Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An interview with editor (and author!) Stephanie Parent

Today, we have author and editor Stephanie Parent here today to give us the scoop on being an editor. Of the four of us here on The Authorteers, Stephanie is the editor for two of us (myself included!) so we love her.

The Interview

1. I’m going to start with an easy (and probably one you get asked all the time) question: What’s your favorite part of being an editor?

My answer is probably one of the most common responses to this question…I love getting paid to read awesome books! And what’s more, I get to read them before they’re published, and I’m usually one of the very first readers. It can be especially fun to edit an entire series of books or stories—I’ve done a bit of that for one of this blog’s founders, Lilly Avalon. For some reason I get a special sense of satisfaction out of editing a series. Whether a book is part of a series or not, I love seeing a novel I edited as a Word document get a gorgeous cover, turn up on Amazon, and get read and reviewed and talked about!

2. And your least favorite part?

I’m always really disappointed when a book I edited isn’t as popular or selling as well as I think it should be. Of course, sales aren’t the most important part of publishing for every author, but it can still be maddening to see great books get lost in the overwhelming mass of choices that is Amazon these days, while other, not-so-awesome books become bestsellers. And of course this is even more frustrating to witness when I played a part in creating the book! Unfortunately the current publishing market is incredibly oversaturated, and that’s just something authors need to be aware of when they make the choice to publish.

3. What made you decide to become an editor?

I was a writing tutor in college, and I edited the Writing Center Handbook…that was my first experience editing something as a paying job, and I realized I really liked the detail-oriented aspect of it and actually found it relaxing. With my love for fiction, the jump to editing novels was a natural one. I first answered a craigslist ad to edit for a small online publisher (this was before self-publishing was really a “thing”) and it just snowballed from there.

4. In your opinion, what makes a good editor?

I think the most important aspect of editing is understanding what the author and/or publisher wants. When I’m working with a publisher, I need to follow their official style guide, but with an author I try to respect the style they’re working in. A romance or popular fiction novel will require a different approach from literary fiction, which will differ from children’s fiction, and so on. It’s important for an editor to know grammatical rules well, and then to use their own judgment to determine whether following the rules will improve or detract from the story in any given situation. An editor also needs to be very detail oriented, not just in terms of grammar, but also picturing and keeping track of the physical scene. You have to notice things like a character sitting in a chair on one page, then a sofa on the next page, when there was no mention of the character getting up and moving. I find that these kinds of errors are often the most difficult to catch, much more so than a misplaced comma or semicolon!

5. What’s one of the most common misconceptions about what it means to be an editor?

I think a lot of authors fear editors because they think our word is law, and an author has to make the changes their editor suggests. This is not true at all, whether we’re talking about big-picture content changes or small sentence-level things. As I mentioned above, when I’m working with a publisher, I do have to follow their style guide, and the author is expected to do so as well; however, I’ve found that even with publishers, authors are rarely forced to make big changes they don’t agree with. And now that self-publishing is more popular and profitable and I’m editing more books without traditional publishers, the author has even greater freedom. I make suggestions based on what I think readers will respond to, but ultimately the changes made are entirely up to the author. That’s one of my favorite parts of the self-publishing revolution!

6. What is your biggest pet peeve as an editor?

I know that no person can catch every error in a book, and even after a novel has been both copy edited and proofread, it will probably still have a few typos. But I hate seeing any published book, particularly a book from a major publisher, that’s full of obvious mistakes. I’ve noticed more and more errors in traditionally published books over the last few years, as publishers try to rush books into print to capitalize on quickly changing trends and compete with self-publishing. I think these publishers have a responsibility to readers to take the time and expense to make sure books are polished, and if they stop doing so, they’re going to lose readers’ trust and respect.

7. How long does it usually take you to edit a novel?

It completely varies! A novel can be anywhere from 40 to 50,000 words to 200,000 plus…I can edit something on the shorter end of that spectrum within a few days if the author needs it back quickly, while a longer book can take over a month, especially if I’m juggling multiple projects.

8. What are the most common errors you come across when you edit for authors?

One error I see fairly often, which bugs me because it can require reworking the entire sentence, is when the subject of an introductory dependent clause doesn’t agree with the main subject of the sentence. An example would be “Staring in the mirror, my mouth gaped open.” This construction implies that the person’s mouth is doing the “staring,” so you’d have to change it to something like "Staring in the mirror, I gaped at my reflection” or “My mouth gaped open as I stared in the mirror.” I could go on and list many other small grammatical mistakes I see a lot…but I’m thankful to readers who have stayed with me this long, so I should probably wrap this up. Thank you so much to the Authorteers for hosting me!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Stephanie!

About the editor/author
Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major. She moved to Los Angeles because of Francesca Lia Block's WEETZIE BAT books, which might give you some idea of how much books mean to her. She also loves dogs, books about dogs, and sugary coffee drinks both hot and cold.

Need an editor? Stephanie is looking for new clients!

Take it from Lilly and me--she's amazing. Just go to this page and get in touch with her today. Stephanie does an exceptional job with her editing. If you have any questions, just ask one of us and we'd be happy to tell you more!

Stephanie Parent's books:

Defy the Stars
Julia Cape: A dedicated classical piano student just trying to get through her last semester of high school while waiting to hear from music conservatories.

