Summer on the Moon Blog Tour
Trudy Zufelt interview with Vicky Holifield- Editor of Summer on the Moon
The first two questions are from my 12 year old son and are pretty typical.
1. Did you get A’s in English?
VH: I did. I learned to read pretty early, and I read a lot. I enjoyed discovering new words and finding out about grammar and the ways words were put together, so English class was always fun for me. I had to work a little harder at writing, but because I read so much I always had a lot of words and phrases floating around in my head. That helped me a lot with the writing.
2. Do you ever get sick of reading?
VH: I can remember getting tired of reading, but never sick of it. When I was in graduate school, I just about exhausted myself during one winter break reading several long novels in French. But even then, I still enjoyed the process of reading.
Now I have to read many manuscripts for my job, some of them early drafts and some of them the fourth or fifth version of the same story. At the same time, so I can keep up in my field, I try to read a variety of the children’s books that other publishing companies bring out. I read articles in journals on children’s literature and on the publishing business. But still, I almost always have a book or two on hand to read simply for my own pleasure.
3. Tell us how long a book takes from the first time you see it on your desk until it gets published?
VH: A looooong time. Actually, the amount of time it takes to publish a book varies greatly. When a manuscript first comes to my desk, it may take several months for me to find time to read and respond to it and circulate it to my colleagues for their appraisal. Even after we have decided to publish a manuscript, it takes a while to draft and agree on a contract with the author or agent. Once a manuscript is under contract, the editor and author set up a schedule for developing the story and editing the text. When our editing is done, we turn it over to the production department for typesetting.
Picture books generally take longer than novels. When we acquire a picture book, we not only have to develop and edit the text, but we also have to find an appropriate artist (who is available in the near future—some of them are booked up for years) to illustrate the book and allow that artist plenty of time to create the illustrations. In addition, picture books are in full color, and we almost always send them overseas to be printed. That adds to the time frame. A picture book could possibly be produced in two years, assuming the text is in good shape and the artist is a prompt and efficient worker. More often, it takes about three years from start to finish.
After acquiring a novel, we usually allow around two years to complete the editorial and production process.
4. How long did it take to edit Summer on the Moon?
VH: I have worked with Adrian on many books, so the process was a bit faster than it would have been with a new author. I received the first full manuscript for SOTM (To save time and space we nearly always come up with a shorter version of a title!) in January 2010. Peachtree offered her a contract for the book in August of that year. She and I worked through a developmental edit and discussed the various plot lines and characters at great length. Adrian is an eager rewriter; I think she did around three rewrites before we settled down for the actual editing. We worked together on the editing and had a final manuscript ready for typesetting in October 2011. So, in all, it took us about fourteen months.
5. How many rounds of edits does a book usually go through?
VH: I start with a developmental edit. During this process we look at the big picture—character development, structure of the story, the main plot and how it works with the subplots, etc. I write up an editorial memo with my thoughts and questions, then send it to the author for review and rewriting.
When the author and I are satisfied that the parts of the story are in place, I do a thorough line edit in which I examine the way chapters/scenes line up (what are the best ways to begin and end them, for instance), paragraph and sentence structure, word choices, consistency of character depiction, clarity of the narration, authenticity of the dialogue, etc. This step also involves a lot of back and forth with the author.
After the author and I feel that we have reached a “final” manuscript, I usually ask another editor to copy edit it. During this phase, the copy editor checks us for consistency of usage and spelling, fact-checks passages when necessary, and assures that our grammar is correct. We allow about six weeks for the copy edit and the copy edit review. When that stage is complete, we turn the manuscript over to the production department for typesetting.
After the manuscript is typeset, there are at least two rounds of proofing—sometimes more. During proofing we are mainly correcting errors, not editing. But some editing does happen at this stage.
6. What drew you to Summer on the Moon?
VH: Adrian can always lure me in with her humor and her wonderful descriptions. She grabbed me immediately with that first scene where Socko and Damien are messing around with the old elevator. I really enjoy reading a story in which an author introduces me to a character, makes me care for that person, and then puts that person in an impossible situation. How in the world is Socko going to handle moving away from his best friend and his old familiar neighborhood to an empty housing development in the middle of nowhere?
7. What was your favorite part of editing Summer on the Moon?
VH: It is always fun to work with Adrian. I feel as if I know her characters personally and have actually been to the neighborhoods that are settings for her books. For Summer on the Moon, I enjoyed helping her figure out just what would happen if a kid wanted to transform an empty swimming pool into a skateboarding area…and what would happen if a car careened into a full one!
If I had to pick one favorite moment for this book, it would be when Adrian told me that a suggestion I made had helped her straighten out the main plot in her mind. It is truly rewarding to think that I helped even a little bit in the creation of a good book.
8. What is the hardest part of editing a book?
VH: Editing a book is a daunting and humbling experience. It takes a lot of nerve to suggest that a very good author change something about a story. I have to rely on my instincts after many years of reading and editing books and cross my fingers that I am steering the author in the right direction. I always hope that an author will look upon me as a sort of consultant.
It can be stressful to work on several books at the same time and have to meet tight deadlines.
I also find it difficult to finally let go of the manuscript. I always torture myself looking for perfection in every bit of punctuation, every word choice, every word break. Of course, that is pretty much impossible, but I can’t help hoping…
9. Tell my readers a little bit about the process of becoming an editor and what an editor does.
VH: There are many ways to prepare for a career in editing, and there are many types of editing jobs. Some people study journalism and writing in college and graduate school; some participate in summer courses in publishing; some work as interns in publishing companies. I taught French for several years, then stepped out of the work force while I raised two children. Some time later, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and got an entry-level job at Peachtree Publishers. I apprenticed under editors and gradually learned about the editing process.