Monday, November 14, 2016

Meredith's Monday Musings: Chatting with Two Head Editors

Hi Guys!

Happy Monday!! How was your weekend? Mine was fabulous, especially because we had a three day weekend!

Today on Meredith's Monday Musings, I have two special people over on my blog for today's discussion. Please welcome Alta Hensley, the head editor at Blushing Books Publications and Jamie Miles, the head editor at Stormy Night Publications. These wonderful ladies were kind enough to answer several questions I had for them. So, let's get this show on the road...


Meredith: As an editor, what is your favorite task to do and what is your least favorite task to do?

Alta: My favorite task is sitting down and reading the very first sentence of a book. I’m excited to see where this author will take me. That very first sentence gives me a small sample of the voice. I love that I get to read and get paid for it. Not a bad gig at all.
My least favorite task is putting out fires. I hate when another author is stressed or upset about something. I can 100% relate with them because I am an author myself, so I always put myself in their shoes. I understand that this book is their baby, it’s their art, it’s their soul. So I hate that at that very moment, they are feeling anything but pure joy in the experience of having their story published. But I also think I am really good at putting those fires out.

Jamie: I adore everything about reading and experiencing the book I’m editing, feeling the story and the characters, and seeing the author’s mind and plan. It’s always so nice to just bask in the light as you watch someone else’s creative spirit at work.

My least favorite thing is probably reading bad reviews for books I’ve loved. I’m always shocked and think “How dare they?” But at the same time, I do think Amazon’s review system is a very beneficial and helpful thing for readers.



Meredith: What's the most common grammar mistake that you see in stories that are submitted to your publisher?

Alta: I would have to say dialogue punctuation. Many first time authors don’t understand when to use a comma and when to use a period. I think it takes seeing all the red marks to really grasp the concept as well as also having experience in writing.

Jamie: Repetitious wording, or important words used once in a sentence, and then once right after in the next sentence. It’s always a good idea to read a book over again and watch for words that occur too often.

Meredith: What's a piece of advice that you want to share with aspiring authors?

Alta: Learn the craft of writing. Study it, read about it, devour anything you can on how to write. Understand things like what deep POV means, what character arc means, and understand grammar. Do not assume that an editor is there to make it all better, and all you have to do is write a story. Learn the craft of writing!

Jamie: Keep writing real and true to life, but at the same time, fantasize about how the perfect guy/perfect girl/perfect situation could be, and don’t be afraid to write that too. It’s all about balance, and when you write about things that you care about and wish could happen, readers will see your heart.

Meredith: How did you get started as an editor?

Alta: It just sort of fell into my lap I guess. I have been writing since 2010 and live and breathe the publishing industry. It truly is my passion.

Jamie: I met James and Korey Johnson in the summer of 2012 and began working part time with Stormy Night Publications, while I worked a full-time job elsewhere. However, I loved working with SNP so much more than working my other job, so I began content editing full-time a year later.


Meredith: Do you have a favorite sub-genre of erotica that you enjoy to read? If so, what?

Alta: This changes all the time. But right now, I really love dark. I also adore post apocalyptic and dystopian.

Jamie: After much painful deliberation (why is it so hard to pick one? Screw it, I’m picking two) I would say medical play and westerns. I’ve fantasized about firm doctors and embarrassing exams for a good part of my life. There’s something so hot about “treatment” and loving care for the good of the heroine, and how if it’s for her well-being—that sometimes she has to give in, submit and “take her medicine”, or face the stern consequences if she doesn’t.

Westerns are fun because they can work in any time period, and it’s easy for there to be danger, rough surroundings, and a dominant hero who keeps the heroine safe. Plus, western spankings are just more fun—switching, strapping, birching—how could you go wrong?

Meredith: On average, how long does it take you to edit a 50,000 word book?

Alta: Depends on the author. If it’s an experienced and clean author, I can do it all in two-three days. A tough edit will take me a week. But I usually don’t sit and edit from beginning to end in one sitting. I need to do other tasks or I start seeing things, or NOT seeing things. I worry that if I edit for too many hours straight, I will miss mistakes. So I spread it out and do other books, return emails, write my own book, or play on Facebook. Ha!
And then the going back and forth with the author will add to that time. So I actually never just sit down and work from beginning to end in one swoop unless under a tight deadline. I like to break it up to keep fresh.

Jamie: I’m a fairly slow editor, in my opinion, as I try to read thoughtfully and to check for things a copy editor might check for (grammar, repetition, structure) while also content editing. That way, Stormy Night’s books get almost two rounds of copy editing—one from me, and one from our copy editor.

