This week at DDU we are delighted to welcome Mary-Theresa Hussey as our special guest. As well as finding a good book to publish, Matrice also loves to find a good book to read and is a member — and MVP — of the New York Editors team in the eHarlequin 100,000 Book Challenge. She has graciously agreed to stop by during the week to talk about everyone’s favourite topic: books! To get the discussion started, we asked Matrice about her job, her reading habits and her favourite series.
Q: What is your current position at Harlequin and what does your job entail?
MTH: My title is Executive Editor, Silhouette Books, and it actually covers many facets! My main responsibilities are to coordinate the fantastic work of the Senior Editors for the Desire, Special Edition and Romantic Suspense lines. I’ll help resolve questions that arise from overseas or Toronto, give input on repackaging and direction of line and copy, approve contracts and legal bits, do the management aspects of the editors in the group, represent the lines to the sales group and overseas in meetings, and do all I can to support the editors in achieving their goals of selling more books every year. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the main aspects of the daily life. Sadly, not a lot of reading or working on manuscripts, but I do have a lot of emails and phone calls and looking toward the future.
Q: Do you have authors you edit and are you still an acquiring editor?
MTH: I still have about fifteen authors and am selectively on the lookout for more. I have authors who write for Specials and Nocturne in series, and for LUNA and MIRA in single title. And I keep an eye out for more authors with compelling voices for both series and single title.
Q: What was your first job with the company?
MTH: I started as an Editorial Assistant for Silhouette Romance. Tara Gavin was Senior Editor of Silhouette Romance at that time and hired me because I was a fan of Diana Palmer and Ann Major, both her own authors!
Q: Which lines have you worked/edited for since?
MTH: Well, I’ve had a number of special projects over the years, and have had authors who have written for more lines as well. Hmm. I’ve acquired titles for Silhouette Romance, Special Edition, Desire, Intimate Moments, Shadows, Yours Truly, Bombshell, Romantic Suspense and Nocturne. And for Harlequin Intrigue, Historicals, Love and Laughter, Duets, Modern Extra. Love Inspired. I’ve also acquired for LUNA, MIRA, RDI, the new YA line and for the single title programs for Harlequin and Silhouette. So a lot of them!
Q: Rumour has it you’re an avid reader — has that always been the case? Do you remember your introduction to romance and Harlequin books?
MTH: I’ve always been an avid reader and I started out young in series — Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames, and all the other series like that. They learned to hook me from an early age!
When I was eleven we were spending three weeks in Ireland (my parents were born there), and I’d run out of books to read and was going crazy. So my aunt volunteered her Mills & Boon collection and I was hooked! The first one was “The Master Fiddler” by Janet Dailey and I devoured them all. Then, when I was back in NY, I discovered the library carried these books and used book stores and I was a goner. I got my first bank account so I could write checks to subscribe to the Loveswept series! My parents are not readers (though they read to us every night at bed and encouraged it), and are bewildered by it, but resigned as well.
Luckily I’ve got a commute where 40 minutes each way is on a subway, so I have some solid reading time that I reserve for printed books. And I’ll often go to the park at lunch, or curl up at the end of the day to finish the book. So that gives me an advantage!
Q: You mentioned reading series from an early age — are you still a fan of connected books, series and continuities?
MTH: I do love connected stories and read them for preference. There is a balance however, that needs to be addressed to make the stories move along in characters and plot in a way you can trust them. The J.D. Robb Death series moves the relationship along between Eve and Dallas but focuses on the mystery in a way that’s very pleasing.
But sometimes a series with a single character begins to feel forced and the author has to hold back some decisions or hard choices because of the impact down the road. I have trouble with that, because I like each book to deliver the strongest punch possible and want the author to trust her own creativity to fix it or deal with it.
Still, a world that I can return to heightens the level of trust and comfort and eagerness to return to a series. Lois McMaster Bujold has a SF series that in the first batch of stories she jumped around in time as well so we caught glimpses of Miles at various stages of his life (though the last four or five have been pretty much consistent).
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro did that with her Saint Germain series as well. I admire that and think it allows an author to experiment and keep things fresh.
Q: It seems you read widely across the genres — do you have a favourite genre or subgenre? An all-time favourite romance?
