Interview with an Editor

Sometimes an editor keeps liking your work, and when that happens it is as if the sky has opened and the celestial chorus is singing your praises. I know such an editor. Her name is Edwina Harvey, and she has selected short stories of mine for publication three times now. Yeah, Edwina has a thing for me:) And so I thought I would reciprocate that love a little by interviewing her on my blog.

Ripley: Edwina, I first met you when you acquired my story “The Derby” for the magazine Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (issue 33). I have to ask, what did you like most about that story? And more generally, as an editor of a magazine, what do you look for when choosing stories?

Edwina: What initially hooked me with “The Derby” was that it was set in Alaska, and I had been to Alaska on a small boat cruise that specialised in looking for wildlife as well as visiting towns on the Inside Passage only a few months before. I was there at the end of the salmon season, so it was easy to relate to the Salmon Derby aspect of your story. But I’m also very much into whales and dolphins – the main reason I took the Alaskan cruise – and I like seals too, so the concept of an alien seal-like creature taking part in a “Human Derby” really appealed to me. It was that little bit twisted and zany.

As I write this, I’m looking across my loungeroom to a framed computer generated print of two seals possibly swimming in an aquarium, or maybe a spaceship. I bought it at Swancon in 2008 because it reminded me of your story. I’ve never done that for any other story I’ve edited, so I think “The Derby” must have let its mark on me!

As an editor compiling a magazine, it’s hard to say what I look for. I find when I go out looking for something in partucular, it usually doesn’t work. But when you pick up a story and it “resonates” with you, you know you’ve got to have it.

Ripley: How cool. I didn’t know that about the seal print. That warms my little writerly heart. For those who want to check it out, The Derby is currently available as a free audio story over at Wily Writers Website. And if you want to see how Edwina’s trip to Alaska birthed a great story for her, be sure to check out her YA science fiction novel, The Whale’s Tale over at Peggy Bright Books.  

Now, a question about story. Sometimes I’ll read a work that has amazing voice or beautiful writing, but the storytelling or plot is weak. Other times, I’ll read a story that has great storytelling and plot but is written rather plainly. As an editor, which is easier to work with? As a reader, which do you prefer to read, and why?

Edwina: As a writer, I suspect I fall into the “weak plot/plainly written” category myself. : – ) As an editor and reader, stories that are written plainly don’t worry me. I think authors can sometimes lose sight of the fact that they are storytellers, and can get too involved with complicated writing that the reader has to struggle to read. Though when I come across amazing voice and beautiful writing sometimes it’s just a decadent indulgence to read it. Both have their place, if they manage to tell a good story.

Ripley: Yeah, I feel the same way. Voice is something that can grab me at the beginning of a story, but voice with no story eventually becomes monotonous. Best case scenario is a good voice telling a good story. And I highly doubt you fall into the “neither of those” category.

Which brings me to my next question. Since you are a writer as well as an editor, how do you balance those two hats while writing? Does you inner editor ever get in the way of the creative process?

Edwina: All the time!!! I have an annoying tendancy to write something then spend way too much time over-editing it when I should be pushing through with the writing. I’d have a lot more books and stories written if I could just turn off the “inner editor” and turn *up* the “inner writer”.

Ripley: In relationship to that, yesterday I just read this amazing blog post about letting go of perfection, and the huge issue that is for writers. We have this idea that we have to write the perfect story, the perfect novel, when in fact, nothing is perfect and our job is to write good stories and send them out into the world. Anyway, that post gave me a lot of motivation and hope. 

So, the second time you and I “met” you chose my novella, “Over the Rim”, as the cover story for ASIM Issue 42. I’m not sure if you remember, but I actually received an auto-rejection from ASIM for the story, followed shortly after by a plea from you to acquire it after all. I’ve always wondered what the story was behind that. Was there some debate about accepting “Over the Rim” because it was so long or was something else going on?

Edwina: It was a regretable case of the ASIM’s left hand not knowing what its right hand was doing. As I recall, I was reading the story, and had thought I’d reserved it (i.e. said “Just hang on to this one a while longer, I think I’m interested in it.”) Meanwhile it had “dropped out of the slushpool” – you would have got a “Thanks but no thanks” note from us, which means your story was good enough to be published (I certainly thought so.) I wasn’t aware that had happened until I piped up with, “Yeah, I am taking that story,” and we realised we didn’t have the story anymore, so we had to chase you for it. Eh, we’re ASIM, these things happen.

Ripley: Well, I’ve had this sequel to “Over the Rim” banging around in my head for years. I’m gonna have to write it and get it out of there.

So, you recently co-edited and published a anthology of speculative fiction short stories called Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear (also available at Peggy Bright Books). First, thanks for selecting my story, Mary had a Unicorn, for the antho. Obviously, you have a love for science fiction and fantasy. How, when and why did that develop in your life?

Edwina: I think I grew up with SF and fantasy before I even knew what it was. I watched Astroboy, Thunderbirds and Star Trek as a kid. And while I’m coy about my age, I’m also pleased I can say I saw man walk on the moon. When I was a teenager, I rediscovered Star Trek and ended up being a founding member of one of the first Star Trek fan clubs in Australia. I’ve always been crazy about horses, so falling in love with horses with horns and horses with wings seems like a natural extension of that. (Falling in love with guys with hooves or wings might explain why I’ve never been in a lasting relationship. : )

Ripley: I know you recently got your freelance editing credentials. What does it involve to prove yourself as an editor?  What do you hope to offer your clients in the way of editorial advice? 

Edwina: One of my teachers gave us a wonderful quote about what editors do: we merely clear the smoke away so the reader sees how bright your fire burns. An editor should work in conjunction with an author to make a written piece really shine. And it’s the most fantastic feeling in the world when an author and an editor find they *can* communicate and collaborate to take a good piece of writing and make it better.

I think being a writer myself gives me an insight into the writer’s point of view when dealing with an editor. I thought I had done a good job in editing my novel myself, but when I handed over the manuscript to my editor and saw all her mark-up when she returned it, I realised I didn’ know as much about editing (or maybe as much about editing *myself*) as I thought I did. But I appreciated all the hard work she’d put in to improving my work.

Ripley: I know that I’ve found working with you as an editor to be a wonderful experience. How can writers contact you to contract with you for freelance editorial work?

Edwina: Probably the best way is to e-mail me at They can also check out my credentials and CV on my blog HERE.

Ripley: Finally, what are you reading now or have read lately that you would recommend?

Edwina: I’d really recommend Joanne Anderton’s novel, Debris, published by Angry Robot Press. There’s no “fat” in her writing whatsoever. Every word is there because it needs to be. I read a lot of books where I think, “This needs editing” but that’s not the case with Jo.

Paul Collins also wrote a great YA SF thriller called Mole Hunt, the start of the Maximus Black  series. it’s another great read.

Ripley: Awesome. Thanks so much for the great interview.

Edwina: You are quite welcome.

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Ripley Patton lives in a 22-foot camper in the woods of Southern Illinois with a cat named Lemmy. Her two young adult children, a daughter and a son, are her favorite people. When Ripley's not out exploring nature and getting her hands dirty, she's usually reading or writing a book.

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