Hi, welcome to my blog. Here I post up short essays on literary matters, sometimes a review or an interview. I review regularly for The Herald and am the author of Between the Sheets: The Literary Liaisons of Nine 20th Century Women Writers (Overlook, 2010), The Picnic (Black and White, 2007) and Unfashioned Creatures (Saraband, 2013). I'm currently finishing a novel about Victorian Madeleine Smith, and researching a book about literary murderesses.
The Friday Slot - senior editor at Soho Press, Juliet Grames
I first met Juliet earlier this year when I went over to New York to promote the paperback of Between the Sheets. But I felt I already knew her really well, as she was the editor who'd worked with me on that book, when she was with Overlook Press. I'd worked with an editor on my previous book, The Picnic, but this was a whole different experience! Juliet was incredibly thorough, absolutely nothing got by her, and I got used to emails popping up at midnight asking for corrections to be done by, er, yesterday...she also calmed me down when I thought the proof cover was the final version (cue hysterics that she dealt with ever-so-calmly), got excited with me when I uncovered the odd bit of new info, and really cared what I was writing about.
She's now a senior editor with Soho Press (www.sohopress.com) and she's an incredibly smart, hard-working person who loves what she does, exactly the kind of person that publishing needs. If publishing can keep hold of people like her, it should be able to ride out the kind of storms so many are predicting are heading its way. I can only hope that one day we get to work together again.
So - over to Juliet now:
LM: What's the
hardest part of your job as an editor? What's the easiest?
JG: For me, at least, being an editor is a really emotional job. You
know that you love your books to death, but you can't always force the rest of
the world to love them and/or to buy them. The persuading process can be
exhausting, especially if you're a easily excitable person like myself. The
payoff, however, is The Best Thing Ever.
The easiest part is easy--I get to spend all day doing what I'd probably be
doing anyway even if no one would pay me to do it.
LM: Recently in the
UK newspaper, The Independent, its
literary editor Boyd Tonkin, suggested that editors, among others, are
increasingly needed as the 'gatekeepers' against the morass of literature
available on the Internet. Do you feel that way about your job? Do you think
editors are as valued as they should be, or that you're part of a dying breed?
JG: I completely agree with Boyd Tonkin! There was a little dip there
where everyone was panicking about self-publishing and the sustainability of
the publishing industry, but I'm not worried about that at all. Editors will
always be needed, in both their roles: as a) gatekeepers, who can select and
point to new projects that will appeal to an existing market, and b) book
shapers. I feel very valued in my job--I know I'm very lucky to be this happy
in a position, but I'm hope a lot of other editors would say they felt the
same. Are we a dying breed? Not if I can help it--I think it's a privilege to
be able to work with authors on their art, and there are rewarding and
responsible ways to be of utmost value in that role, and I'm an evangelist of
that way of life to all the young-to-publishing folks I have the opportunity of
working with. So if we are a dying breed, we're also regenerating ourselves.
LM: You're an
editor who's worked on both non-fiction books and fiction. Is one necessarily
more demanding than the other?
JG: Fiction and nonfiction are demanding in completely different
ways--for nonfiction, you have to be very rigorous in pursuing the truth and
supporting data of every word laid down on the page. For fiction, on the other
hand, there are no parameters for how vigorous you should be, and the index for
determining a successful edit (and a successful book) are much more amorphous,
which instills a sense of insecurity (have I edited enough? have I edited too
much? have I struck the correct balance between letting the author's voice
shine through and eliminating infelicities?).
LM: Finally, a
chance to plug some of the writers you're working with! Tell me who we should
be looking out for.
JG: Oo! I have a bunch of great mysteries coming up this fall. I can't
play favorites, since I'm so emotional about my books (c.f. above!). You can
read more about them at sohopress.com. But I will tell you a Danish
thriller we published last year, The Boy
in the Suitcase, just made it back onto the New York Times bestseller list
this week! It's really terrific--it was a NYT Notable Book of the Year and has
been nominated for the Strand and Barry Awards.