Cindy, welcome to Seekerville! What a treat to have you with us. I love that you bring a whole new generational overview into Christian fiction. You’ve got the chutzpah and life experience (and lack of wrinkles, darn it!) that offers an open dynamic.
So, tell us. Avon Inspire. Inquiring minds want to know. What have you got going there that has you on-the-edge-of-your-seat excited?
We’re of course thrilled with the success of Shelley Shepard Gray’s Sisters of the Heart series, which includes HIDDEN and WANTED. These are for fans of Amish fiction but there’s a dash of suspense as well.
Shelley was one of the only authors Avon Inspire acquired that hadn’t published in the inspirational market before, but due to the popularity of Amish fiction, and the fact that it was still a relatively untapped market, we took a chance. It’s been wonderful to see readers come to the series, and we just signed up a new one! The last book in the Sisters of the Heart series comes out this fall and then we’ll have a new series for fans in January!
I’m also so pleased that we are entering into the romantic suspense genre this summer with our first book with publishing veteran Debra White Smith. TEXAS HEAT goes on sale at the end of June.
It’s a riveting romance between a woman wrongly accused and the police chief (who happens to be her former sweetheart) who pledges to prove her innocence.
Avon has acquired work from some well-known and respected CBA authors. Kris Billerbeck, Lyn Cote, Linda Windsor, to name a few. I know when your imprint launched, you were looking for published authors to help create a solid baseline. Is that still the case or is Avon Inspire open to new authors, the untried voices in Christian fiction?
We’re still sticking with well-known authors.
Cindy, what do you look for in a book? What grabs your attention?
A premise that feels original and writing that won’t let you put it down.
Cindy, the Seekers began their group as a bunch of tiara-wearing contest divas. Instead of letting competition drive us apart, we forged a group because of that competition, with one goal in mind: To pray each other into publication. With nine of the original fifteen now contracted or published, we’re well beyond the half-way point! How do you feel about romance contests? Can contest coordinators contact you about judging? Do you ever request a manuscript that’s piqued your interest in a contest?
Unfortunately contests aren’t really a big focus for me. I’ve judged one contest in the past but unfortunately my schedule doesn’t allow for it anymore!
You’re an approachable editor. I loved chatting with you at the ACFW conference in Dallas. Your panel answers were sharp and savvy; meeting you in person was like having coffee with a friend. And your presence on an editors’ panel brings the median age down, LOL! (Now every middle-aged and above editor will hate me, Cindy, you know that, right????) Your age is a blessing, though, because you’ve been raised in a time where people are more open to things like interracial marriage and adoptions, blended families, and open issues. Do you see Inspire allowing more insight into those areas?
We definitely love to speak to issues of our day. While we all love to read to escape, it’s always nice when reading also illuminates! One author who has focused on interracial relationships is Lyn Cote with her historical series Texas: Star of Destiny. The series follows the forming of the Texas state, which was such a melting pot of Mexicans, the Spanish, Americans, and Indians! But it was also controversial to cross those boundaries at that time. In THE DESIRES OF HER HEART, a New Orleans lady falls for the half-Indian scout who is leading her family’s wagon train into the wilds of Texas. Not only does it resonate with issues of today, Lyn writes with such riveting detail, it’s a true delight to get a picture of the forming of our nation.
Okay, personal stuff, but not TOO personal. I never do age and weight, although in your case it wouldn’t even be close to an embarrassment and you’d just make us old fogies whine and sigh…
Do you love the West Coast? Were you born there or a transplant? Are you a Starbucks girl? Favorite foods? Favorite movies?
I do love the West Coast, but am not from here. I was born in Chicago, moved to St. Louis when I was 5, and lived there until heading to college at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Right after college, I applied for a job at a church out in California doing college ministry, thinking it would be a temporary move and a fun first job out of college. After a year in California, I got my job at HarperOne and have never looked back. (It didn’t help that I fell in love about a year after moving out here and my husband loves the Bay Area). I do miss my family (my mom is still in St. Louis) but I successfully convinced by twin sister Annie to move out here and she’s now getting her masters in social welfare at UC-Berkeley.
I’m pretty laid back, love to be outside (living in California only feeds this!), love reading (yes, even though I read for work, I still love nothing more than curling up with a good book!). I recently read Persuasion by Jane Austen (I’d never read that one), am re-reading Anne of Green Gables, and then next up on my list is Barbara Brown Taylor’s Altar in the World.
I am a Starbucks girl but only when I have gift cards! Then I’ll usually just get a regular coffee (I drink it black) or if it’s later in the afternoon, I’ll indulge with a latte (Gingerbread are my favorite during the holidays). For some reason I can’t do lattes in the morning… if the coffee is diluted with milk it doesn’t feel strong enough somehow!
Cindy, your covers are beautiful. Truly well done. The Amish covers for Shelley Gray’s work are lovely, and reflective of the work within. Do authors have a say in their cover work?
I ALWAYS consult with my authors on cover. I think it’s so important that the cover convey the tension and drama in the book and who knows that better than the author themselves?
Tell us what it is about the Amish that draws Christian fiction in multiple ways. I’ve read books that respect the Amish life and books that want to save them from damnation. What’s up with that?
Personally, I think Christian readers are drawn to stories about the Amish because you know that the content will be safe in terms of no drugs, drinking, sex, or swearing. I also think there is something about the Amish stories that feel like historical romances (the traditions, the old-fashioned ways of doing things) but the characters are also often confronted with modernity and must sometimes face issues that are at such odds with their way of life. There is an order and simplicity in the ways of the Amish that I think we sometimes all wish we could get back to.
Walk us through a typical day. Do you take things home to read or can you read/edit in the office? And do you really think Rice-a-roni is the San Francisco treat?
Like most editors I know, we don’t do any reading or editing in the office, most of that happens at home, or lucky for me, on my commute each day (I live in Palo Alto and have an hour and ten minute commute via train each way which allows me plenty of reading and editing time).
In the office I am catching up on email, talking with authors, brainstorming titles and subtitles, talking to agents about new projects, working with the art director on jacket design, preparing to launch a new season of titles (which means working on the descriptive copy, selling points, audience, and competitive titles and putting it into our database), and much, much more. As an editor, I both acquire a title and work on the developmental edits of the manuscript once it is delivered. I really see my job as being a project manager – making sure production has what they need, talking to the marketing team about plans, making sure the jacket design is strong, writing the flap copy, talking with the publicist about plans, pretty much every stage of a book , editors are involved in one way or another.
Cindy, thank you so much for playing with us today! The Seekers appreciate the time and effort you editors put in on our behalf. We know your job is much more than reading books and playing on blogs. Amazing stuff.
Gals and guys, I've got pastry trays set up along the back wall. The pineapple sweet rolls are from an old Hungarian recipe. Oh my stars, they're wonderful! The coffee's on and we've got Starbucks catering this morning. Fruit trays should be arriving at any moment according to a reliable source. Grab a cup of something delightful and feel free to jump in on the conversation.