Friday, May 11, 2012

Fun Fridays Q&A with editor Denise Nielsen

Best-selling author Tim Foote once said "Everyone needs an editor," and (waves hand), boy, can I testify to that. I'm ridiculously happy to welcome today's Fun Friday Q&A guest, Denise Nielsen, because she's not only a really awesome person -- she edited my debut novel, Cry Wolf, for Carina Press.

Denise is a book editor, fiction writer, college professor, aspiring gourmet cook and sommelier, free-range Mom, inveterate list-maker and book-lover. See what I mean about her being awesome? I got on my knees and begged politely asked Denise to answer some questions about editing for Carina Press, the authors she works with, and what submitting authors can do to catch her attention.

Angela: Welcome to my blog, Denise! Please tell us about your background and how you came to edit for Carina Press.

Denise: This is a tough question, because I certainly didn’t take a straight path. I took English and History in university which meant I got to write and read all the time, and I think this is where I honed many of the writing skills critical to this industry. After graduation, I was an officer in the Canadian navy and because of my writing ability, often ended up creating and editing technical documents. When I left the navy and moved to a small town where there were not many job opportunities (and this was pre-Internet), I wound up reporting for, and later editing, a small newspaper. While my children were young and I was at home with them, I freelanced for the government and for industry and while this was quite lucrative, in 2009 I decided I needed to shift gears. There were a number of small digital presses just breaking out and I actually saw a call for editors on Twitter one day, so I applied, realized I LOVED editing fiction, and the rest is history. I joined Carina in 2010 just as they were starting up, and have had the pleasure of working with some very talented writers since then.

Angela: I was lucky enough to have you as my editor for Cry Wolf. Please tell us some of the other titles you’ve worked on and what you loved about them.

Denise: So many! I really enjoyed working with Kaylea Cross on Deadly Descent. It was one of the first books I edited for Carina and I loved the military setting. Shannon Curtis is another of my favourite writers – I edited both Viper’s Kiss and more recently, Guarding Jess—both wonderful and exciting stories centering around the men from the McCormack Security Agency. Another favourite of mine was Ruth Casie’s time travel book, Knight of Runes. This book really stretched me as an editor because it was so intricate a story, but Ruth was an absolute delight to work with. More recently, Jennifer Bray-Weber’s swashbuckling adventures (A Kiss in the Wind and A Siren’s Song) were such fun to edit, and I got my first taste of steampunk—which I love—with Coleen Kwan’s novella, Asher’s Invention. I am editing the sequel right now. But you know, I could go on and on… The great thing about Carina Press is that I acquire the books that speak to me, that I really love, and so editing them is always a delight.

I can’t let this question go without mentioning Cry Wolf. I read it in the car on the way up to the Laurentian Mountains with my husband and kids for a ski vacation. They would be talking to me and I was completely immersed in your story. I knew I wanted to acquire it about an hour north of Montreal, and the race was on to finish it before we arrived at our destination.

(Blushing) Aw, thank you, Denise! I didn't know that story. I'm feeling a little teary now. Eh-hem. So, in your opinion, what makes a book a great read?

Denise: Strong, well developed and believable characters with a story to tell. I want the characters to get inside my head and not let go. And I want to be fascinated, repelled, intrigued, frightened by the obstacles they face. If you can do that, you’ve hooked your reader and they won’t be able to put your book down.

Angela: What type of submissions are you looking for? Any advice to help writers catch your attention?

Denise: I’m accepting subs in all categories but am particularly interested in the following: historical, contemporary, suspense, steampunk, These can include both romantic and non-romantic stories, and both full length novels and novella’s (over 15K words—check Carina guidelines).

As for advice, one thing I do recommend is to engage with editors on Twitter. For example, I often tweet about something I am interested in right now. The other day I had a hankering for a War of 1812 historical romance and mentioned that online. I’ve also been posting about wanting a gothic romance. If you see that and happen to have what I’m looking for, it’s a win-win. The Carina Press blog often has a call for submissions post which outlines what individual editors are looking for. You can submit to Carina by targeting a specific editor (but only one at a time please.) To reach me directly, send your subs to As per Carina’s guidelines, you need to send the full manuscript, a query and a synopsis.

Angela: What are some of the worst mistakes you see writers make?

Denise: Backstory and exposition. Writers know their story so well that it only makes sense they want the reader to be as immersed in the world as they are. But when they try to give us all the information they know up front, it is an information overload for the reader. It’s like being at a party and someone giving you their entire life history. Yawn. Let it be revealed gently. In good time. Exposition is tied into this because it’s so much easier to tell than to show. I love this quote by Anton Chekov (one of my favourite short story writers): “Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Angela: Let’s get to know Denise the person with these questions. Are you a member of any TV show/film/book fandoms?

Denise: Not really. The closest I come is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series which got me seriously hooked on romances again after way too many years reading only “serious literary fiction” (I have to say that with a frown and a cynical tone so you can see how unbearable I must have been during my university years. Diana made me lighten up again.)

I do enjoy Lord of the Rings (the movies). And I tend to read whatever series of books my kids are hooked on, which at least gives me wide variety.

Angela: What’s the last book you read for fun?

Denise: I’m thoroughly enjoying Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, and plan to get Bel Canto next. I love discovering a new-to-me author, especially when they have more than one book. Kate Morton is another writer I was recently introduced to whose works really evoke a time and place well for me.

Angela: If you could spend one day as any fictional character, which one and why?

Denise: Bond. Jane Bond. I live on a farm, in a wardrobe of jeans and tank tops and sometimes I yearn for the glamour and glitz of dressing up and socializing at very impressive events, drinking sophisticated drinks…the world Bond epitomizes. I also wouldn’t mind being Hermione Granger. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend their day at Hogwarts?

Angela: Celebrity crush?

Denise: Harrison Ford – I saw him as Han Solo and haven’t been the same since.  :-)

Angela: Hobbies?

Denise: My garden—we grow organic vegetables all summer. And weeds. Organic weeds. I continue to write poetry, which I find balances me. And I coach soccer. I also have a book club – 12 great women who make me laugh and cry and think. Love that.

Angela: I want to hug you say thanks for being a guest on my blog today, Denise. You rock!

If you'd like to connect with Denise on social media, you can find her on Twitter @denielsen and on Facebook. Hop on over and tell her Hi!


Unknown said...

Great interview, Angela and Denise!

Denise you are a wonderful woman and I still hope to work with you one day soon.

All the best to both of you and your future endeavors!

Alyssa Everett said...

Hi, Angela and Denise! Aren't book clubs wonderful? I think anyone who doesn't already belong to a book club should consider starting one of her own.

Veronica Scott said...

Enjoyed the interview! Ah yes, the dreaded backstory stuff - I always have to watch out for that in my books too LOL!

Heather Long said...

Great interview! Love having Denise as my editor!

Angela Campbell said...

Thanks, y'all, for stopping by. :-)

Shelley Munro said...

Great interview. It's always interesting getting a peek into the mind of an editor :)

Liz Flaherty said...

Great interview. Carina Press editors are the best!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview, Angela.

Denise ~ a navy officer? Wow! That's pretty cool. And I love history, too! Love reading about it and writing about it.
Thanks for the shout-out. I'm humbles and honored.
For the record, I love having Denise as my editor!

Lynnette Hallberg said...

Denise is a fantastic editor. I loved working with her and hope to again. What an interesting backstory she has! Thanks for a great interview.


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