Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Interview with MIRA editor, Adam Wilson

As many of you know, I coordinate The Sandy Writing contest for Unpublished authors.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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. What’s your favorite genre/type of:
    1. Book: Literary Modernist
    2. Food: Tex-Mex
    3. Music: Assorted, but love Nirvana, hip-hop, and rockabilly
    4. Movie: various--does HBO's Rome series count? I loved that!
    5. Hobby: drawing, basketball

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: "Violence is for the unimaginative." --Professor X of the X-Men


KL Grady said...

LOVE the favorite quote. Nice job, T! It's always interesting to see the innards of an editor's mind.

Since you've spoken to so many editors and agents, maybe you can answer this question: are you finding more eco-sensitive attitudes in the industry, specifically in the preference for e-mail submissions?

Donnell said...

I found Adam's comment about strict grammarians incredibly interesting. I would love to know more about what he's basing this comment. Is he finding narrative stilted, dialogue forced... just a hint :) Great interview, T, and our thanks to Adam. Wow, he's been all over the place. Makes me wonder what sports teams he roots for, if any ;)

Edie said...

Great interview! Gotta love an editor who's not a strict grammarian. :)

Theresa said...

I like Adam's quote too--however . . . Not quite true.

Given proper incentive-- a husband with Restless Leg Syndrome who disrupt your sleep a dozen times a night--EVERY night--I can think of MANY imaginative ways to commit violence--Grin. Just kidding-Sort of. Sorry, Adam, I couldn't resist.

Too true, Edie! Grammar is HARD--well, if you get it right it is. I much prefer taking the artistic license approach myself.

Nancy Naigle said...

Do you love this guy, or what! Great interview and I hope I get the chance to meet him at a conference one day.

Adam: What conferences are you planning to attend in the future. (Don't worry, I'm not a stalker. Promise. Just curious what types of conferences get your attention.)

Thanks a million for the inside peek into MIRA through your eyes. I've got my own sights set on HQN/MIRA, and have a full on a desk there now.

Wish me luck,
Nancy Naigle
Love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense.

Sandy said...

I'd be interested in knowing what conferences Adam is attending in the forseeable future. That seems to be the only way for an unagented author to pitch to him to obtain info on where to query him :-)


Theresa said...

Hi Nancy and Sandy,
Both Adam and his boss, Margaret Marbury, have expressed interest in attending The Crested Butte Writers Conference June 19-21 2009. We're hoping that one of them can squeeze it into their busy schedule. In the coming months, check www.cbfriendsofthelibrary.org to see the 2009 line-up of attending editors and presenters.

Sandy, another great way for an unagented author to gain an editor's attention and get a partial read is to final in a writing contest--The Sandy in particular. www.thesandy.com. In the past, we've had great success impressing the editor final judges and several times editors have requested the finalist's full manuscript!

Delta Dupree said...

Great interview, Theresa!

I'm pretty impressed with Adam and his candid answers. As for the tough-as-nails grammarians, Big Ugh. Life is too short.

Sandy said...

Hi Theresa,
Yep, I know all about contests. The manuscript in question has just received it's 6th final. I haven't entered it in the Sandy though. It's been on the desk of numerous agents who all say the same thing. It's too different, or, I don't have the contacts to sell this book. It's currently in the hands of a NAL editor, but since Adam said he's interested in paranormals "outside the box"...I thought, hey...maybe I should try to get it in front of him :-)


KL Grady said...

Sandy - Since Mark is judging the romance category in the upcoming Sandy, here's your chance to get your work in front of him. I can attest to the awesomeness of the Sandy. I got a request for a full from the judging editor this year.

KL Grady said...

Um. ADAM. Not Mark. Is it obvious I'm up to my eyeballs in work?? Geez.

CaroleMcDonnell said...

Great interview! -C

Emma Sanders said...

Great interview! An editor who doesn't like strict grammarians, loves Nirvana, Tex-Mex and the X-Men is my kind of man, er, editor!

Do they have Tex-Mex in New York? :)

Tina LaVon said...

I loved the benevolent king of the planet. Gotta love an editor with a sense of humor.

Tina LaVon

Faith said...

My agent steered me away from writing vampire fiction for the same reason about there being too much of it on the market and in queries. One day, though, I'd like to write a vamp novel, but I plan on doing some research first to create something original. I've been in publishing too long to waste my time, lol.

Coffee...mmmm...can't function without it!

Allison Brennan said...

Hi Donnell and gang, great interview! I always love to hear how editors work, their pet peeves, etc. And I especially love hearing that he loves his job. That's so important, not just for him, but his authors, too.

cherylnorman said...

Uh oh. Donnell, do you think Adam would call me a strict grammarian?

Cheryl Norman, grammar cop

Audra Harders said...

Great inteview, T and thanks to Adam for taking the time! You have a far reaching grip in the editorial community! I'm so proud of you : ) You bet I'll be entering the Sandy : ) Thanks!!

MARIAN said...

Adam, great Q&A. Very interesting to see the other side of what we do. Thanks!

Mary Marvella said...

Strict grammarians? Hmmm. Donnell knows I'm only 99% strict about grammar.

Adam said...

Like the editor I am, I'm always responding a little bit behind, but let me see what extra little bits I can answer (and see who will notice this post). . .

There are some more eco-sensitive attitudes coming through the industry, though, being a greenie myself, I could always to stand for more. Several houses are beginning to issue Kindles or other e-readers to their editors. It's a measure meant to ease their burden (literally--carrying manuscripts around gets tiring)and reduce printer ink usage, but the net effect is green. I'm not sure how many editors use email submissions, however. I think some may still prefer paper submission as a minimum-effort kind of test for potential authors--the old idea that if you make things too easy for too many people, you'll get too much stuff sent to you. (i.e. email is too easy to submit through.)

As for grammarians, they are useful of course, but often times things get too stilted when grammar is obsessed over. The point is to tell a story, after all, not create a math equation. Clarity is good, and I'm glad to have copyeditors and proofers double-checking everything I work on, but clarity can definitely be achieved without perfection.

I'm going to the Florida Romance Writer's conference this January. I attend the Heather Graham Writers for New Orleans conference in the [hot, hot, too hot] summers. And I'm hoping for the Crested Butte conference, certainly, even though, as I told Theresa, I was snowed in there for a few days once. :|

And I must say that the vampire-weariness is more of a personal thing than an industry weariness per se. I think that'll be coming at some point, but that could just be me. Coffee, however, will never go out of fashion.

Glad to see the vibrancy of the writer community is still there. Mostly remember to have fun writing, everyone! (Even when it's going poorly.)

Thanks, Adam Wilson