An Editor’s Past and Present

The first book I picked up when I started working at Hachette was Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness. It wasn’t my normal genre but I expected to enjoy it. It had all the hallmarks of a fun mystery: an exotic locale, an interesting murder, and a charming amateur detective. However, what surprised me was the strange affinity I felt with Ladaret Patalung, the very practical nurse ethicist who let her curiosity lead her down a very different path.

I didn’t expect to become an editor, mostly because I didn’t initially plan to and it seemed like an impossible dream. You know those dreams you set when you’re a kid? Firefighter! Doctor! Pilot! None of them are truly impossible, but you get a bit older and reality crowds in. It didn’t matter that I hid behind mountains of books in the quietest part of the library or that I would actively ignore someone next to me to meet the people in a book… Editing was for someone else. Until it wasn’t.

I spent three years teaching kids how to enjoy books, while nurturing a growing desire to work on them. I read every book I could find on the editing process then scoured the Internet for more and landed in the world of unpaid internships. There’s always a moment when you have to ask yourself if you truly want something and that tends to happen when you have to do it for free. However, my first internship was a revelation. No, not the filing, mailing, and errand running, but the conversations about the proposals and manuscripts. Is the voice compelling? Are the plot points logical? Do we care? Why? This wasn’t how I discussed books, but how I wanted to.

It’s probably why I look forward to editorial meetings every week. There’s nothing like sitting in a room full of your colleagues, watching their eyes light up and see them shift forward in their seats as you pitch a good submission. There’s so much fun in those moments. Moments when you simply have to know: Is it more Rothfuss or Jemisin? What’s the scale of the story? Which myth is it based on? Moments when you see an amazing novel start the next leg of its journey.

I think a lot about how my career has progressed, especially when workdays are long and you don’t get to spend nearly as much time reading as you imagined. But nothing really beats the pride you feel when you can send an author an amazing review or when you spot someone reading a book you’ve edited on the train.


A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White
A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White