Interview with Samhain Editor Angela James

I’m so grateful that Angie took time out of her insane schedule to answer a few questions for us. Angie is my editor at Samhain, and after an incredible dumbass move on my part at the beginning of “acquiring” this gem (I am not kissing ass, promise), I’ve come to really appreciate her guidance. She’s Evil, it’s true, but she’s also Nice (to more than her little girl). Onto her thoughts:

Thanks so much for doing this! First up—the important stuff. Your daughter is adorable, and I don’t say that simply because I’m waiting for edits from you. Describe Brianna in one sentence for us! Are you really a “nice mommy?”

She is adorable, isn’t she? One sentence… She’s a rambunctious, too-smart-for-my-own-good, amazing little hellion who has hit her stride in the terrible twos and makes me want to pull my hair out while loving her with hugs and kisses at the same time. And yes, I’m a pretty nice mommy, though she’s learning her limits and we do have rules and expectations for behavior so she doesn’t end up one of those horrible spoiled children.

Would you share your background, and how you landed at Samhain? I’m amazed at how quickly the company has pulled together an impressive catalog and roster of authors. What’s in store there?

I’m guessing you don’t mean my background as in I was born August 25th 1975 in a town in North Dakota, raised by…lol. I started as I think everyone does, an avid, voracious reader. I think it was on the Ellora’s Cave yahoo group they were advertising for proofers needed. I took the test and did proofing for EC for a couple years. During that time, I also worked for authors individually.

Last fall, two authors I’m friends with mentioned that Crissy (Christina Brashear) was opening the doors to a new publishing company, was looking for editors, and they thought I’d be good at it, given my experience. And that’s how I became Samhain’s first, lonely, overworked–*looking over shoulder for Crissy*–ah luckiest ever editor 😉

As for how the company has grown and thrived, I credit that to Crissy, for knowing what she wanted, having the knowledge to get it, and for sticking to her standards and believing in the story and the reader first. I think it’s her desire to put out the best possible product, making the experience as great as possible for both author and reader, that’s driven the company’s name forward in the eye of the reading community.

What’s in store? More fantastic books, of course. Getting print books in an increasing number of brick and mortar stores, in addition to Borders and the independent bookstores they can already be found in. Visibility at more reader and author conferences. And more. But I can’t give away all our secrets 😉

Damn, 1975. I graduated from high school that year. Okay, writers won’t forgive me unless I ask what you’re really looking for in terms of submissions? What’s hot, what’s not? Is Samhain new-writer friendly?

We love new writers. The rush of introducing new writers to publishing, being their “first”, molding them in my image. Ah…*clearing throat* I mean watching them experience the thrill of their first release. It’s incredibly fun. So yes, we’re new-writer friendly.

Talking about submissions is trickier because I don’t want people to limit themselves to only what I say. What I WILL say is that we haven’t had a lot of science fiction romance submitted, and our author liaison, Marty, and I are both huge fans of futuristics and sci/fi romance and they sell well. And I’ve been searching for someone to write me one good cyberpunk book, but I think my search is in vain, lol. And if anyone out there has a hot ménage…I’ve only had one of those and would love more (well, not had a ménage personally, but released a book with a ménage…oh, you get my point).

Other than that, areas we don’t have a lot of submissions in, but would love to see, western romances, young adult, inspirationals and romantic comedy. Those are submissions that would get noticed because they’re in less-seen categories.

What’s hot? Sex still sells as does paranormal of any type. And we’re acquiring quite a few m/m authors and those seem to be popular. But when we buy a book, it’s really all about the story. Yes, that’s our tagline but it’s true. The bar raises every day for submissions and we’re looking for those books that will sell because they’re just that damn good!

So…epublishing. I noticed you read a lot of print books (that’s quite a list on your blog BTW). Can you find the quality, genre, etc. you’re looking for without print? Are there differences?

Oh heck yeah, I love epublishing, I think everyone should read ebooks because you can find some of the most phenomenal authors and stories. NY still has limits on what they can buy. They DO have to go by what’s hot or what will be hot, because their overhead demands it. Epublishing doesn’t have those restrictions.

I read more print in my spare time, at this point, not because of the quality of books but because I spend upwards of 15 hours a day (and even more…I’m on hour 12 today) on the computer, staring at the screen, editing, answering emails, IMs, blog-hopping, doing promo, etc. Looking at a print book is a break from my eyes and that’s why I favor print for relaxing. Although I recently received an Ebookwise for my birthday and I’ve found myself returning to ebooks. I’ve enjoyed checking out the selection from other publishers and recently read some great books from Loose Id and NCP. I love that, because I think every good book published by another epublisher only increases the readers who glom on to ebooks in general.

Do you think it’s important for an author to stick to a genre? To establish an author personality—like the bitch goddess, the snark goddess, the hot mamma, the seductress… Some of it strikes me as really cheesy.

Oh heck no. In fact, I think that’s the beauty of Samhain (as well as the beauty of epublishing); authors being able to move around in genres and heat levels. A fantastic example is one of my good friends, author Shannon Stacey. Her first release, with Ellora’s Cave, was a romantic comedy. Her second release, with Samhain, was a traditional romance. Last month she published a romantic suspense with us. In October, she has a paranormal romance releasing with Samhain. Four releases, four different genres and she’s done each one of them with talent and incredible flair. I would hate to see an author like Shannon forced to stick to one genre because convention or “the rules” told her too. The reading community might miss out on some well-written, fun reads if authors forced themselves to one thing.