One other thing—besides the length of the book, you have to factor in how well a book has already been edited. Some books need quite a bit of work, so I spend much more time writing up really thorough comments and revisions suggestions for a book that needs it. Other books take less time. A book around 50,000 words would probably take me a day and a half.


Meredith: Are there any quirks you do, while editing? For example, do you have to listen to a certain playlist or use your favorite red pen to edit?

Alta: I have to get everything in order around me. I need a clean desk, my notepad and pen right beside me, a drink of some sort, and I have to have a spotless computer screen. I always clean the monitor. A spot of dirt can look like a comma. I am pretty anal about my environment when I get ready to edit.

Jamie: I can’t listen to music while editing, as it’s too distracting. If I’m really tired, I’ll listen to classical music or opera as having something making noise helps me stay alert, but it isn’t as distracting as other types of music.

Meredith: Alta, how do you balance your time with being head editor and being an author? Does it sometime get overwhelming?

Alta: It can be a challenge for sure. I can get swamped with edits and other Blushing business involving all the other editors and authors, and put ‘Alta’ on the back burner, so I try really hard not to. Bethany Burke (owner of Blushing Books) is awesome about making me put my writing first, and she works hard on making sure I don’t get too loaded in edits. She’s pretty particular with how many edits and what gets handed my way. That helps a lot.
I’m also busy with all the behind the scenes stuff with Blushing other than just editing, and have my hand involved a little bit in every book released, so that keeps me really hopping as well. I can’t tell you how many emails I get in a day!
A big thing I do to help with all that is to block out my entire year of release dates as Alta Hensley. This helps me know what is coming up and when I need to lighten my editing load because I have some heavy writing schedules. So far, it has all worked out. But I often work 12 hour days to make it happen.
There are some BB editors that can turn around a book much faster than I can. I am usually booked out months in advance and just can’t do it as quickly with everything else I juggle. So those quick jobs usually have to go to another editor. But the best thing I do that helps is have an author day and an editor day. When it is an author day, I try to not do any editing or anything to kill my muse.

Meredith: Jamie, do you ever plan to become an author or else do you think you'll stick with being an editor?

Jamie: I have extremely tentative plans about “one day writing something”. To be honest, I’m so busy editing for Stormy Night, that when I have time off, writing a spanking romance is the last thing I want to think about as that part of my brain is completely done. However, sometimes I’ll read something really hot and I’ll envy the author’s creative genius so much that I’ll decide I’ll write something one day. I’ll keep you updated!


Meredith: Do you ever get tired of editing? I beta read books from time to time, which I enjoy doing, but when I finish a book, I'm tired and happy that I don't have to do edit anything again for a while.

Alta: I don’t. I edit because I love it. The minute it becomes a chore or I hate it, I will graciously step down and allow another to fill my shoes. I can see how it may get tiresome after many years, and being an editor is not an easy job, but I strongly believe the author deserves the best you can give. If burnout or just not enjoying the job ever happens, the author is the one who will suffer. I am also aware that the day may come that I need to take a break to refuel, but so far, I am having a blast. A dream job.

Jamie: If I’m tired of editing, I probably just need a break or it’s already the weekend at that point. I honestly love my job to death, and then some. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually get to do what I’ve always wanted to do—partner with authors to help their books be everything they possibly can be.

Meredith: Do you ever find it hard to control your personal opinions when editing a story? I know when I beta read a story, it's impossible for me to not voice what I think, whether it's "Oh my gosh! Your hero is SOO hot" or "Oh my gosh! I'm going to personally smack your hero upside the head if he doesn't claim the heroine soon."

Alta: I think many may, but I honestly don’t. I love when an author can make me feel something even if it is hate. I often read books that I wouldn’t have written it the same way, but then Alta Hensley isn’t the name on the cover of the book. Ha!
I stay objective and respect the author’s voice, their choices, and how they want the story to go. I may give them a heads up that the reviewers will chew them to pieces if they keep a particular scene or end it a certain way, but this is THEIR story, and ultimately it is on them. I do, however, get turned on by what I read. I mean…WOW! I edit for some of the best in the business, and they know how to check all of my boxes.

Jamie: I’m pretty sure that being an editor has made me more opinionated than I’ve ever been, and I’m glad that my family and friends have learned how to put up with me. However, when editing I try to weigh whether something is a personal opinion or whether it’s something that could clearly be tweaked in a story and help the story be better overall. Sometimes I’ll outright tell an author “I have a knee-jerk reaction to this, but I could be completely wrong”.


Meredith: Do you have any software or websites you'd recommend for those authors, (like myself) who struggle with grammar?

