Saturday, January 29, 2011

Interview with HarperCollins Author, Leigh Fallon

I am so honored and excited to write this post! Yesterday it was announced that our very own contributor, Leigh Fallon, has been picked up by HarperCollins/HarperTeen for publication of her paranormal YA novel, Carrier of the Mark! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Authonomy and Inkpop, they are sites created by HarperCollins. Writers can post their projects, receive feedback from one another, and vote on their favorites. They’ve been referred to as “Cyber Slushpiles” and the “Online American Idol for Writers”. Each month the top five selections are sent to an HC editor for review. Writers vie for these positions as a way to have their work read by an editor, bypassing the literary agent stage. Leigh’s book is Inkpop’s very first acquisition. A dream-come-true by any standard.

One year ago this month Leigh’s book was sitting pretty in the top five on Inkpop. One month later she had her review, and then she was secretly contacted by HarperCollins in March 2010! Each of us starry-eyed Inkpoppers has dreamt of that moment.

So much was going on behind the scenes this past year as Leigh prepared for publication. As crazy-busy as she was yesterday, she was happy to answer an interview question for us YAtopians…

Leigh, tell us what it was like to work with a "real" editor.
What was the editing process like?

"Working with a quality editor at the top of her game is an overwhelming and awesome experience. My editor at HarperTeen is Erica Sussman, the editor for Aprilynne Pike, author of Wings and Spells, and Kiersten White, author of Paranomalcy. I’m in some serious company, and that can be daunting.

My first round of edits were full on three hundred pages of red pen. I had to condense 100K into an 80k word manuscript, all the while expanding the story, and delving into more detail in some areas.

At first it was petrifying. I didn’t know where to start. I edited three chapters, and riddled with self-doubt, sent on those three chapters to my agent to get her opinion on whether I was ‘doing it right’. She added her thoughts and opinions and I got stuck back in.

It got easier. The more I got into the editing process the more natural it felt. I really found myself immersed in the story and seeing it through my editor’s eyes. I could see her vision of the finished product, and as soon as I let myself 100% trust in her advice it became an enjoyable experience. I watched as my writing got better, more precise, tighter, and that was a most enjoyable and educational experience.

Once I’d submitted the next draft I was feeling a little bit more confident, Erica did a second round of edits, finely honing the story and viciously deleting scenes that, while being great scenes, were unnecessary to the story. It’s hard to see moments of your book that you loved being wiped out of existence, but once it’s done, it’s gone. And once again, I sat back and marveled at the amazing talents of an exceptional editor.

Round three of edits is copy edits, it’s the nit picking stage, where danglers, misuse of words, timing issues or inconsistencies are pointed out to you by copyeditors you don’t know, and for me it was the hardest part of the editing process. It’s like they’re questioning you as a writer and questioning your knowledge of your own story. But again, as soon as I’d gone through this process I realized the reason we don’t get to meet the copy editors is because it’s their job not to know you. They’re completely impartial and seek out every hole and potential problem in your manuscript. If they can’t find it, then a reader won’t be able to, and ultimately that’s what you need. A manuscript that flows beautifully is smooth, tight, riveting, and satisfying.

Writing a brilliant book is two-thirds being a good writer and one-third having an excellent editor. I have one-third down in Erica, I just hope my two-third offering is up to par. LOL. Hopefully, with all the work put in by all parties we’ve achieved something special in The Carrier of the Mark."

There is no doubt in our minds here at YAtopia that together Leigh and Erica have achieved something special. We cannot wait to get our hot little hands on one of those arcs. Cheers to Leigh Fallon on her dream come true!


  1. Thanks, Leigh, for giving insight on the editing process. It seems so daunting, yet exciting. :-) I am so happy for you and I know you're going to have nothing but success come your way.

  2. Wow, this was actually really interesting to read (why am I surprised? I shouldn't be!) It was great to hear about the different stages, and you know that I, and everyone else over at Inkpop, cannot wait for your book to come out! :)

  3. This is so inspiring. It make sme want to write!

  4. Yay for inspiration! :) Yesterday after word got out about Leigh, there was a surge of inspiration - all these people on twitter were running off to write! It was awesome!

  5. Whoa! Great insight on the editing process! I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of this book. When I read the first couple of chapters over at Inkpop, I knew it was something amazing. Congrats Leigh! You're success is inspiring to us all =)

  6. Wow, thanks for sharing this. Great insight. Again, so happy for you!

  7. Gosh, commenting on my own interview... how sad am I? But hey, I'm a debut author still in the throes of success glow, so I can get away with shameless self promotion and commenting on interviews. Wayhay Wendy.

  8. Excellent insight into the reality of the editing world- daunting but very exciting!
    Go on the shameless self promotion Leigh! Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on...


    Well done YAtopia on an excellent team of people and generous sharing of your collective knowledge.

  9. Fascinating! It's all so fascinating!