Jeanne Ryan experienced a potentially stressful surprise after her book was signed by Penguin: the acquiring editor left! But to Jeanne’s delight, another editor was in the wings, eager to work on her project. To me, this is a story about the wonderment and value of the unexpected…
Today, we welcome Dial Books editor, Heather Alexander, who will fill us in on Jeanne’s journey to publication.
1) Emu’s LBS: Hi, Heather. Thank you for joining us today. Since you weren’t the original editor for NERVE, at what point did you become involved and how did that happen?
My dear friend Andrew Harwell was the acquiring editor of Nerve, and to be completely frank, when he was telling me about it, I was jealous. Like, gritted teeth “I’m so happy for you!” jealous. It sounded like such an awesome story by a cool writer. It was my bad fortune that Andrew left Penguin, and my great luck to have this amazing book fall onto my list. Well, luck and lobbying; everyone at Dial knew I was very excited about the project, so it made sense for me to take it over. Andrew had given some preliminary notes, but Jeanne and I worked closely together basically right from the start.
2) Emu’s LBS: Did this book change in any major way during the editor-writer revision process?
There were a couple of big changes, like the setting for the end, and how the end plays out, but a lot of the work Jeanne did was expanding character and tightening plot. Some back story was fleshed out, some relationships were defined and clarified, and there was at least one name-change. But this was in pretty good shape when I got it.
3) Emu’s LBS: What did you like best about the process of refining NERVE for publication?
Working with Jeanne is a wonderful experience from an editorial standpoint. She has terrific ideas, and is open to mine, and uses them as a jumping off point for more brainstorming. We had a lot of conversations that built ideas on each other’s thoughts, which is a very satisfying way to work.
4) Emu’s LBS: Do you think the plot of NERVE could happen in today’s Internet age?
That’s one of the things I like best about Nerve: it doesn’t seem like it could happen, but when you break it down, it’s not as far fetched as it seems. I hope we’re not giving ideas to creepers.
5) Emu’s LBS: What’s it like working with debut authors? How is it different from working with more established authors?
I love working with debut authors. They’re so enthusiastic and I don’t mind soothing nerves and holding hands along the way. There isn’t a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Publish)” guide—although maybe there should be—so there is a lot of managing expectations, and explaining the process. But seeing a new author through it all to publication day (and the accompanying glee) is really fun for me. More established authors are also great to work with, and the focus might be a little different. We can dig more deeply into expanding their authorial voice, the reach of their books, and their brand. But everyone was a debut author at some point.
Thank you, Heather, for allowing us to host you on Emu’s Debuts and for having the NERVE to bring such a thought-provoking, exciting book to readers!