Thursday, November 12, 2009
Tina James, Senior Editor, Steeple Hill Books, Welcome to Seekerville!
Good morning to you and thank you so much for playing with us in Seekerville! Let me just say our buddies have been chomping at the bit…
Wait, that makes them sound like horses.
Okay, they’ve been eagerly anticipating your visit. I have been plied with questions and thoughts from all kinds of people, but first...
Tina I know you guys have Starbucks nearby but the Starbucks Corporation was gracious enough to set up a full coffee, frappuccino and cappuccino bar right here on the beach, to celebrate your visit with us. We've got a spread of amazing tarts, fresh fruit and a delightful homemade tiramisu (yes, I interrupted NaNoMo to bake, because Steeple Hill was here today!!!)so we're set with food for a while at least. Shout out if I've missed anything!
But let’s start with a little bit about you. Tell us about Tina, the editor.
From the moment Tina James learned to read she could usually be found at a bookstore or the public library searching for a good book. Her love for books led her to a job during high school working as a library page shelving books. After graduating from college with a B.A. in English and a concentration in Publishing Studies, she began her editorial career at Harlequin Enterprises in 1995 as an editorial assistant and worked her way up. Currently she is Senior Editor for the Love Inspired Historical and Love Inspired Suspense lines.
And we love those lines in Seekerville. Solid. Strong. A great readership.
Tina, “eHarlequin” does a wonderful job of outlining guidelines and offering editor podcasts to help authors target the proper line. I’m putting links here for Love Inspired, Love Inspired Historicals, and Love Inspired Suspense so people can flip there to check things out. Links to editor podcasts should be to the right of the screen once it opens and I’ve listened to them on several different Harlequin sites, a great resource to help writers target their work.
Tina, the historical books have a longer page count/word count. Why is that?
The Love Inspired Historical books are longer in length because these are more complex stories rich in period detail. These stories should be well-researched and give a feeling for the time in which they are set. Beyond creating a vivid sense of the time period, these stories should also have the characteristic we look for in any submission: a captivating story, interesting characters, etc.
I know a lot of reading gets taken home. Is there a request you’d like to make of submitters? Paper weight, font, clarity, etc.? If you’re a subway traveler, little things like this can make a difference.
Essentially, you want to make your submission neat, professional, easy to read. Please make sure the submission is double-spaced and use a standard 12 point font such a Courier. Each page should be numbered sequentially, with the author’s name and project title in the upper-left hand corner and the page number in the upper-right hand corner.
Tina, the Seekers met and formed a sisterhood because we kept bumping heads in contests, sharing wins, places, etc. We decided to form a group and pray each other into publication and that premise has been our groundwork. We kept the contest angle for our blog because this is a lonely business at times and it’s nice to know you’ve got friends (with good food, of course!) in cyber-space.
Harlequin and Steeple Hill have been totally awesome with the kind of time and support they offer writing contests. Several of us (including yours truly!) have reaped the reward of publication by gaining a spot on an editor’s desk through contest finals. How many contests do you guys try to do in a year, and what do you look for in a solid entry?
The Steeple Hill team enjoys judging contests because it is a great way to see new projects and find new authors. There is no specific number of contests we try to judge in a year, but this year Senior Editor Melissa Endlich, Assistant Editor Emily Rodmell and myself judged at least 6 contests each.
In a solid contest entry, I look for a distinctive and appealing voice, vivid characters and a powerful, emotional story. I look for a well-crafted story that provides wonderful character development and a compelling opening.
Harlequin sometimes sponsors contests of their own in the search of new talent. Are there any plans for Steeple Hill to sponsor a first chapter/synopsis contest similar to what they do at Harlequin Presents?
At the moment, we are not planning on sponsoring a first chapter/synopsis contest. However, the Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical lines are actively seeking new authors and we encourage writers to submit to us.
Tina, I loved meeting you in Denver. I know you said then that you’d love to see some differentiation in the submissions for the historical line, Love Inspired Historicals. What are you looking for and what would you ‘oh-my-goodness, it’s-about-time’ love to see?
We are always interested in Westerns, but we need non-western stories, too. We would love to see stories set in European historical eras (e.g., Tudor, Regency, Victorian England, 18th century Scotland), or in ancient times. We are also interested in stories featuring missionaries abroad in exotic locations during various historical periods.
Tina, I love it when a story wraps me up and whisks me into another place, another time, giving me a glimpse of what life was like there and then.
A lot of us are looking forward to Carla Capshaw’s The Gladiator that just hit the November shelves. This book is a good example of ‘outside the box’ historical thinking. Would you like to see more like this, set in ancient times?
Yes, we are interested in more stories set in Roman/early Christian times.
We talk a lot about the benefits of getting to conferences, meeting editors and agents face to face, chatting with them face to face without actually stalking them. Do you have your line-up for who will be where for 2010 yet, and do you find it beneficial from an editor’s standpoint to meet new authors, get a feel for them?
At the moment, we haven’t finalized which conferences we’ll be attending next year. However, we enjoy attending conferences and meeting face to face with authors because we get the opportunity to speak with authors about the exciting things that have been happening and are happening at Steeple Hill Books and we get to let authors know what we’re looking for.