What makes an editor good? Beyond helping to shape a title, do you think there are other attributes a good editor should have? Must they also be cheerleaders? Do you ever advise your writers about their careers, make suggestions about what they should write, etc.?

I was just chatting with another editor the other day about this. While I think a good editor is one who can help an author shape a book without trying to impose their own voice on the book, I also think there’s more to it than just having a good eye for the technical aspects; the pacing, the plot, the character development and all that dang grammar stuff 😉 As an editor, yes, I also have periods of being a “cheerleader”. I hold hands, build egos and remind the author that there really is worth in their writing. I’m often consulted on a variety of things including how to deal with a bad review, what direction a series should take, how to do book signings, questions about promo, potty training questions (no really, I DID answer a question from an author on potty training, lol). I’ve also advised authors on other publishers to seek out, things to avoid in the publishing industry (like sharing your ideas with too many people) and a variety of other things. My inbox is frequently full and I answer 25 to 50 emails on any given day. Some days more 

What is your favorite genre? Do you read outside of romance novels?

If you’re holding a gun to my head and forcing me to choose, I’d say paranormal romance is probably my favorite, though I also enjoy romantic suspense, some romantic comedy and contemporary romance. I read less in historical romance, though some of my all time favorite books fall in that category.

I do read outside of romance, most notably mystery and fantasy/science fiction. But there are very few genres I would say I absolutely do not read or don’t enjoy. I really just love books in general.

Given a year of unlimited resources (time, money, babysitting, etc.), how would you spend it? Where would you like to travel?

I would read, for one thing. One sad truth for anyone working in the publishing industry is that you sometimes find yourself too busy to read. I’ve built more time for pleasure reading back into my schedule, but I’m reading nowhere the amount of books I used to. I’d also get my house in order—how does anyone ever keep their house clean and keep up with all the little things that need to be done?

Where would I travel? Back home to North Dakota to spend time with my family and let them get to know Brianna. Back to England and London, which I loved the first time I visited but didn’t get to see nearly enough of. Las Vegas. I’ve never been and I’d really like to go and see the shows. New York to see a ton of Broadway shows. One of my passions but something I rarely get to indulge in (theater). And a variety of other out of country locale that I tell myself “someday”.

What makes you want to ring someone’s neck? Okay, more specifically, if you could grab a new, aspiring, or even established writer (or collectively) by the neck, what would you scream at them?

Your editor isn’t your worst enemy, they can be your best friend. I edit because I love helping shape a book, but I don’t make suggestions for changes lightly, and it makes it much harder when authors argue every small change. When I say that, I mean every change, not the authors who disagree with certain changes or prefer to keep something. All I ask is that an author think somewhat dispassionately (so hard to do when we’re talking about your “baby” I know) about my requests and really consider whether they’ll make the book tighter, the sentence clearer before saying “nope, not changing it”.

If I had to say anything else, I’d have to say that I’ve really come to appreciate the authors who treat every book equally and professionally, whether they’re writing for the smallest epublisher or the largest NY pub. I’ve worked with authors who write for both NY and epubs, and they take each book, each edit and each deadline just as seriously as the next. It’s nice to work with authors who understand that professionalism is professionalism no matter who you write for.

What are your goals for your own career?

Angie: I’ve been at Samhain for a year now, and it has flown by. Because I’ve been so involved in helping with the start-up and building of the company, I haven’t really had time to think about where I was going. But I love Samhain, Crissy is the most incredible businesswoman and wonderful to work for, so I just want to hang on for the ride and keep helping the company become a force to be reckoned with in the publishing world.

Tell us one surprising thing about yourself. One tidbit you haven’t yet shared online.

I don’t know if this counts as a surprise, but I don’t know that I’ve ever said it anywhere, but I don’t aspire to write and publish my own book. That’s not a dream of mine, I love editing and that’s where I want to be.

Oh, and I love cookbooks even though I buy them and rarely use them. I just like to look at all the different recipes. I usually only cook a handful of new recipes from each cookbook. But I keep buying them. I just love cookbooks!

Thanks so much for your time! Tell readers about your blog if you like :o)

My blog started as Brianna’s Mommy about 2 years ago and has gained the subtitle of “Nice Mommy~Evil Editor” thanks to one of my authors, Mandy Roth, who designed the header and gave me the tagline. I talk about a rather mishmash of topics, from parenting and bragging on my daughter, to editor topics and book reviews and things related to the romance industry. It’s pretty much anything goes over there.

Thanks for having me, Ciar!


8 thoughts on “Interview with Samhain Editor Angela James

  1. Rene Lyons says:

    Okay, I’m the author who asked about the potty training. lmao

    Great interview, Angie. And yes, you are a fantastic editor and I love you to the moon and back, but you already know that! 😉

    Thank you, Ciar for interviewing Angie. Your questions were awesome!

  2. Lyric says:

    Great interview, Ciar. I’ve been thinking about subbing to Samhain.

  3. Jorrie Spencer says:

    Wonderful interview, Angie and Ciar! Lots of fun, and informative, too.

  4. Kate R says:

    Great interview. Thanks Ciar!
    but. . .Damn. I thought The Evil Woman was going to name names when it came to her Least Favorite Authors.

  5. Rene Lyons says:

    OMG, if she named those names I just know I’m on that list!. 😉

  6. Renee says:

    OMG, I am scared now….Angie and I have wayyy too many things in common. LOL

    Great interview Ciar and Angie and Angie, don’t worry about the house…it will never be totally clean again LOL


  7. Highlandgal says:

    Very nice interview, Angie.

  8. Shelli Stevens says:

    Great interview! I wish I’d read this a week ago before I subbed 😛

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