As many of you know, I coordinate The Sandy Writing contest for Unpublished authors. I'm happy to say that this is the first of many interviews with The 2009 Sandy's wonderful final judges. Adam Wilson is the assistant editor for MIRA Books, and he'll be judging the romance category. We are very excited to have Adam's expertise, so check out his bio and interview below and see if perhaps you should enter The Sandy to earn a chance of getting your work on Adam's desk.~ Theresa
Adam Wilson, assistant editor, MIRA Books
Adam has worked with many bestselling authors during his nearly four years with Harlequin, including Heather Graham, Linda Howard, Susan Wiggs, Carla Neggers, and Jason Pinter. His overall work has been diverse and has spanned the house's imprints: MIRA, RDI, Spice, HQN, LUNA, Steeple Hill, and the several Silhouette and Harlequin series. Raised in Colorado, matured in Washington, and settled in New York, he’s attended college in each state and found editorial work to be a great boon to his love of the written word. Currently, he is looking to add thrillers, romantic suspense, commercial literary fiction, relationship novels, non-vampire paranormals, young adult, historicals, erotica, and anything with great writing to his list.
- Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category is your favorite?
Answer: Since MIRA has a fairly broad program, I'm acquiring for a number of things. I would, however, particularly like to find bring commercial literary fiction projects to the house, as well as young adult works, romantic suspense, and out-of-the-box paranormals.
- In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: Honestly, I have seen a glut of vampire books and am having a hard time reading more. There are a lot of great authors already writing them, so it's hard to find something new and fresh in the genre that doesn't feel gimmicky. I'd hate to try and tell people what to write, but personally, I'd like to see more historical paranormals, or paranormals that are really presenting new ideas.
- Do you accept unagented and/or email queries? E-mail queries?
Answer: The official policy of MIRA is to not take unagented materials, so generally I do not. This is also just a logistical matter of time--it's hard to finish the reading list I already have! However, I generally don't mind reading synopses or something short from a non-agented writer. And of course I like things via email--it's portable, eco-friendly, and lets me organize everything better!
- What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?
Answer: I like to see about two pages, personally. That way I can see how it's developing in a little more detail. Also, I can get a little better sense of a writer's style that way. (So definitely make sure your synopses are polished when submitting to editors.) I also prefer not to be 'marketed to' in the synopsis--generally I'll know what I need or can work with and really just want to see what's going on in the story itself, not in an author's meta commentary on their work.
- What are the compelling elements that you think are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?
Answer: I'm someone who values the texture of good writing probably even a bit more than plot itself, though I am a little atypical that way in the genre perhaps. I think what sets one, say, love story apart from another is the feeling you get when reading about it, not the plot points driving conflict. That said, you need plot and texture, both, but I do tend to be more intrigued by writing than plot when I'm reading.
- Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?
Answer: It does, sure. Unfortunately, the response time can still be quite lengthy in either event, but it does make me more inclined to read a project. As for 'advice,' I usually give that based on whether or not I think I have something to say that can be said gently and constructively, more so than whether I know the person.
- Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?
Answer: That's quite a good question, though difficult to answer. I guess when I think back, I've been more impressed by cooperative authors, those who can take feedback particularly. It's not always easy to incorporate feedback, but it's important to try. Half of writing is rewriting and editing, even for the best. So that's step one. Promotability is probably the other thing that will help an editor to convince others within the house to take a chance on a new author, and I do consider it, but I'm more interested in the reader than the marketers, so I have less of a head personally for that most of the time.
- What do you love most about your job?
Answer: I love the variety of tasks involved. There is more than just reading, and everything goes toward making a project that will a) influence whoever reads it, and b) make an author's career dreams come true (hopefully). I like seeing what authors come up with, how they think of relationships in their books, what their creativity manages to produce. Plus, MIRA (and Harlequin) is a fun place to work. The people are nice and entertaining, in the face of the craziness that is publishing.
- Do you have any pet peeves?
Answer: Oh tons. I live in New York, so of course a few things bother me now and then. Regarding my job, however, the biggest is when potential authors feel they can sort of strong-arm or 'market' me into buying their book, especially if they call. I don't mind a follow up email or something, but I'm like most people and don't like being cajoled. Also, incredibly strict grammarians really bother me. I know, it's strange for an editor to say that, but it's true.
- What’s your favorite genre/type of:
- Book: Literary Modernist
- Food: Tex-Mex
- Music: Assorted, but love Nirvana, hip-hop, and rockabilly
- Movie: various--does HBO's Rome series count? I loved that!
- Hobby: drawing, basketball
- What are you addicted to?
Answer: In the mornings, it's coffee, recently. In conversations, it's playing devil's advocate, sometimes. In person, I really like to try to get people to laugh. Some are hard to classify as addictions, but it's what I like.
- What have you always wanted to do?
Answer: I pretty much do what I want to do now. I write some on my own. I get paid to read and give my opinions on things. I help authors make their stories flourish. It's pretty fun, overall. I would like to travel more, and perhaps be made (benevolent) king of the planet, though.
- Do you have a favorite quote?
Answer: "Violence is for the unimaginative." --Professor X of the X-Men