Alta: I haven’t found a software that I am in love with enough to recommend. I will say that every author should run spell check, but NEVER assume spell check is always right because it often is not. But it will catch a lot. I also suggest that every author (new and experienced) pay close attention to their edits once they get them back. Study and learn from what you did wrong. We, as authors, all have our bad habits. But just don’t accept them. Try to see what they are so you don’t do it again. I will say that there is no better software than a beta reader. 

Jamie: Grammar Girl is one of my go-to sites for sure!

Meredith: So from my understanding, when a story gets edited, there are edits/suggestions made to improve the plot and then edits/suggestions made to improve the grammar of a story. Do you enjoy editing one of those better than the other? For example, when I beta read, I edit heavily on the plot because I am better at catching small details and plot holes than grammar mistakes. Whereas, my beta reader, she loves catching my grammar mistakes.

Alta: I really love and focus on grammar. Most of the authors I get to edit (I’m lucky) are true professionals. They have multiple betas. Some of the betas both write and read in the genre, so they offer a true gift to the author. I cannot stress the importance of a beta enough. By the time I get the book, the story is solid. There may be some minor issues, but the content is fantastic. So I really focus on the grammar, the tiny details to make the story shine, and all the ticky tacky stuff that will make the book as perfect as it can be.

Jamie: Both areas are fun for different reasons. I would say that editing content rather than grammar takes more thought and consideration. Grammar is much more scientific and somewhat rote, though, so that can make it a little easier. Plot editing is definitely more rewarding in many ways, as it can be so helpful overall.

Personal Questions!!
 
Meredith: If you could ever dye your hair any color(s), what would it/they be?

Alta: Gray! I know that sounds crazy, but the hippie, artsy, bohemian soul in me can’t wait until I have long silver hair that flows down my back. I want to be that lady who never dyes her hair and embraces all the white hairs the pop up. I have never dyed my hair yet. Let those white buggers come!

Jamie: I’m a natural dark blonde/light brown, and I’ve already tried different shades of red, dark brown, and black and have loved most of them. There was one time when my husband said I looked like I’d dyed my hair “pumpkin”, but thankfully that faded in a week or two—ha! Lately I’ve been trying out a more natural ombre, but some day, I’d like to try blue or rainbow colors.




Meredith: What's your favorite type of cookie?

Alta: Oatmeal Raisin.

Jamie: A quick note to interested readers—if Meredith asks your favorite type of cookie, beware!! She’ll probably end up making you some, and then any healthy eating habits and self-control will vanish and you will be moaning and groaning with your mouth full of delicious cookies…  But, to answer the question, chocolate chip is definitely the best.

Meredith: If you were offered the choice of having a: maid, chef, or a driver for life, which one would you choose and why?

Alta: I already have a maid. Which by the way is WAY cheaper than marriage counseling, and I highly recommend it. So I guess I would have to say a chef.

Jamie: A maid! I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a cook either, but cooking can be relaxing and rewarding. Cleaning never ends.



Meredith: If you could visit a place anywhere in the world that you haven't ever been, where would you go?

Alta: Italy, Spain, Morocco, Tibet…I could do this all day.

Jamie: Paris or Bordeaux, so that I could go on a wine tour!

Meredith: If you could have any pet that you wanted, what would it be and what would you name it?

Alta: Okay, I will be honest here. I wouldn’t. I’m not a huge animal lover. I like them at a distance…but I just don’t want to have to care for them. I’m not a fan of hair, poop, slobber, stink and all that. I have a dog and a cat that I love, but that’s my limit. You won’t get an answer out of me like a monkey or an elephant. All I can picture is poop.

Jamie: A cat with a cuddly but aloof attitude. Not too needy, but one that will sit on my lap occasionally and be all warm and snuggly at random times when I least expect it.

Meredith: When you were seven, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Alta: Rich. I used to only say “Rich.” $$$$
Clearly, I haven’t reached that goal…yet. But I honestly can say that I am living the dream. I either get to read or write romance all day, every day. I am one lucky gal.

Jamie: I’m not positive, but I probably wanted to be either a nurse or an actress, which makes little sense, as I was a painfully shy child and really scared of needles.

I want to thank Alta and Jamie for taking the time out of your busy schedules to come stop by and answer my questions for me. I really appreciate it. Maybe I'll send you both some cookies to thank you, since I now know each of your favorite cookie recipes. ;-)

Have a great day, everyone!! 

4 comments:

  1. Thank you ladies, that was a great interview. Thank you Meredith for inviting such interesting gals to share their knowledge.

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  2. Awesome interview! I loved reading a little about what goes on behind the scenes. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I get cookies??? Yay!!! It was fun being asked these questions. Thanks!

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  4. Fantastic interview and very insightful.

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