeply; take a closer look to find out what makes books work or not. Good reading involves thinking, and an observant eye and a good memory are key! It’s also vital to be able to communicate well and tactfully: You are working with people who have (hopefully) poured their heart and soul into their manuscript, and it’s important to respect and be sensitive to that while also upholding the standards of the publishing house one represents. The editorial process isn’t meant to be adversarial but to enhance an author’s gifts and story. Editors should also be flexible, since no two manuscripts or authors—or publishing houses—are alike. A background in diplomacy wouldn’t be amiss!

Of course there are some majors that are more obvious fits for an editorial career: English, journalism, or communications are always wise choices, but depending on what one is editing, a more specialized major such as theology might be just as useful or even expected.

Any of advice or encouragement to those out there who might like to pursue a career in publishing?

If you can secure an internship to get some practical hands-on experience in what the real-world business is like, do it! Publishing is definitely in a state of evolution right now as people migrate from brick-and-mortar bookstores to alternative sales channels, and from printed text to digital formats—there are more books available than ever, yet also fewer traditional publishers. Find creative, proactive ways to make yourself stand out from other would-be editors; gain experience wherever you can find it. While your heart may be with fiction, remember that all kinds of writing can benefit from editing and can be used as a starting point.

Can you break down for us what your basic work on a single manuscript might look like?

What my work looks like necessarily varies from book to book, which is one reason why I enjoy my job! The more time and thought an author has been able to put into a manuscript, the less there is for me to do. (You, Anne Elisabeth, are a case in point!) But the editorial process itself follows a set pattern: I (and often at least one other editor) read the draft and comment on it, the author does revisions, and then I begin the hands-on process of actually editing manuscript. Typically I read through a manuscript twice at this stage; once the surprises of the initial read are past, I can really see what is there and what still might need refining. After that, the manuscript goes to the copy editor and then on to the author for another look. It’s also my role to address any queries the copy editor, author, and subsequent proofreaders might have, as well as to shepherd the book through the typesetting process all the way through to the digital text proofs that arrive from the printer. One thing is certain: I will see a book many times and in many forms before it goes to press!

When you read for pleasure and not for the job, which authors do you find yourself turning to?

With two elementary-age children, my free time looks different than it used to, and I’m thoroughly enjoying this stage of life. I’m rereading many childhood favorites to my children; it’s so much fun to see them drawn in by the stories I loved at their age. My daughter shares my bookworm tendencies and often asks me to read books that have especially resonated with her so that we can talk about them. How can I resist? As a result, I currently read a lot of middle-grade and young adult fiction. Some particular standouts have been Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks series, When You Reach Me, and So B. It. Terry Prachett’s Dodger awaits me on my bedside table, as does Katherine Boo’s All the Beautiful Forevers and Todd Boss’s Pitch (yeah, poetry—nothing else quite like it to cut to the essence of something). I like to mix up genres—keeps me thinking!

Any final thoughts with which you'd like to leave my readers?

Whether you are a writer, editor, or reader, be thoughtful and engaged in the process, and invest your gifts as fully as you are able. As 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “…whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” You won’t regret it!

What a fabulous interview! I learned a lot from reading that, and I hope all of you did as well. As you can all see, Rochelle is a woman after our own hearts . . .
Are any of you interested in pursuing the editing side of fiction? Do tell!


Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the interview, Rochelle! I've been contemplating whether or not to become an editor, and your interview was definitely enlightening! One thing I struggle with is the idea of having to live in a big city in order to be close to a publishing house; I'm a country girl at heart.


Lauren said...

Awesome interview, Rochelle! I really enjoyed it. As a senior in college, and one of only two English majors, I'm interested in any kind of career that might fit my major. Thanks for the tips!

Like Beka, though, I'm a country girl!

Unknown said...

I really appreciate your words of wisdom, Rochelle! Thank you for taking the times to share your wonderful tips with us.
Take care and blessings! :)

Meredith said...

Mrs. Rochelle:

I learned a great deal from your outstanding interview. Thank you so very much. You referenced the ever-changing book industry. What are your feelings regarding this fact? Do you like holding a hardcopy book and turning the pages, or do you prefer reading digital material? What are some of the challenges that you've encountered in the publishing industry? More positively, what are your favorite stages of the editing process?
I have always wanted to pursue editing, and now that there are screen readers and more technological advances than ever before, I think the profession of editing is becoming easier for those with visual impairments to enter. The main challenge is the need to actually look at words on a page. I say all this only to ask if those called "content editors" mainly review the stories rather than focus primarily on the general visual appeal of the book? I do not know if this makes sense, but I ask only to insure that publishers are aware of the job possibilities for those with disabilities.

Thank you once again. God bless you.

J. L. Mbewe said...

Thanks for sharing this interview with us! It helps to put a human face to the other side of publishing :-) I like the fact that editors exist to help us write our best, to bring out the stories we're trying to tell. I have so many blind spots when it comes to writing and editing, having editors and others to help reveal them is much needed.

I have thought about pursuing the editing side of fiction, down the road perhaps.

Thanks for taking the time for the interview.

Faith King said...

Thanks for taking the time to participate in this interview, Rochelle. I really enjoyed reading your comments. :-)

Molly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Molly said...

I love all these interviews!!

Hannah said...

This is a really great interview. I hadn't realized until recently how interesting an editor's job is. Thank you SO much for taking the time to share about yourself and your work!

Anonymous said...

Wow what an interesting interview! I like the behind the scenes editor that many readers don't really think about me (at least me anyway)! I'm usually too excited about just having the book in my hands that I forget the writing and editing that initially went into the book (if that makes sense!)!