Monday, November 3, 2008

Meet the Editors: Nick

Nick Conrad

What is your background and experience in editing?
I've been an editor for Ellora's Cave for three years. My experience editing fiction began in college, though. I majored in English with a concentration in creative writing, so a large part of that involved participating in and eventually leading critique workshops. Obviously there are some differences between a college student's short story project and a novel being submitted for publication, but some things carry over regardless of who's writing and what's being written.

How would you describe your editing style?
Draconian! I'm not happy until the authors' fingers are showing bone. No, that's not true. I'm certainly fairly unbending when it comes to following basic rules of grammar and mechanics, as they are in place for a reason. Most instances have room to be subjective, as long as common sense is being used. But every aspect of editing has basic rules about plot and character development and logistics, continuity…every brain child needs a skeleton, or else it'll never learn to walk. I strive to work with my authors to make the story make sense and, above all, to make it an interesting read. There's not a one-size-fits all for that, which is why it takes time to do it right.

What is your favorite thing about editing?
Most authors I have worked with seem genuinely invested in doing whatever it takes to make their story the best it can be. And I think my favorite thing about editing is feeling that cohesion, knowing that the author and I are working together to put something out there that will represent her, and EC too, as positively as possible.

What are your pet peeves in books or submissions?
Poor editing in either of those will make me grind my teeth. So will sloppy presentations. I have seen huge, long-successful publishers put out some real messes, and even if I liked the story overall I resent that the editing wasn't better. And for submissions, it's the same. I understand that an author can't always avoid a few typos—you're human, after all, not machine. But for heaven's sake, consider your audience! We want to read something that tells us you are interested not only in writing a quality book, but in packaging it in a quality manner. Otherwise, how easy are you going to be to work with?

For personal reading, what are your favorite genres and all-time
favorite books?

My favorite genres are mystery (especially Golden Age and a good old-fashioned, gritty hard-boiled noir), soul-wrenching space opera (space westerns are nice too), quirky steampunk, line-blurring urban fantasy (Give me vampires who age! Give me a setting that reads like alternative history and then—zing—it's near future Earth!), and tortured, neo-Victorian Lovecraftian horror. I'm also a sucker for a good twentieth-century historical, up to and including World War II.

My current nightstand book pile includes Uglies by Scott Westerfield and an anthology of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer novels.

As for my all-time favorite books? That's like picking favorite children. But if I must:
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (or, really, almost any Atwood)
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Sula by Toni Morrison
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
How To Save Your Own Life by Erica Jong
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
The Young And Evil by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady by Florence King
Also endless stacks of children's literature, with Roald Dahl, Louis Sachar, Beverly Cleary, and Lauren Child at the top.

1 comment:

Jory Strong said...

I enjoyed both Uglies and Pretties, though probably my favorite Scott Westerfeld books are Peeps and The Last Days (great vampire genre twist).

Hands down though, when it comes to kids/YA books read this year the winners are: Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series (Michelle Paver)--absolutely fantastic; The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman) & Nation (Terry Pratchett)& Saint Iggy (K.L. Going)--just plain wonderful; The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Mary Pearson)--this one blew me away it was so well conceived and delivered.

On the nightstand reading table: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)--have to work up to this one as I have a feeling it's going to be intense.