Interview with Holly Blanck
Bio: As an Assistant Editor at St. Martin’s Press, Holly is acquiring both adult commercial fiction and young adult novels for all parts of the list and for all formats. Her current authors include Ellie James, Gina Robinson, Diane Kelly and Manda Collins. Holly graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey and began her publishing career at BookEnds Literary Agency.
- Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
Answer: I acquire both adult commercial fiction and young adult novels for all parts of the list and for all formats. I’m actively looking for all areas of romance, strong commercial women’s fiction, urban fantasy and humor. On the young adult side, dark, edgy, issue-driven novels are definitely a passion of mine.
- What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?
Answer: I prefer a synopsis to be no longer than 5 pages. I have a personal love for 1.5 spacing. J (though I generally don’t care about the spacing of the synopsis)
- In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: I’m sick to death of vampires and damsels in distress. I’d much rather a strong, kick-ass heroine with a sense of humor. J On the paranormal side, I am completely into zombies at the current moment, and am reading anything zombie-related I can get my hands on. I’d like to see more of anything that has a strong, fresh hook.
- What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
read? What particularly grabs your attention?
Answer: Strong narrative voice and vibrant characters are extremely important to me. I want to become emotionally invested in the world and the characters. I want to FEEL something as I’m reading. I want to think about the story, the world, and the characters when I’m not reading, and to be itching to be back in the story. What really grabs my attention is when an author has the ability to really suck me out of reality and I’m so into what I’m reading that I look up to realize that I’ve missed my subway stop, or hours have flown by without my noticing.
- For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?
- Voice - terminal
- Weak Grammar – it really depends HOW weak.
- Common plot – if it has potential, I will absolutely offer advice and ask to see a revision if they decide to go that route.
- Poor character development – again, depends HOW poor.
- Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) – controversy is NEVER an auto-reject for me. I will work with an author to make it work for the right market.
- Mediocre / uninspired writing – Usually terminal.
- Excessive use of violence or cursing - fixable
- Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building – I would be willing to look at a revision, but it would have to be an extensive one if these elements are missing.
- Pacing is off—plot is too slow – fixable as long as the plot is intriguing.
- Story starts in wrong spot – I’m not sure about this one. It would really be a case by case basis…
- Ending is unsatisfactory – fixable
- 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: Unfortunately as much as I love meeting authors face-to-face, the only thing that really changes is the rejection process. My response time goes by first come-first served, and agents do get priority over unagented submissions. However, I am more likely to offer a more personalized rejection if I’ve discussed the story with the author already.
- 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: Willingness to work together to make a story the best it can be, no matter how much work is required. Open-mindedness. Knowledge of the publishing industry is always helpful, as are affiliations to groups such as RWA, but they are not make-or-break material.
- Do you have any pet peeves?
Answer: Publishing-wise? When authors have clearly not done their research.
Otherwise, I can’t stand when people use the word “like” as every other word when they are speaking…It makes me want to punch them. LOL J
- What are you addicted to?
Answer: Cherry chapstick
- What have you always wanted to do?
Answer: Travel the world. J
- Do you have a favorite quote?
Answer: “Life is too short to be anything but happy.”