The guidelines for historical mention ‘post-Civil War Americana’.
Does that mean you don’t want to see Civil War stories ever? Like as in “No, do not under any circumstances ever, ever, ever send me a Civil War story or I’ll use it for kindling in my fireplace with my new hubby”...
you gently prefer stories set post-Civil War but might entertain the right story set amidst the traumas of North-South strife if it’s so well done you can’t possibly resist?
We’re focused on good stories, well told. If an author queries me about a Civil War story with a solid story line, a cohesive plot and irresistible protagonists, then I’ll be interested in reading the project.
Tina, one of my personal favorites published by Steeple Hill was The Road to Home, the 2006 Christy Award winner by Vanessa Del Fabbro put out under the Steeple Hill Fiction banner. I loved that book. Still do. It maintains a treasured spot on my “keeper” shelf. Does Steeple Hill have plans to go with longer fiction or more mainstream fiction with romantic elements again? Or even simply with longer romances?
As of July 2009, the Steeple Hill Single Title program was discontinued. However, if you are interested in writing for Steeple Hill, guidelines and submission information for our Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical lines are available on our Web site at www.eHarlequin.com.
Romance wouldn’t be romance without a yummy hero and giving a hero a ‘sensual’ feel while working within faith-filled parameters can be a challenge. Do you have suggestions for our readers on how to evoke those feelings of love, romance and longing without being explicit?
Remember the raising tension comes from the emotional intensity that surrounds the hero and heroine coming together and overcoming the conflicts in their lives by helping each other. Internal conflicts especially can create an emotional connection, causing sparks to fly. Let the reader experience the hero and heroine’s building tension by use of the visceral detail—e.g. pounding heart, racing pulse, response to the other’s person’s scent, etc.
Tina, tell us about Melissa…
She’ll never know. Promise. (inserting wicked grin here).
Okay, seriously, I know that the internal workings allow some buying leverage for the editors and assistant editors. Can you explain this to us? Who can acquire for what line and how that all works? It makes it easier for people to target contests if we’ve got the skinny on who does what for Steeple Hill.
All acquiring editors on the Steeple Hill team, with the approval of the appropriate senior editor and/or executive editor, can buy books for the multiple Steeple Hill lines. The Steeple Hill team includes Executive Editor Joan Marlow Golan, Senior Editor of Love Inspired Melissa Endlich, Assistant Editor Emily Rodmell, Assistant Editor Elizabeth Mazer and Editorial Assistant Sarah McDaniel, as well as myself.
Is there such a thing as a typical day in your life as you juggle spinning plates in the air of pre- and post-production editorial duties? Show us a day in the life of a Harlequin Senior Editor. Pretty please.
I arrive at the office at 9am and I usually spend the morning answering emails, responding to urgent messages, proofreading typeset materials, and working on any projects that are due into Production, like art fact sheets and back cover copy. I spend the afternoon returning phone calls, reading proposals and line editing manuscripts.
Tina, do you work better with blondes, brunettes or redheads, because I know some gals who are willing to GO THE DISTANCE to get your attention, even if it means dealing with root touch-ups on a regular basis. That’s how devoted they are!!!!
And Tina, one last question: We hear the familiar adages about writing the book of your heart vs. targeting the market, fresh, new voice, something that grabs me and won’t let me go… What is it about a book that grabs? That pulls? Or what is it about a new voice that tweaks your attention?
An appealing voice, compelling characterization and emotional impact are distinguishing factors that often get an editor’s attention. A story with a strong emotional conflict and depth of character is of paramount importance to a good, involving read. Without a compelling, interesting conflict, or characters that can hold my attention and sympathy, the book isn’t providing a satisfying reader experience.
Aspiring Steeple Hill writers should familiarize themselves both with our guidelines and our books. For updated submissions guidelines, information about writing and tips, I urge unpublished writers to visit www.eHarlequin.com. By reading our books, the aspiring writer will get a very good sense of what the readership likes and, by implication, what doesn’t work.
The Love Inspired line publishes six books a month and the Love Inspired Suspense line publishes four books a month. In January 2011 the Love Inspired Historical line will be increasing from two to four books per month. There are a lot of great opportunities for both new, unpublished authors, and previously published authors in the three lines. From published authors we’d like to see a detailed synopsis and three sample chapters; from unpublished authors only completed manuscripts will be accepted.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon!
Tina! Thank you so much for being here in Seekerville! We are truly grateful to the great gals at Steeple Hill (nodding and waving to Joan, Melissa, Sarah, Emily and Elizabeth…. Kisses and hugs coming your way, ladies!) for the opportunities they’ve opened to new authors everywhere, but especially to the Seekers and the Seeker friends who are now on your desks or in the pipeline…
Steeple Hill goes above and beyond to open the door of opportunity and that’s rare in this industry today. YAY YOU!!!!!
Bless you for being with us, and we’ll look forward to seeing your answers as people pepper you with questions about Steeple Hill and Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historicals.
You totally rock!