Reed MacAllister: A slacker more likely to be found by the stoners’ tree than in class.

Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other…until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd—and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes—but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart…and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.

Defy the Stars is written in an edgy free-verse style that will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder; however, the writing is accessible enough to speak to non-verse fans as well. The novel’s combination of steamy romance and raw emotion will appeal to fans of Gayle Forman, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, and Tammara Webber. With a story, language and form that both pay homage to and subvert Shakespeare’s play, Defy the Stars is much more than just another Romeo and Juliet story.

Precious Things
| Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |
Isabelle Andrews isn’t supposed to be here. She isn’t supposed to be a freshman at Hartford Community College, she isn't supposed to be living at home and working at her dad’s failing bakery, and she definitely isn’t supposed to be taking Intro to Electronic Music Production, a class that will get her nowhere toward her goal of an English Lit Ph.D. by age twenty-five. But when her dad’s latest business fiasco eats up her college fund, Hartford Community College is exactly where Isabelle finds herself—and thanks to her late enrollment, she doesn’t even get to choose her classes. Stuck with Electronic Music and way-too-easy English courses, Isabelle is determined to wallow in all the misery she feels entitled to.

But community college brings some unexpected benefits…like the fact that a certain overworked, over-scheduled Electronic Music professor hands over most of his duties to his teaching assistant. His tall, green-eyed, absolutely gorgeous teaching assistant. When TA Evan Strauss discovers Isabelle’s apathy toward electronic music—and, well, all music—he makes it his mission to convert her. The music Evan composes stirs something inside Isabelle, but she can’t get involved—after all, she’ll be transferring out as soon as possible.

Still, no matter how tightly Isabelle holds on to her misery, she finds it slipping away in the wake of all Hartford Community offers: new friendships, a surprisingly cool poetry professor, and most of all, Evan. But Evan’s dream of owning his own music studio is as impractical as Isabelle’s dad’s bakery, and when Evan makes a terrible decision, everything Isabelle has gained threatens to unravel. Soon Isabelle discovers that some of the most important lessons take place outside the classroom…and that in life, as in Evan’s favorite Depeche Mode song, the most precious things can be the hardest to hold on to.

Forty Days
Neima's Ark #1
| Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |
The entire village knows Neima’s grandfather is a madman. For years the old man has prophesied that a great flood is coming, a flood disastrous enough to blot out the entire earth. He’s even built an enormous ark that he claims will allow his family to survive the deluge. But no one believes the ravings of a lunatic…

…until the rain starts. And doesn’t stop. Soon sixteen-year-old Neima finds her entire world transformed, her life and those of the people she loves in peril. Trapped on the ark with her grandfather Noah, the rest of her family, and a noisy, filthy, and hungry assortment of wild animals, will Neima find a way to survive?

With lions, tigers, and bears oh my, elephants and flamingos too, along with rivalries and betrayals, a mysterious stowaway, and perhaps even an unexpected romance, FORTY DAYS is not your grandfather’s Noah’s Ark story.

FORTY DAYS is approximately 45000 words, the length of a shorter novel, and is the first installment in a two-part epic story. It does contain a cliffhanger ending.

Readers looking for a traditional, religiously oriented version of the Noah’s Ark story should be warned that FORTY DAYS may not appeal to them. The novel will, however, appeal to lovers of apocalyptic fiction, historical fiction, and romance, as well as anyone who’s ever dreamed of having a baby elephant as a pet.

Forty Nights
Neima's Ark #2
Neima, her family, and her grandfather Noah have found themselves trapped aboard an ark as a great flood destroys all life in the world. As their time aboard the ark lengthens, food begins to run out, wild animals grow restless, and family tensions become as much of a threat as the flood outside. In the second and final installment of Neima’s Ark, the stakes are higher, the conflicts are greater, and Neima finds herself facing a choice as impossible as the destruction all around her.

Forty Nights is a continuation of the story begun in Forty Days, and it’s recommended that you read Forty Days first for the best experience. Forty Nights does, however, contain a character guide to refresh readers’ memories. The Neima’s Ark series is a historical, feminist reimagining of the story of Noah’s Ark rather than a religiously oriented one, and the novels are best suited for readers who are comfortable with new interpretations of biblical stories.

Forty Days, the first half of Neima's story, is free on all major ebook retailers including Amazon.

In Ophelia's Garden
Wisdom always comes at a price, you know.

I will teach you to grow this garden, but the knowledge will cost you. You won’t be able to avoid the thorn bushes; on your arms a web of scratches will bloom, delicate as Queen Anne’s Lace. Your fingers will bleed and your bare feet will grow tough as leather. Unprotected by your thin cotton dress, your neck and shoulders will blister under the sun. Your hair will slip free of the knot atop your head, growing longer and catching on the thorns, weighing you down like thick coils of rope. Your voice will grow too parched to sing, to call out for a fairy godmother or a lover. You will be too tired to attend the balls, the weddings and the christenings.

In Ophelia's Garden is a short story that combines Shakespeare, herbal lore, and fairy tales into a unique, magical brew. Originally published in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet literary magazine, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant. Appropriate for ages fourteen and up.

What do you think about the life of an editor?
Did you learn anything new about it?

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