Thursday, April 09, 2009

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem Tour: Interview with content editor Linda Anderson

Great books are often the result of more than just the writer's efforts. I was very impressed with the thorough editing job done on Magic, Mensa and Mayhem by the editors at Swimming Kangaroo. The book went through a couple of edits--one for content and one for copyediting. These editors not only found errors I'd missed after a half-dozen edits and an equal number of critiques, but also alerted me to some writing habits I had and didn't realize. They created a better writer as well as a better book.

Today, we meet Linda Anderson, who was the content editor.

What does a content editor do?

The main job of a content editor is to read manuscripts for plot--Does it makes sense? Does it have any holes?--and character development--Are these people believable? This means we get to read books before anybody else does, which is a wonderful privilege, let me tell you. We also make sure sentence structure is correct and do a little grammatical tweaking if necessary. We are supposed to leave spelling and punctuation and such to the copy editor, but I think most editors of any variety would not be willing to let a typo escape if they could help it.

What do you enjoy about it?

Just about everything. I love to read ... I read to unwind the way a lot of people watch television to unwind. I have a hard time getting through a day if I can't read at least a little bit for pleasure sometime in my waking hours. (Because as we all know, reading while sleeping is hard!) I also get a major thrill out of being able to help polish someone else's creativity. That makes me a kind of coach. Or to put it another way: I am not the one who makes the cake, but I get to put the icing roses on.

How did you get started in the job?

Take one daily reader with a preference for fiction in general and science fiction in specific, give her a several-decades' long career in writing and editing news stories, add one friend who is a budding science fiction writer with the need for a little nagging to finish his book, stir in the opportunity to volunteer to be his editor and you've got my recipe for becoming a content editor. My friend sold his book to Swimming Kangaroo and mentioned to Dindy how much he liked my editing. She agreed to give me a chance as an editor. And here I am.

Are you a writer as well? If so, how does this help your writing?

I am a writer in the sense that I've got more than 25 years' experience writing news stories, but I'm not a writer in the book-writing sense, unless you count those 54 pages of a young adult novel that I started back in the mid-1990s and never finished. Yet. So yes, content editing could help my writing enormously by exposing me to new writers and different styles, showing me different possibilities and different concepts. But of course that means I'd have to dust off that manuscript ...

What impressions did you have about Magic, Mensa & Mayhem?

MM&M was my first experience with Vern and a terrific experience it was. (I hope it was good for him too.) I loved the puns, I loved the alternate universe setting, I loved the way all the different beings were just part of everyday life, I loved the crime solving part and I loved with Vern. I also appreciated how gently the religious message was conveyed. In these days when so many Christians seem to think the only way to spread the word is to smack people over the head with it, I loved how Vern and Sister Grace did the same thing in a much more gentle fashion. Believe me, those of us with sore heads appreciate it.

Any funny stories to share about editing it?

Not really funny stories about editing it. Parts of it made me laugh while I was editing, does that count?

Vern wants to know what you loved most about him in this story.

To paraphrase the gang at Cheers: VERRRRRNNN! I have a weakness for dragons. I've been a big fan since about 1979, but when I met Vern -- who can talk, make puns AND solve crimes-- I knew I had found my dragon. I think he's just about perfect. I mean, a wisecracking detective who is also a dragon -- what's not to love? Do you think I could ever sweet-talk him into giving me a ride? Just a short one, not too high ... I tend to get motionsick but I promise to be careful.

(Vern said if she's take some Dramamine, he'd consider it.)


Anonymous said...

what a nice way to get to know our editors better. Linda is certainly putting roses on some of my stories at Swimming Kangaroo. and I have to say I agree with her on loving Vern. not your usual dragon, but what fun
larriane wills

Karina Fabian said...

Thanks, Larraine!