Monday, November 17, 2008

Meet the Editor - Shannon

Shannon Combs

What is your background and experience in editing?

I have worked at Ellora’s Cave for almost four years. Years ago, I was managing editor for a sports paper. Aside from doing all final editing and proofing, I also focused on layout and ad design. I enjoyed the complete hands-on process from the planning of an issue to watching the end result roll off the press. Up until last summer, I worked in the IT department of a large company. I was responsible for the weekly updating of their ever-changing website content. I was also in charge of writing and updating new personnel training manuals, covering everything from detailed software instruction to daily procedures. Finally, I was able to focus all my time on my true love—books. I went full-time at Ellora’s Cave last June.

How would you describe your editing style?

Just as Pamela mentioned last week, I, too am strict about grammar, except in dialogue. Grammar has to fit both the character and story. This is the only time I will let the word sneaked be used as snuck! That one will always be like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. Other than that, I am open to discussion and don’t rule with an iron fist. ;-)

I am bad about being so focused on the story, looking for flaws and problems. I pick it apart and am quick to point those out, but I totally forget to add positive comments within my edits. I am working on trying to remember to stop and say when something was funny, great visual, love this scene, etc. Most of my authors know by now this is simply how I work and don’t take it personally, but I am sure it’s harder for new authors who may feel as if I am beating up on them.

What is your favorite thing about editing?

Other than the obvious “I get paid to read!”? Life doesn’t get much better than that! I love to see a story evolve. When you get a really great submission from an author so passionate about their story and their characters, and then together you take it to a higher level, you tweak it and tighten it and make the characters even more likeable. It’s so thrilling to see the end result and then read the reviews from readers who fell in love with the story and now must go read everything this author has written.

Another thing I love is when you work with an author who just “gets” what you are trying to explain is missing. I can tell the author I need more to a scene and why, and then to read what the author sends back still just amazes me. It’s that “YES!” moment.

What are your pet peeves in books or submissions?

I think by this point, most of us editors are sounding like a broken record because my biggest peeve is a poorly proofed submission. I am still amazed when I come across a manuscript that an author has attached their name to that is full of typos, grammar and punctuation problems. If they take no pride in their craft, how can I take them seriously as a writer? Why would I keep reading?

Another thing that makes me crazy is seeing the same mistakes over and over, book after book, with the same author. I would like to think that an author is using edits to learn and improve their writing. And I must mention TSTL heroines and goofy, eye-rolling dialogue.

For personal reading, what are your favorite genres and all-time favorite books?
Goodness, how can I answer that? I will read anything! I think my genre choices are fueled more by my mood than by preference.

When I was very young, I devoured the entire Nancy Drew series. The Trixie Belden series was another favorite, along with Beverly Cleary’s books. And, like Pamela, all of Walter Farley’s “Black Stallion” books. When I started getting a bit older, my first romance books were the Sweet Valley High series.

As a teenager, I remember seeing my mother with a book in her hand at all times and constantly asking when I could read some of her romance novels. She finally gave in and started me on LaVyrle Spencer. Separate Beds was the first, and from that moment on, I was hooked and worked my way through everything Ms. Spencer had written.

Since discovering the romance genre, some of my other favorite authors are Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey, Jude Deveraux and Amanda Quick. I still remember the first time I read Susan Johnson—someone was finally pushing the envelope! When I found EC, I had everything I had been looking for in a story—the romance along with the hot sex.

Outside the romance genre, one of my all-time favorite authors is Dean Koontz. I also enjoy James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell and Stephen King. And when I was at Virginia Tech, I had a professor who assigned a book that to this day I remember the impact of—Beloved by Toni Morrison.


Erastes said...

Great interview - I do like reading about editors and how they work.

Thank you!

Don't forget though, that the English still use sneaked.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I saw the comment and just wanted to pop on here and clarify about what I said:

"Grammar has to fit both the character and story. This is the only time I will let the word sneaked be used as snuck!"

I meant the word sneaked being turned into the "fingernails on the chalkboard" use of snuck. The use of snuck makes me crazy and the only time I let it slip through is in dialogue. My children won't even dare say snuck. ;-)

Amy Ruttan said...

I've been waiting for Shannon to show up!! YAY!

Don't worry, I'll keep taking your punches, it's not like a beating at all. ;)

EilisFlynn said...

I look forward to seeing your edits on my latest book, Shannon!