MTH: I find it hard to pick favorites. I like romance and fantasy and mystery and thrillers and paranormals and most of the subsets of those genres. I’m not really a women’s fiction reader; I’ll often prefer non-fiction over literary fiction as well. And what’s my favorite can depend on the mood. I’ve been unpacking boxes of books I’ve had stored for a while and falling in love with the books all over again. In the romance section, I’ve saved a lot of Essie Summers, Kay Hooper, Justine Davis, Rachel Lee, Sara Seale, Iris Johansen, Billie Douglass, Emma Darcy, Susan Napier, Susannah Hart and oh so many more!
Q: Obviously these older favourites are print books, but are you an eBook convert?
MTH: I’ve got mixed emotions. I was an early reader on eBooks and supporter in the company. I’ve probably read about thirty or more, but it’s not my first choice. There’s nothing that compares to the feel of the book in your hand, the words on the page, knowing how far you’ve gone and how far you have to go. Though the bars are there in e-formats, when you’re holding the book in your hand and you see that there’s only a few chapters to go, the excitement level rises as you wonder how it will be all wrapped up! And I love flipping back a page to catch something and carrying the book wherever I go. I generally carry a few books on my PDA, and am looking to do more on an ereader, but it’s not fully converted me yet.
And I’m still trying with audio books, but am struggling there.
I find myself getting distracted fairly easily and losing the import of the words and phrases, even when the readers are strong. But I keep trying to see if I can learn to enjoy it, as I know many others really find it satisfying.
Q: I’ve always wondered, is it difficult to discard your editing pen and read purely for pleasure?
MTH: It is sometimes hard to read for pleasure, but I try to approach the books I read with a clear mind whenever possible. The minor typos and incongruities bother me, but I can let them go. I do often reflect on what I would have suggested to the author to change. What irked me about the characterizations or conflicts or perhaps how to tighten or expand areas. But if I tried to do that all the time I’d never be able to enjoy the book on its own terms, so I can usually limit it.
Q: Have you ever considered writing a book?
MTH: I have sat down maybe twice and got to page two before stopping. It bores me and I really have no interest in writing on my own. I love brainstorming and interacting with authors and am astonished by the commitment it takes to finish a novel. But for me, I’d much rather read someone else’s book!
To finish up, we posed a couple of fun complete-this-sentence questions…
The best part of my job is…
Dealing with the creative, interesting, challenging people in the office and out-the authors and readers as well as colleagues.
On my desk you will always find…
A mess! Tons of papers, magazines, books, pens in various colors. And I have an unopened gift that I leave there for a really bad day. It’s a potential treat that gives me a sense of hope and mystery and fun. Luckily, I haven’t had to open it, and its packaging is pretty so I can just smile at it!
If I wasn’t an editor, I would like to be a…
Hmm. Photographer — for children perhaps!
My favourite place in the world is…
Changes a lot! But I keep coming back to a hill I climbed in Ireland in Kerry twenty years ago. The grass was green and slightly damp, a waterfall was trickling nearby, the wind was freshening, the sun was peeking through the clouds, some mountains were behind for a cradling feel, and the sea stretched out before me dotted with islands that glistened in greens and browns amid the blues and grays and greens of the water that was shot with silver and white as the light caught it.
Whenever I’m stressed or tired, I can call that image to my mind and feel ready to take on the next task.
I have always wanted to…
Go into space! Perhaps one of these years I will….
My favourite piece of jewellery is…
A “History of Ireland” silver bangle bracelet my parents gave me a few years ago. It’s unusual, creative, a discussion point, and the images lead to so much more.
To continue the Q&A theme and start this week’s discussion, Matrice has a question for you: What makes you choose a book by a new author? What makes you try something new?
Your comment this week will enter you in the draw to win a 3-pack of books, handpicked by Bron to include new-to-YOU authors. (Prize drawn June 21.)
SPECIAL EVENT: Join us for the drawing of Melissa Jeglinski’s critique on Friday, June 20 at 7.30am Australian EST–that’s Thursday, June 19, 5.30pm American EDT. All commenters in the Q&A with MJ are eligible for this fabulous prize. Full details here.