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Q&A: Mary Lawson on the author/editor relationship

mary_lawsonWhat do authors think about editors? What do authors think makes the difference between a good editor and a great editor?

Previously, BoldFace asked children’s author and illustrator Jeremy Tankard about his experience working with editors. This time we posed the same questions to London, United Kingdom–based, internationally bestselling author Mary Lawson, who penned Road Ends, The Other Side of the Bridge, and Crow Lake.

Q&A conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

Overall, what’s your experience like as an author who’s been edited?

I’m in the slightly unusual position of having three editors: one in Canada, one in the United States, and one in the United Kingdom, all of whom have to agree on the final version of each book. It’s a complicated set-up, and if any of them were unwilling to consider the views of the others, the whole business would be impossible. Fortunately, all three are outstandingly good editors and genuinely want what is best for the books and, therefore, they’ve been open to suggestions from the others.

For me, the chief disadvantage of the arrangement is that I have three different sets of notes and comments to work through, which is exceedingly time-consuming! But the advantage is that if all three of the editors agree on a particular point, I know for certain that they are right. If they don’t agree, I feel able to stick to my guns and go with what feels right. I have huge respect for all three, and they have been wonderful to work with.

What is it like as an author to work months, or even years, on a book and then have an editor read it critically and suggest (sometimes major) changes?

Inevitably, it is an anxious time. It takes me roughly six years to write a book—a significant chunk of my life—so there’s a lot riding on it. But I find it very difficult to judge my own work, and, therefore, I do welcome comments. So far I haven’t been asked to make any major changes. (more…)