Sunday, January 13, 2013

Interview With Berkley Assistant Editor, Katherine Pelz

I'm very excited to announce that Katherine Pelz is The Sandy's final judge for the Romance category.  Katherine graciously took the time to answer my questions for this interview.

Bio: Katherine Pelz has spent the past 3 years at the Berkley Publishing Group, and wouldn’t have it any other way. A lifelong bookworm, she’s thrilled to play an active role in discovering new authors and bringing fabulous books to the hands of readers.

A native of a small town in Western New York State, Katherine spent most of her childhood with her nose in a book. She continued to read as an English and Psychology major at Cornell University. After acquiring her B.A., she moved to Manhattan and now acquires for the Berkley Sensation, Heat, Prime Crime and InterMix lines.

Katherine is currently seeking submissions in romance (contemporary, historical and erotic), cozy mystery, women’s fiction and historical fiction

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire/ represent?  Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?

    Answer: I currently acquire in romance (contemporary, historical and erotic), cozy mystery, women’s fiction and historical fiction. I have a particularly special place in my heart for historical romance—I find all of the historical details to be very fascinating.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double?
Answer: About 2 to 3 pages, double spaced. An overly detailed synopsis isn’t particularly helpful to me when considering a partial. With a partial, I’m more concerned with the story’s overall premise, the strength of the author’s voice and their ability to craft a story.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: I would like to see more submissions that have a really excellent hook. I’ve read many submissions that are capably executed and overall pleasant to read…but there’s no ‘spark’ to make these manuscripts stand out from the crowd. There are conventions to every genre, but an author still needs to be able to make their story feel fresh and unique.

  1.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
     read?   What particularly grabs your attention?

    Answer: An author’s voice and writing ability will grab my attention, and excellent character development will keep me reading happily till the end.

  1. For you, in general, 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? 

                 Terminal problems:
Common plot
Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)
Poor character development
Mediocre / uninspired writing

Weak Grammar
Excessive use of violence or cursing
Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building
Pacing is off—plot is too slow
Story starts in wrong spot
Ending is unsatisfactory

As an editor, it’s my job to work with an author to craft their manuscript into the best shape           possible. If the overall premise, writing and characters are strong, I’m happy to work with an author in other areas.

  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 doesn’t make a difference in my response time or the submission process, but I am more likely to provide a little more advice to an author whom I have met and spoken with.

  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: Cooperativeness is very important—it leads to a better book when the author is open to edits and collaborating on new ideas. Two heads are better than one in this case. I appreciate when an author is affiliated with a writers organization because I think they truly help writers develop their skills, but it’s certainly not a requirement.

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?
Answer: As a resident of Manhattan who takes the subway every day, most of my pet peeves are related to public transportation. However, all the little annoyances are balanced out by the fact that I can read a good book during my commute.

  1. What are you addicted to?
Answer: Definitely sweets. I always have room for dessert.

  1. What have you always wanted to do?
Answer: Edit a New York Times bestseller—I hope to get there eventually!


Angela Thomas said...

It's wonderful to read an editor's point-of-view.

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Katherine, for doing the interview. As an author, I avoid controversial issues, but as a READER I love them! Probably because they're so rare and that's what appeals to me. It's a common human flaw: we want what we can't have. Ha! Controversy bristles with conflict, and I enjoy the drama. It's one of my guilty pleasures. :)

Theresa said...

Hi Angela,
Thanks for stopping by!
Karen, I enjoy reading the controversial stuff and I write it--which could be a contributing factor to my unpublished status . . . but I'm going to take the plunge myself this spring and self publish my women's fiction book, so . . . stay tuned!

Karen Duvall said...

Oh! That's great, Theresa! I recently read a friend's manuscript, a suspense, that's extremely controversial, but he handled both sides expertly. One of the best books I've read in a long time and he's self-pubbing it next month. Good luck with your indie venture!

Lisa Potocar said...

Thanks, Theresa, for another stellar interview.

Thanks, Katherine, for sharing your editorial perspectives and prospectives with us. It's always fun to hear what editors are thinking. I'm glad that you haven't given up on historical ficton--perhaps your first New York Times Bestseller?--LOL! The very bestest to you in that journey.

Lisa P.