Monday, October 14, 2013

Book View Cafe Editor Interview

Over at Book View Cafe blog, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel interview me "with my editor hat on."

When did you become interested in editing other writers’ work as opposed to concentrating on writing?

I first started thinking about editing during the years when I’d visit Marion Zimmer Bradley on a regular basis. I helped read slush for her magazine (MZB’s Fantasy Magazine) and we’d talk. I got a “behind the scenes” look at what she looked for and why, and how she handled rejection letters. She taught me that the work of an editor isn’t mysterious, in part because her own tastes were so definite. A story could be perfectly good but not suit the anthology or magazine she was reading for, or might do both but not “catch fire” for her. I learned about “no fault” rejections (and I’ve received them myself, for example if the editor had just bought a story on the same theme by a Big Name Author) and that sometimes if an editor thought the story had merit but didn’t fulfill its promise, she could comment on its shortcomings or issue an invitation to re-submit after revision. I thought, “I can do this!” I’d had so many experiences from the Author side of the desk, I approached editing with a set of wild hopes and convictions.

What are the special challenges of editing in a shared world as opposed to a theme anthology?

I think the crucial thing is a solid idea about how rigid (or conversely how flexible) the structure is. The more rigid, the deeper into the slush pile you’re going to have to dig (assuming it’s open submission) or the more you’re going to risk throttling the creative vision of your writers. So you need to be clear about what’s essential. For example, if I were editing a Star Wars anthology and a writer submitted a story that was essentially a bodice-ripper, no matter how excellently done, I’d have to turn it down. That’s too great a violation of the parameters. Just as with an individually-authored work, you’re making a contract with your reader. Put your imagination in my/our hands and this is the kind of experience you’ll have. (Not that there won’t be surprises; good writing abounds in unexpected twists and conventions-turned-upside-down.)

On the other hand, many shared worlds offer latitude for “alternate versions,” especially when told from the point of view of a not-entirely-reliable narrator. For myself, I would rather see a story that bends the rules a little but does so in the service of the clarity and passion of the author’s vision, than a lifeless one that conforms strictly, one that follows the letter but not the spirit of the guidelines. I suspect Marion influenced me in this because she herself never let previously-established details get in the way of a really good story.

Read more here.

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