Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Conference Faculty Interview: Alison Weiss

Your 2017 Conference Team is thrilled to add to our bouquet of faculty speakers the fantastic Alison Weiss, senior editor at Sky Pony Press. Alison picked up on our conference theme of Spring blooms and beginnings, and is offering attendees the choice of a Saturday breakout session on “The Life of a Book,” as well as an optional Sunday intensive workshop on crafting great beginnings, “Let’s Get It Started.”

And speaking of great beginnings, let’s get this interview started!

Jen: Tell us about the first book you edited, and how you knew it was special.

Alison: Well, the first book I edited was not the first book I acquired. So, perhaps I should answer those questions separately? The first book I was editor on was probably Kate le Vann’s Things I Know About Love, which we had acquired North American rights on from her British publisher—I say we, because my publisher at the time brokered the deal with me to edit or, rather, Americanize. The YA is a wonderful, sweet story about a girl who has cancer, so she’s missed out on a lot of the usual teen experience. Now that she’s been in remission for a year, her mom lets her go visit her brother, who’s studying abroad in the U.S. She meets a college boy there and, of course, they have a whirlwind summer romance. I loved it because it was so gorgeously sweet and the voice was outstanding and I felt it perfectly captured that feeling of falling in love and having your first epic romance. It went on to be chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection, very exciting for the first book in a young editor’s career!

The first book I acquired was New York Times bestselling author Jessica Verday’s Of Monsters and Madness, a horror-retelling mash-up of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, and Edgar Allan Poe’s works that envisions Poe’s Annabel Lee and Poe, himself, as the main characters. I felt a lot of affinity for
the project from the start. I was an 18th/19th century English Literature concentration in college and had always loved Poe’s work, as well. The story was set in Philadelphia, where I went to school. Verday’s previous books had worked off of themes from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” set in the town where I grew up. It felt like kismet. And this was a very exciting first acquisition for me as I acquired it in an auction.

Jen: Give us a glimmer of what you’re looking for in submissions.

Alison: I’m always looking for the great trifecta when I take on a project—great characters, killer voice, and a plot that sweeps me away. But often a first page, even a first line, can give me a thrill that means that there’s something great here; I know I’m going to be reading this manuscript beginning to end, sneaking bits in at every chance I get throughout the day. (I’ll actually be doing an intensive on the importance of openings, so please come check it out.) I definitely got chills when I read the opening line of Tara Sim’s Timekeeper: “Two o’clock was missing.” What does that mean? Where will this story go? Well, you have to read to find out, and the journey Sim leads her reader through along the way is dynamic and fresh and fascinating. And then you reach the end, hungry for more. Which is good, because there are two more books coming.

Jen: Any fave genres?

Alison: I read across all genres or else I get bored. I have to admit, I’m not a big non-fiction reader.

Jen: Any books that you’ve reread too many times to count?

Alison: I’m not really that big on rereading, except when it comes to editing, of course! Probably something in the Austen cannon. Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are my favorites.

Jen: What are you reading right now?

Alison: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Jen: Not to sound creepy or anything, but will you let us peek at what books are on your bedside table?

Alison: You mean on the floor next to my bed? There’s definitely no room on my bedside table! I actually try to keep out only the books I’m reading. My bookcases are bursting with books to be read, though. In my limited apartment space, I rarely keep already-read books on the shelves. They get shipped off to my parents’ house where my dad and (occasionally) my mom read them, and then they are either packed up and stored in the attic or donated to their local library.

Jen: Are you willing to bare your soul and confess what famous books you’ve never read?

Alison: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret or The Bridge to Terabithia and The Fault in Our Stars. Plus many others I won’t admit to not reading.

Jen: Any fave books of all time?

Alison: Barkbelly  by Cat Weatherill, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Owl Service by Alan Garner, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett. Oh, and so many more!

Jen: If you could be any character from any book, who would you choose?

Alison: Anne from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books, well, in the earlier books. One reason: Gilbert Blythe

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