Q&A with Catherine Richards, Editor of The Other Woman

In the second installment of The Life of a Book, we sit down with the editor, Catherine Richards, to discuss an editor's role in the publication process.

Being an editor sounds like a fairy-tale dream job. Tell us a little about your career: was this always your plan? You’re also relatively new to Minotaur Books—what excites you about working for Minotaur?

Yes, I am a stealthy Brit in NYC! I moved to Minotaur Books about nine months ago from our sister company Pan Macmillan in the UK, where I had been for eight years. I originally wanted to be a journalist, but while I was at university, a literary agent approached final year English Lit students to see if anyone wanted to read through her slush pile. I found myself reading dozens of submissions and writing reader reports—one morning a week, in her cozy office, with two black Labradors curled up at my feet—and thought, this is the life! Of course, in reality, working in a big house is rather different (disappointingly no dogs, nor much time for reading during the working day).

When I graduated, it was the start of the financial crisis, so I was really lucky to get anything full stop—I was a school secretary helping students fill out their university applications for several months, meanwhile applying for any and every entry-level publishing job and internship/work experience I could find. Then, while I was doing work experience at Pan Mac, a temporary assistant role came up, which I did for a year.

In 2009, I applied to be the Editorial Assistant to the Fiction Publisher, and I got my first permanent job. I was lucky in that he worked across a huge range of commercial fiction authors, so my experience from the start was very broad. Working closely with a couple of crime writers opened a window for me into the world of crime fiction publishing—which I’d always been an avid reader of anyway—and I soon found that mystery/thriller writers are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet.

When the opportunity to transfer from London to New York came up, and to work at an imprint with such focus, it was too good to pass up. I love the ethos at Minotaur; it’s an imprint within one of the big trade publishing houses, St Martin’s Press, so we have the agility of a boutique publisher with the clout of a big company. I especially like that it’s a very collaborative team across editorial, marketing, and publicity, which makes it a creative environment.

Walk us through the acquisition process. Was this a standard acquisition, or were there unique occurrences with The Other Woman?

I keep in touch with my colleagues in the UK regularly, and I heard about this book from them. I got in touch with the UK agent who was representing it, and after what seemed like an eternity (to me, while I kept refreshing my inbox; in reality, just a couple of hours), she sent it to me on submission. I loved the sound of it from the start (“mother-in-law gaslights son’s girlfriend so she thinks she’s losing her mind—or is she?” Yes, please), and I read it that same day.

Read an introduction to The Other Woman by Sandie Jones!

Acquisition is very much a team decision—it has to be, as essentially, I’m asking for company money to offer as an advance based on projected sales and vision for how we would publish this book in over a year’s time and into a market whose appetite for this book we are predicting will still exist. But I think when I kept bouncing into my boss’s office asking which bit she was up to (“has Pammie done that yet?!”), she knew I was excited about it. My colleagues were generous with their time and read The Other Woman quickly too, and luckily they also loved it, so the next day I was able to make an offer to the agent. Overall, the acquisition process was the same as usual, but each step happened more quickly in this case.

What excites you most about The Other Woman? What do you want readers to think while reading?

I would love for it to keep people guessing—to have their suspicions about what’s going on but for those to be questioned and overturned again and again until the very end. But more than that, the elusive quality that I’m always looking for in submissions is the ability to create a world so vivid and a story so intriguing that you become totally immersed; the real world recedes for a few hours, and (cliché though it sounds) you can’t bear to put it down.

That’s exactly what The Other Woman did for me. I often read submissions on public transport during my commute, and if a writer can make you block out your surroundings, that’s the win. I can’t wait to know what readers think of Emily, Adam, and especially Pammie!

Can you tell us about the editorial process? How did you and Sandie work together?

