Editor for Life: Suzanne Sutherland, author and children’s books editor at HarperCollins in Canada

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

Suzanne Sutherland

Suzanne, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

I’m incredibly fortunate to work with a roster of phenomenal authors as part of HarperCollins Canadian children’s program. Because our list is quite small, I’m able to take on an active role in each stage of a book’s development—from acquisition through to publication, working both with internationally bestselling authors as well as with first-time novelists. It’s not a bad gig at all!

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

I’d love to edit Cynthia Rylant, though her stories are such precisely polished gems that I can’t imagine that there would be much to do.

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

Favourite in the sense that I use them much too often? The mighty em dash, for sure.

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

I’m quite attached to my couch. My cat, Ramona, often naps nearby.

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

Maybe the moment I realized that my mountainous to-read pile was never going to get any smaller? In all honesty, though, no! And, again, this makes me incredibly fortunate.

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?

After graduating with a degree in English, I spent a number of years working as a bookseller at an independent shop in Toronto that has since closed down and become a Chipotle. While I knew at the time that bookselling wasn’t the ultimate stop for me, having the opportunity to speak with people—with readers, real readers—about the books they loved was hugely transformative. I love working on both sides of the desk, as both editor and author (when I can find the time!), which always comes back to me as what I loved about my role as a bookseller—engaging with another reader about a book.

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

I’m a sucker for a story with a bear—they always seem to make me cry. When in doubt, add a bear.

Thanks very much, Suzanne!

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She’s also administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series.

This article was copy edited by Olga Sushinsky.

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