Interview with Samhain Editor Bethany Morgan

I’ve been fortunate to work with Beth for a few months now. She pushed and pulled and molded and nipped, tucked Key West Magic into shape, and is now slaving over my Dark Prince of Anfall. I’ve been trying to get her to come out of lurk mode, and I’m thrilled to say she allowed me to ask her a few questions for your reading pleasure.

Ciar: Please tell us a little bit about yourself (family, job, etc.). How did you get started as an editor? Were you a romance reader first? How did you get a job editing for Samhain?

Beth: I live with my husband, my mother and 3 cats (yes, really!). It’s a fun household and there is a lot of love and laughter at home. My husband and mother get along famously—I swear she likes him more than me! They are two peas-in-the-pod when it comes to likes and dislikes.

I have a background in computer information systems and am a technical writier/project manager in my day life.

I came across Samhain Publishing when googling for romance stories about a year ago. After reading about 40 or so of their e-books, I came upon their search for editors. It struck a chord in me and I thought I’d see if I could qualify. Because it combines many things I love—checking facts, knowing obscure things, continuity, grammar (yes, some people love grammar) and reading—it seemed the perfect job. After applying and going through rigorous testing, I became an editor. I can honestly state I have never been more excited to get a position in my life and I’m thrilled with the reality of it.

Ciar: What are your favorite kinds of stories? What is your favorite genre?

Beth: My books cover every genre from non-fiction biographies, text books in astronomy and geology and fiction from every category. Early science fiction was my first love—Asimov, Bester, Campbell. I still love science fiction/fantasy the best but I love vamps/weres, horror, romance and mystery. Happy endings are not essential but the ending must be satisfying (and all animals must live!).

Ciar: All animals must live! I like that mantra. Now I understand why you wanted some assurance that a character in a WIP was going to make it to the end. Do you write yourself? Are you published, or would you like to be?

Beth: I write stories for newsletters, personal pleasure and work. I may even be writing for a small-town press next year, I’ll know in December. I have several works in progress but I’m not sure they will ever see the light of day. There is no pressing need in me that says I have to be published. I’m very happy to write for my own pleasure. It’s where I need to be right now in life if that makes sense. Two years from now, that may all change and I’ll feel the need to try and get published.

Ciar: What do you find are personality traits consistent with writers? Are they different than those you see in editors?

Beth: I’ve noticed writers are the same as the rest of the people I deal with in my day job. Scared, happy, paranoid no one likes their work, agonizing over a sentence, joyful at their new art cover, thrilled when someone gives them a good review, ticked off at an editor for pointing out too many “that’s” and “as’s” (sorry!), but most of all, I notice writers are happiest when they have a new release and make his/her readers happy—and that’s the best trait of all!

Ciar: Amen. What’s your pet peeve as you edit? Everyone has one. Give writers a tip!

Beth: My pet peeve starts even before I pick up the submission manuscript. It’s the submission letter and the synopsis. First impressions are everything—the submission letter and the synopsis is the same as a resume to me. It’s the first thing I see as an editor. Would you apply for a position with a resume full of spelling errors and bad grammar and list jobs that you never had? I wouldn’t but I’m amazed at some of the letters.

I think a submission should be a nice, tidy package. I’m not looking for bows and fancy paper—brown paper and string work just fine with me—but I don’t want stains and tears in the paper (metaphorically speaking—all Samhain submissions are electronically submitted). I think writers need to approach their submission in the same way they would in submitting a resume. Proofread the submission email. To me, that shows someone who takes pride in his/her work. At the same time, I’ve sent back revise and resubmit letters to packages with stains and tears because the author has captured a tone or a storyline that is fresh and catches my attention.

Ciar: Do you think editing is a thankless job? Everyone can name ten authors, but not everyone can name ten editors. Do you mind being “behind the scenes?” When you see a book published, do you wish readers would understand how much you helped shape that product?

I prefer being behind the scenes. I want to help the author create the best story possible and do whatever I can to support the author. If the reader isn’t thinking about the editor, then I’ve done my job by ensuring there are no issues with the plot and characters and the grammar flows so that readers are carried along by the story. To steal a quote: It’s not about the editor; it’s all about the story!