My colleagues in the UK are publishing The Other Woman too, so the UK editor and I worked together on the editorial notes. We each wrote our own editorial letters, then swapped, and then had another conversation so that we weren’t giving conflicting suggestions but were also working independently in the first instance. It varies from author to author, book to book, of course—but in this case, we all spoke on the phone quite a bit, and we all knew from the start that we shared the vision of how we wanted the book to be in its finished form.

We worked on the story and structure of the book first, making sure each bit of information was dropped in at exactly the right moment to keep the suspense high and give the biggest impact to the ending. Then, we worked on the book at a line level. From the first draft at acquisition stage to the edited manuscript, it was about two months of conversations, rewrites, and drafts back and forth.

Editors are really just early readers, and I see my role as being there to ask authors questions and suggest ways that they might approach the book from new or different angles. Like: what is this character thinking at this point? Why are they reacting like that? Should we know this information yet, or should we delay it until 20 pages later when X happens? What if we saw this scene from another character’s point of view instead? I always think mystery novels are a bit like jigsaw puzzles—and the author has the power of when to show you the picture on the box.

What are some things about an editor’s role that most people would be surprised to learn?

I think perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions is that we want to change or rewrite your book. An editor’s chosen to work with you because they love your book and want to help convey its messages, themes, and story as clearly and effectively as possible, and to find its readers.

…the elusive quality that I’m always looking for in submissions is the ability to create a world so vivid and a story so intriguing that you become totally immersed; the real world recedes for a few hours, and (cliché though it sounds) you can’t bear to put it down.

A commissioning editor is very much a project manager too, responsible for channeling the right information to the right people at the right time—we are the author’s champion, advocate, and point of contact in-house and out-of-house between author, agent, and the other departments like sales, marketing, publicity, art, and production. Essentially, we spend the majority of our time talking about books rather than reading them!

We also have to be good with numbers as well as words—we put together profit and loss projections, look at sales figures, and work with production estimates.

What else are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished editing a wonderful book that will be out in early 2019—a historical mystery called The Widows by Jess Montgomery about two women whose lives collide when the man they both love is murdered. It’s set in 1920s Ohio against a backdrop of coal mining, prohibition, and women’s rights, and it’s based on the true story of Ohio’s first female sheriff, Maude Collins.

Do you ever think you’ll switch sides and write something of your own?

Well, never say never—but I think a fundamental drive to write has to be there, and at this point, I don’t have that. I’m in awe of those who do!

What are some of your favorite books? What are you reading now?

Reading so many submissions, I find I need to reset my brain with something familiar (I’ve always been one to re-read books over and over). So at the moment, I’m reading Stephen King’s The Stand—I’m on a bit of a Stephen King/80s kick at the moment since watching It and Stranger Things—and I’ve been saving Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage for the holidays this week.

See also: Stranger Things, It, and the Rise of Nostalgia Horror

And lastly, it’s a question we ask everyone we interview: what would be your murder weapon of choice?

I suppose it would have to be the tool of my trade: a pen! It’s mightier than the sword, right? Death by terrible pun? I’ll show myself out…

Tune in next month as we reveal the beautiful cover for The Other Woman! In the meantime, make sure you’re following Sandie Jones on Twitter for all other book updates.

Learn More Or Order A Copy

Comments

  1. Esther Whatley

    Interesting interview. Would love to win The Other Woman.

  2. Susanne Troop

    Love a good book!

  3. Jackie Wisherd

    I have ofaten wondered how much influence an editor has over an authors story. I’ve also wondered how much input an author has on the cover design.

  4. Julie Hansen

    Great review! Hope to win so I can read. It sounds amazing!

  5. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    Authors need a good editor! Yes!

  6. Gwen Ellington

    As a retired English teacher, I’m called upon to do editing now!

  7. Lisa

    Thanks for sharing this great interview.

  8. Donald Forsythe

    Great interview! Really enjoyed it.

  9. Donald Forsythe

    Great interview! Really enjoyed it.

  10. Vernon Luckert

    Would love to win

  11. Pearl Berger

    Excellent interview.

