Peeking Behind the Page — A Chat With Our Editors

The late novelist Theodore White once quipped, “There are two kinds of editors: those who correct your copy and those who say it’s wonderful.” We like to think a good editor will do both—eventually.

Since editors work behind the scenes to help writers polish and perfect their manuscripts, today we want to give Evolved Publishing’s editorial team a moment in the spotlight. Have you ever wondered what makes an editor tick? Or what ticks an editor off? Or which books tickle their fancy? Read on!

What novel or children’s book do you admire most, and why?

Megan Harris: “It’s probably a tie between The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Both stories resonate with me for their strong characters.”

Stevie Mikayne: “I’m fascinated with epic novels, because I’m studying them as part of my PhD preparation. I admire The Pillars of the Earth [by Ken Follett] for its deep characterization and the author’s ability to sustain a plot for the length of that novel.”

William Hampton: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It has layers of nuance for every level of reader, from child to adult. Lewis Carroll’s logician rhetoric is more entertaining the more it is thought about, which is a rarity.”

Melissa Sawatsky admires When I Was Young and in My Prime, by Alayna Munce. “It’s sort of a hybrid novel, weaving together different voices that take the form of diary entries, poems, lists, and conversations. The narrator is a witness to her grandparents’ decline, and the book as a whole poses the question: ‘What is left of us when we’re gone?’”

John Allen cites J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: “The depth of Tolkien’s world astounds me. The languages, cultures, histories, myths, religions, philosophies and cosmologies of Middle Earth—it’s hard to believe that all of this could come out of one person’s brain. And yes, much of the backstory of Middle Earth is a synthesis of various English/Celtic/Scandinavian folk tales, but it’s still incredible.”

What book or story do you reread often as a “guilty pleasure”?

Stevie Mikayne: “I think all reading has merit. I don’t feel guilty for reading anything—even trash . . . which I don’t ever read. What? No. My being the Erotica Editor for EP is a rumor.”

William Hampton: “Steve Martin’s Pure Drivel.”

John Allen: “I’m actually not much of a re-reader. There are too many wonderful books out there that I want to read for the first time.”

Melissa Sawatsky: “I think my guilty pleasure has more to do with TV series marathons than reading (I’ve watched Sex and the City in its entirety at least five times through). I’ve also read almost every (reputable) book on Michael Jackson. I’m a huge fan of his musical and philanthropic accomplishments, and I find the story of his life both fascinating and tragic.”

Megan Harris: “I haven’t had a lot of time lately to read for fun, but when I do, I gravitate towards The Hobbit. My paperback copy is worn out and falling apart for a reason! I love everything about the book, from the characters like Gollum (my favorite) and Bilbo to the mythology that develops and later resonates in The Lord of the Rings.” Megan’s other “guilty pleasure” is Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. She says, “It was the first book I read about someone like me growing up who was kind of a loner and a writer. I even pretended to be Harriet the Spy as a kid.” (For more about how the novel influenced her as a writer and editor, see her blog post HERE.)

What’s your biggest pet peeve as an editor?

Melissa Sawatsky dislikes repetition. “Often there will be two sentences in a row that basically express the same thing,” she says. “When I see it, I simply announce ‘redundant!’ and get delete-happy.”

William Hampton’s list of editorial pet peeves is “similar to those I have about movies. Among them: catastrophes that happen because simple communication didn’t. They almost always feel contrived. We can’t Gift-of-the-Magi a plotline every time we need one.”

Megan Harris: “My biggest pet peeve is passive voice because some sentences sound even worse without it. When I first come across it, I sigh, review the last section I edited to gear up for what’s ahead, then get to work.”

Stevie Mikayne: “Backstory that’s clumsily inserted, like a trumpeter entering from the wings to announce the arrival of an important guest. ‘Oh, hang on! Stop reading the story to focus on this side note I couldn’t be bothered to artfully weave into the story earlier.’ Grr.”

John Allen puts this at the top of his list: “State of being verbs—and ‘was’ in particular. Whenever I see ‘was’ I just have to kill it, stomp it, squash it like the vermin that it is!”

You’ve just finished a editing a novel. You have tomorrow off. What do you do to celebrate or relax?

John Allen: “I find a good movie or TV show to watch, something visual that will give my eyes and brain a break.”

William Hampton prefers to “conjure up a poker night with friends. Preferably friends who have more money than skill.”

Stevie Mikayne: “That doesn’t happen. If it did, I’d hop on a plane to have lunch with Ellen. Of course we’re friends. She thanked me on the People’s Choice Awards last night – didn’t you hear her?”

Megan Harris: “Relax? What does that mean?” (She’s joking—sort of.) “In all seriousness, I usually take a night off and just kick back. Sometimes I get caught up on the things I should be doing around my house, such as laundry or cleaning. I know—some celebration!”

Melissa Sawatsky: “I read for pleasure! As satisfying as editing can be, it makes me long for the enjoyment of reading without a critical eye and just getting lost in the prose and the world that springs up from it. The other thing I tend to do is spend more time outside in the fresh air, away from the computer screen.”

Writers, feel free to join our roundtable discussion in the comments below. What books inspired you? When you finish writing a novel or story, how do you like to celebrate?

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