Today I have a Q&A with the editor as part of the blog tour for the paperback of the stunning The Waking Land by Callie Bates. I reviewed it last year, if you would like to read it you can find it here. I can’t recommend it enough. It was one of my favourite reads of 2017 and I can’t wait to read The Memory of Fire.
Can you tell us a little about the editing process?
Every editor goes about things slightly differently, but I normally start with a structural edit, then follow with a line edit. The structural edit focuses on the actual story, and aims to ensure the plot is believable and satisfying, the characters are well developed, the pacing is correct, and everything else works well together to make sure the story and the narrative are the best they can be. The line edit is more focused on the sentence level and makes sure that every sentence is achieving what it needs to, and that it flows well and reads correctly.
When both of these are completed, the book is then copy edited, which looks at consistency, and proofread, which fixes spelling, grammar, repeated or missing words and other similar errors. I prefer to have the latter two stages done by professional (and usually freelance) copyeditors and proofreaders, who are reading the book for the first time, as they are less likely to miss easy to overlook mistakes, which can be especially hard to see when you’re already familiar with the words.
Is editing a book harder if you’ve taken it on after the series has started?
I don’t know whether I would say it’s harder, but it definitely presents some different challenges. I think the most important part of editing a sequel is a deep knowledge of the previous book. To ensure that I have this, I always try to do a very in-depth read of the previous books (two reads if I can manage it!) just before I start working on the new one, and then make sure that I have copies nearby in case I need to check any facts. I also like to chat to the author about what their expectation are for the process and the type of changes that they made to the first, so that we’re as much on the same page as we can be about the process.
Do you have a favourite part of the book?
Ooh, there are so many parts that I could mention, but I don’t want to spoil anything. My favourite aspect of the book is that we get to see the world through Jahan’s eyes and learn more about who he is – he’s a great to read!
How did you get into editing?
I’ve always been a huge reader of SFF but I didn’t consider a job in publishing until I was finishing my degree in Psychology. I have a really strong memory of the decision because it was such a lightbulb moment. It was nearly the end of my final year and I was supposed to be writing my dissertation. I was struggling to concentrate because I was worrying about my next step and what sort of job I wanted, so, to distract myself, I decided to re-read Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (for about the 10th time). About 10 pages in, I suddenly thought ‘why don’t I do this?!’ Not writing – I’ve always felt that the most important thing about being a writer, alongside being hard working, is a strong desire to write, and I’ve never felt that – but have some part in bringing books like the ones I love into the world. It took a while to decide what area of SFF publishing I wanted to work in, so I applied for a masters in publishing to learn more about it and slowly realised that editing was where I fit best. The rest is history!
Can you give any advice to budding editors out there?
For people who want to get a job in publishing, the best advice I was ever given was to have patience (jobs in publishing don’t come around that often, and entry-level jobs in genre are even rarer) and to try and get involved with the world of SFF as much as possible. So, when I moved to London to do my Masters I tried really hard to integrate myself in the genre community. At first this was really scary, and I think it would be for a lot of bookish people – we aren’t typically very extroverted – but everyone was really welcoming and I quickly met a lot of like-minded people, many of whom are now my close friends. This network of people meant I got the chance to hear about what was going on in the community, get involved, learn from everyone and hear of job opportunities.
What drew you to The Memory of Fire?
I loved the magic in The Waking Land and I feel the same way about the magic in its sequel, The Memory of Fire. Both Elanna and Jahan have extremely conflicted feelings about their power due to growing up in societies that will punish anyone known to possess magic. If Elanna had grown up in her home kingdom, rather than being taken hostage in Eren, her powers would have been rejoiced, but instead they became just one more aspect of her life that she has to hide. Jahan also struggles to accept his power, as it links back to an extremely dark part of his childhood. I don’t want to go into too much spoiler-y detail, but the origin of Jahan’s power and the things he had to endure because of them are hard to read, but Callie pulled it off extremely well and it makes for great reading.
What was the most challenging part of editing The Memory of Fire?
As this series was first commissioned in the US by Anne Groell, the SFF editor at Random House, before I started working at Hodder, she is the lead editor for The Memory of Fire. Anne is a hugely respected SFF editor, who has edited some of the greats, such as Robin Hobb, Naomi Novik, Scott Lynch and someone called George R R Martin… perhaps you’ve heard of him? It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work with someone with such a wealth of experience and a great eye for talent.
This means that the bulk of the heavy lifting on the editing side is untaken in the US, but I am still responsible for the other aspects of an editor’s job in the UK – namely being the author’s champion within Hodder & Stoughton. I liaise with every department and ensure that everything runs smoothly, which can include everything from coordinating with marketing and publicity, to briefing covers, writing copy and preparing sales pitches. The most challenging aspect of this is probably the amount of multitasking it requires – the job is as much about project management as it is editing.
I hope you enjoyed today’s stop on the tour. If you haven’t already, do check out the other blogs and don’t forget tomorrows stop!