  12. ellie lewis

    Enjoyed the interview. Thanks.

  13. Pam Walrath

    Intriguing! Thank you!

  14. Catherine Myers

    I just quit my job.I am going to see how long I can stay unemployed.

  15. pearl berger

    Interesting and informative.

  16. Beverly Steuver

    Great review.

  17. Beverly Steuver

    Great review.

  18. Michael Carter

    This looks good!
    Please count me in.
    Thanks —

  19. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  20. Lori P

    Always enjoy reading about the literary ‘sausage-making’ process.

  21. Portia Asher

    Please consider my entry.

  22. pat murphy

    Hope to win , thank you !

  23. John Smith

    Round 2–it sounds more and more competitive!

  24. susan beamon

    I still want to win this book.

  25. Laurent Latulippe

    Very interesting. Thanks.

  26. Kimberly Dull

    Interesting!

  27. Mary Costea

    Interesting, thank you

  28. Jamie McCauley

    Thank you for this opportunity

  29. lasvegasnv

    intriguing

  30. Janet Gould

    sounds like an interesting job, being an editor

  31. L

    Love a good book that can take you out of your world and put you in theirs.

  32. Christine Smiga

    I would love to be an editor! This sounds like a great book, we all know how difficult some in-laws can be.

  33. Rhonda Barkhouse

    Great interview. Sounds like a great book.

  34. SUSAN GANNON

    thanks for chance

  35. Patrick Murphy

    Fascinating to see hear about this aspect of the book trade

  36. Dawn Roberto

    thanks for sharing a behind the scenes look into being published.

  37. vicki wurgler

    thanks that was a good interview

  38. Carol Turner

    Thank you for sharing how you work.

  39. Tracy Gibson

    What a great way to learn the process. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  40. Barbara Lima

    It sounds scary!

  41. HESTER MAYO

    Consider me in the mix!

  42. gooper

    Hope I win

  43. Sandy Klocinski

    Awesome interview! I’ve often wondered about the covers and where the design ideas come from. The book sounds great

  44. Barbara Bates

    Good interview! Hope to win!

  45. JAMES LYNAM

    Round 2 ———– I like.

  46. Daniel Morrell

    sounds interesting

  47. Abigail Gibson

    Awesome book. Thanks for the chance.

  48. veronica sandberg

    sounds like a great read…love it

  49. veronica sandberg

    sounds like a great read…love it

  50. Lorena Keech

    Thanks for the look into your world. I’m glad someone does what you do so we have the opportunity to read really great books.

  51. Lorena Keech

    Thanks for the look into your world. I’m glad someone does what you do so we have the opportunity to read really great books.

  52. Stephanie Liske

    Thank you.

  53. julie hawkins

    I want to read this book.

  54. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win

  55. Ed Nemmers

    I would like to read teh work of Sandie Jones.

  56. Karen Terry

    Sounds like an interesting read.

  57. Lisa Pecora

    This sounds interesting!

  58. Tricha Leary

    sounds fantastic

  59. elsie321

    Sounds like a good read.

  60. Leela

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  61. trish mckee

    This sounds like a great read! Thank you for the chance.

  62. Linda Peters

    sounds great and a good interview.

  63. Sand Lopez

    Sounds like a great one!

  64. Betty Curran

    Very interesting information. I agree that when you get so immersed in the story you just can’t put it down you know it’s a winner.

  65. Buddy Garrett

    I want to read it. It sounds great.

  66. Buddy Garrett

    I want to read it. It sounds great.

  67. Heather Cowley

    This sounds like a great read! Thank you!

  68. JULES M.

    sounds great! thanks for the chance

  69. John Smith

    Wow! Those tube seats are awfully lilac! Almost *too* lilac??

  70. Estella Wortham

    Would love to win.

  71. Richard Hicks

    Hope to read soon!

  72. Margit Curtright

    Yes, please!

Comments are closed.