Ciar: If you could start your own publishing company, what kinds of books would it offer?

Beth: If I were to start my own publishing company, I would want to offer a mix of genres from contemporary to historical, erotic to sweet. I firmly believe the future of publishing is e-books but I would want a mixture of e-book and print. Hmm…this sounds familiar…um…is Samhain Publishing for sale? I have a check right here!

Ciar: If you could have any occupation, what might it be?

Beth: A Seller of Rare and Used Books – with a coffee/pie shop on the side. And on the side, anything that helps save books and stories for future generations. I am thrilled that Project Gutenburg is ensuring old, non-copywrited books are saved and digitized and proofread for a site called Distributed Proofreaders that helps assemble the books for Project Gutenburg’s archives.

Ciar: Oh, that sounds absolutely wonderful. Maybe you’ll be able to do that someday. So, aspiring writers would love to know what Samhain is looking for. What are you in particular looking for in a new manuscript?

Beth: I’m looking for a fresh story. Does the story offer a new approach? Is the heroine strong and the hero someone who supports her and lets her be herself? I want to read a story to be swept away to another time, another place or another world. When I read a submission for the first time, I’m not looking at spelling or grammar (although it is there somewhere in the back of my mind), I’m looking to see if the story draws me in, do the characters “come alive” in my mind and do I think about the book after I’m done reading it. Those indications tell me it’s a great story.

Ciar: I have trouble reading for pleasure now without getting out my mental red pen. Do you have trouble just enjoying stories while you’re editing? How do you separate the critique from getting lost in the story?

Beth: I think I’m lucky, I have an “on/off” editor switch. I read very fast so when I’m reading for pleasure, it’s at my normal fast speed. When I’m editing, I drop down to slow mode. I critique by reading at my normal speed. It doesn’t always go smoothly though. There are times when editing that I rev into ‘fast’ mode and before you know it, I’m lost in the story. But I consider that a good sign—to me it’s an indication that I’ve made a good choice in accepting a manuscript for publication.

Ciar: What do you do when you get stuck (if you do)? When something is wrong and you simply aren’t sure what it is? Do you go to another editor?

Beth: I have to say that Samhain has a wonderful support system in place and one that I use almost everyday. First, there are the editor guidelines—these contain all the house styles and examples. Second, there is the editor forum, which is a wonderful resource—Samhain’s editors can post questions and respond to other questions. It’s been invaluable for me as I learn all the in’s and out’s of Samhain’s style. Of course, when we (the editors) get stuck, we run to Angie!

One of the things that drew me to Samhain was the quality of the final product. Let me tell you what it’s like to be a new editor with Samhain because I think everyone would be interested in getting a glimpse of behind the scenes and you can see why the quality is as good as it is.

First of all is just getting hired. There are two rounds of edits, comments, what would you do if scenarios (writing rejection letter, writing acceptance letter, writing an edit letter). IF you make it through those rounds and get accepted, there is the probation period as a new editor. Angie sees everything—all letters, all edits, final versions of manuscripts, etc. from the newbies and then as we ‘hit’ the mark, releases us from sending her stuff. I feel bad giving her this additional work, but the support that she (and the other editors) give me really ensures that I am going to succeed and Samhain’s quality is not diminished because of a new editor. It’s a wonderful check and double-check system and certainly ensures the quality of the final product.

Ciar: Aha! So my theory about the secret editors’ internet frequency may not be wrong afterall (see below). What’s your favorite historical period? If you had a time machine…

Beth: My favorite historical period is the future – not necessarily the spaceship traveling, alien visiting future—but a future that shows the human species ‘made it’ even though we’ve created every imaginable method of destroying ourselves. I am full of hope when I read those types of novels.

Ciar: What books can we look forward to soon that have your mark on it?

Beth: I have been incredibly fortunate in accepting and/or editing several different genres to date. You can look forward to vampires, a hot Egyptian demi-god, a dark prince from another world, Mayan tales, a fantastic fantasy/detective novel, monsters in love and a twist on an old fairy tale…and that’s just the first half of 2008!

Ciar: That Mayan tale sounds great ;o) Thanks, Beth! This was fun. See you in my inbox!

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