On a personal note, Shana edited my debut novel and was my introduction to the publishing industry. She's a fabulously talented editor and a pleasure to work with.
Welcome to the Hot Seat, Shana! We're so pleased you could join us. It's not every day we get to interview an editor, so let's get right down to business!
Thanks for having me!
Your job is reading, acquiring, and editing romance novels. In other words, it's pretty awesome. But I have to ask anyway: what made you decide to be an editor, and what do you love most about your job?
I’ve always loved reading (I was that girl in school with the book hidden under my desk during class), and at one point I thought I’d like to be an author myself. But my mom steered me towards a journalism major in college, and while I liked the writing part, I learned I really didn’t like interviewing people. So I decided I would try to get a job in book publishing, which combined my loves of reading, writing and editing.
The things I love most about my job are discovering new authors and building relationships with the authors I work with. Aside from the professional aspects of the editor/author relationship, I love that I can talk to authors via social media about things like their family’s new pet bunny, my fake relationship with my Starbucks barista or The Muppets. I also especially love that no two days at work are ever the same, so this job never gets boring. J
When you're looking for new writers, what grabs your attention and what can a new writer do to set herself apart from the slush?
A unique premise, a strong voice and demonstration of a clear understanding of the line will help a new writer stand out to me. Something I tend to gravitate towards in author voice is a bit of humor, so if an author can make me laugh, I’m usually hooked. The best thing an author can do is to research both the line and editor she’s targeting. Harlequin lists the writing guidelines for every line on the website, so if you’re unsure where your manuscript might fit, check them out. Also, reading books from the line you’re targeting is the absolute best way to get a feel for the series. I’ll get to the part about researching the editor below. J
Not to be creepy, but I know from following you on Twitter that you love weather disaster plots. Do you also have favorite tropes? Or how about favorite hero or heroine types? Answer carefully, because you may be inundated…
I do love weather disaster plots. I’m a huge fan of storms, snowstorms in particular, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reread The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #7, Snowbound. There’s something so fun in the adventure of being stranded somewhere by snow. Thank you, Ann M. Martin, for feeding this fantasy of mine. J
As for other favorites, I do enjoy a good amnesia story (the first book I acquired from a brand-new author was a really great amnesia story with a twist—What Lies Beneath by Andrea Laurence), secret babies (and I promise these are possible to write for any of our series lines—you may just have to get creative), reunion romances, “back from the dead” stories (not zombies, but situations where a character was thought to be dead and turns out to be alive), hero as protector or hero and heroine on the run in a suspense story. I love a really fun, danger- and adventure-filled suspense!
How about peeves? Are there things you see in manuscripts that you'd be happy if you never saw again?
I see a lot of submissions where the writer focuses solely on the heroine and never or rarely goes into the hero’s point of view. It’s crucial, at least in our series lines, to provide both characters’ POVs. Readers want to know what your hero is thinking and get some insight into why he acts the way he does. I also could do without villains whose actions don’t match their ultimate goal (e.g. leaving a threatening note for the heroine when what he really wants is for her to be dead—he should shoot at her!) and heroines who are either overly weak or overly angry, especially towards the hero for no reason. Remember, your hero is supposed to fall in love with this woman. Make sure she has qualities he would be attracted to.
Can you tell us more about the Love Inspired franchise? What are the editors looking for right now? Are there particular authors you would recommend reading to get a better understanding of the lines?
The Love Inspired franchise is Harlequin’s wholesome Christian romance imprint. Love Inspired is the contemporary romance series, Love Inspired Suspense is the romantic suspense series, and Love Inspired Historical is our historical romance series. The books are clean—no bad language, graphic violence or pre-marital sex in the course of the story. The relationships should emphasize emotional intimacy rather than sexual desire. Some authors to check out: LI: Linda Goodnight, Brenda Minton, Kathryn Springer, LIS: Shirlee McCoy, Valerie Hansen, Lynette Eason, LIH: Linda Ford, Winnie Griggs, Renee Ryan
While we’re especially interested in Love Inspired Suspense submissions right now, we are acquiring for all three lines. And we have a new opportunity in a recently announced pitch session called Happily Editor After.
What can you tell us about Happily Editor After, and how can an aspiring writer take advantage of this opportunity?
Happily Editor After is the chance for authors to make a match with an editor who will be most interested in her manuscript. We like to think of it as online dating…for your manuscript. Fellow Love Inspired editors Emily Rodmell, Elizabeth Mazer and I have written our “dating” bios with information on what each of us specifically would be interested in reading. For example, you already mentioned that it’s well known I enjoy stories with weather disasters, so an author might want to pitch her blizzard story to me. Whereas Emily might be the best choice for a story set at a zoo and Elizabeth may be the editor for you if you’ve written a Regency romance with strong sister relationships. Details, guidelines, our full bios and instructions on how to sign up are all available here. Spots have been filling up quickly, but even if you miss the opportunity this time around, you don’t have to wait for another pitch session to send us your story. We’re always accepting submissions, and now that you know exactly what three Love Inspired editors are looking for, you’ll know who to query with your great idea. Knowing exactly what an editor likes and is looking for is sometimes half the battle, and when you and your manuscript can provide that—a perfect match!
Thanks so much, Shana!