Saturday, January 14, 2012

Interview with Thomas Dunne Assistant Editor Kat Brzozowski

Kat Brzozowski is an assistant editor at Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin’s Press. She has had extensive experience at literary agencies and has interned at Maria Carvainis Agency, Inc, Writers House, and Foundry Literary + Media. She enjoys a broad range of adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as young adult fiction. Her recent projects include an edgy mystery series set in Santa Barbara, California and Milton T. Burton’s Texan mysteries Nights of the Red Moon and The Devil’s Odds. **Kat is the final judge in the Thriller, Suspense, Mystery category of The Sandy Writing Contest.

1. Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
Answer: I have a broad range of interests. In my spare time, I read almost everything (except for serious sports and history books). As for what I’m looking to acquire, I love adult books in the genre of mystery, horror, suspense, and thriller. I also like some literary fiction (especially if it has a great voice) as well as certain types of women’s fiction (in the vein of Jodi Picoult). I’m also looking for young adult fiction. My young adult tastes are very broad.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: I like a synopsis to be 2-3 pages. If it’s any longer, I feel like I might as well just read the book! I prefer single spaced, but I’m not too picky.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: I’m sick of certain types of cookie-cutter young adult books, especially if I can tell from the first page what book this one is trying to be (Twilight, The Hunger Games). As for adult books, I’m open to most types of books if they have a great voice and a gripping plot. I like strong women – no pushover, needy types for me!

  1. What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?
    Answer: I like books with a strong voice. If you have a great voice, you can go almost anywhere with the plot and I’ll be interested. I also like interesting settings.

  1. 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?
    1. Voice – very important, as I noted above. Probably my number 1 priority when I read a manuscript.
    2. Weak Grammar - easily fixable, but bad grammar often seems like a sign of laziness to me
    3. Common plot - this can be tweaked, but it needs to have a good basic plot for me to work from.
    4. Poor character development – very bad. I need great, well-rounded characters to stay hooked
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) – I like controversial elements if they have a purpose. I can’t stand them if they’re piled on top of each other just to be controversial
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing – terrible. Hardest thing to fix, in my opinion.
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing – I feel mixed. Again, if it has a purpose, I’m fine. Gratuitous violence or swearing seems lazy to me,
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building - not as big of a deal to me
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow - this can be worked on, definitely.
    10. Story starts in wrong spot – can be fixed through editing
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory – can be fixed through editing
    12. Other

  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 sometimes helps, but it can also hurt if the author is too pushy, which signals me that they might be difficult to work with. It’s nice to meet an author in person at some point in the editing process, though. A lot of work can get done in a short period of face to face time.

  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: I love to work with mystery writers who are already part of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, among other organizations, especially because it makes things easier when it comes to getting blurbs. It’s always important for authors to have a good social media presence by the time their book publishes as well. Facebook fan pages and Twitter followers are essential in building an author’s platform.

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Misspellings in submissions. Just run a spell check! It’s not hard.

  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and CW TV shows (which are all pretty bad, admittedly). I also love Project Runway, Veronica Mars, and Nip/Tuck.

  1. What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: I’d love to travel to new places. Ireland, Australia, and Thailand are on the top of my list.

  1. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: I don’t! I’ll work on that.


Lee Lofland said...

Just curious, Kat. It sounds as if you accept un-agented submissions. Yes? If so, which do you prefer, working with an agent, or not?

Chris Devlin said...

Kat Brzozowski,
Great insight, thanks!

I always like to hear other women admit they like the CW. And Veronica Mars ruled!

Thanks again.