Interview with Christy Ottaviano, editor of Book Scavenger

To mark the occasion of Book Scavenger‘s publication, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer’s phenomenal editor, Christy Ottaviano, publisher of Christy Ottaviano Books at Macmillan Children’s. It’s always fascinating to hear what the editor of a book loves about it!

Calista: Do you remember what it was about this book that made you go, “I want it” when you read it on submission?

Christy: When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was The Westing Game.  I was also a big fan of From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil E Frankweiler.  Both of these books came to mind while I was reading the submission of Book Scavenger.  I was immediately intrigued by the book gaming element — I love mysteries and especially books that have puzzles to solve and secrets to uncover — but what really drew me in was the voice of Emily.  She is such a rich character — a bookworm and a loner; someone who could really use a friend. Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is such a gifted writer.  In Book Scavenger she creates an exciting mystery yet the characters never take a back seat to the layered plot — everything works in tandem and in good rhythm.

Calista: What comp titles* did you reference when you were acquiring this book? Why?

Christy: The comp titles referenced were a few books I’ve published by Elise Broach — Shakespeare’s Secret and Masterpiece given that they are both mysteries and feature quiet, thoughtful characters who are curious about the world around them, whether it’s learning about Shakespeare or Albrecht Durer!  I also referenced The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart) as well as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Chris Grabenstein) for similar reasons.

Calista: What are some ways the book changed during the editing process?

Jenn did an amazing job revising the novel.  She approached every aspect of the editorial process with such insight, thoughtfulness and focus. We worked on a variety of elements — making the mystery more compelling, incorporating more challenging puzzles and ciphers into the clues, building to a more satisfying climax and conclusion, and, most especially, fleshing out all of the characters (getting rid of a few even) so that each was clearly defined in relation to his/her role in the book. On a personal note,  I really fell in love with Emily and James and think their friendship is such an honest example of a girl/boy tween friendship in middle school.

Calista: Who is the ideal reader for this book?

Christy: The ideal readers for Book Scavenger are kids who like all of the books I’ve referenced in this Q&A as well as fans of the Chasing Vermeer series (Blue Balliat), The Gollywhopper Games (Jody Feldman), and Rhyme Schemer (KA Holt).  It’s for kids who love to read stories about quirky characters who have unusual talents; fans of sleuthing stories and mysteries; and lovers of puzzles in all forms.  Without a doubt, this is one of the freshest, and most engaging books I have ever worked on.  A treat on so many levels!

* Comp title = “comparison title”. Frequently an editor will be asked to provide comp titles for a book when presenting it to the acquisitions team at the publishing house, to give the sales and marketing and publishing teams a sense of where the book will “live” in the marketplace.


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15 responses to “Interview with Christy Ottaviano, editor of Book Scavenger

  1. What a great compliment: “Without a doubt, this is one of the freshest, and most engaging books I have ever worked on.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can you all see why I feel lucky to have Christy as my editor? She’s just the best. Thank you for a great interview, Calista and Christy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Donna Janell Bowman

    Terrific interview, Calista and Christy. I’m always fascinated by the sparks that inspire an editor to pursue a book.
    What great comps to compare Book Scavenger to. Readers are gonna love this book!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love ALL of those comps, and I cannot wait to read “Book Scavenger” and hand it out to all the kids I know! Congrats, Jenn!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I always love these behind-the-scenes glimpses, especially when I get to see behind the scenes of such a great read!

    One of my favorite things about BOOK SCAVENGER was how Jennifer brought San Francisco to life. It really felt like another character.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. annbedichek

    Great interview! I particularly love the section about the revision, and how everything was getting turned up a notch. And this sentence I love: “Without a doubt, this is one of the freshest, and most engaging books I have ever worked on.” Having reading BOOK SCAVENGER, I fully believe it!

    Also, I’m crossing my finger I win, because I bought the book two days ago, but then I could have one copy to keep and one copy to HIDE! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think this post would be wonderful to share with potential readers giving them insights into the editorial process. As a Nancy Drew fan from ages ago, this book appealed to me as an adult on several levels.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The more I read about Book Scavenger the more I want to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Claudia Mills

    I’ve read it, and it’s a delight from start to finish. Suspenseful, funny, touching.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful interview. Editors see so many manuscripts that it’s nice to hear what drew them to a particular book. Jenn’s book sounds amazing. It’s on my “to read ASAP” list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. tamaraellissmith

    I love this. Thank you Calista. I, too, love hearing what specific moments and dynamics and plot pieces sing for an editor. And it always makes me feel….I don’t know…more like I belong (?) when I hear about someone’s revision process. Clearly you worked hard, Jenn, and, boy, does your story shine as a result… ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Terrific interview–and so interesting to read what draws an editor to a manuscript. I’m putting Book Scavenger on my to-read list!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Karen Amador

    Excited to get a chance to read this book. Several of the books mentioned are long time or newer favorites. Also noticed a couple of books mentioned that were unfamiliar to me, so I have a lot of fun reading to look forward to now!

    Liked by 1 person

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