Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Susan Litman is an editor for the Harlequin Special Edition series, and also acquires for other series lines including Romantic Suspense. Susan came to Harlequin after spending several years working in film development in New York. Some of the authors she has the privilege of working with include New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Shirley Jump, USA TODAY bestselling authors Judy Duarte and Karen Rose Smith, award-winning authors Brenda Harlen and Gail Barrett, and many others.
In her spare time, she reads cookbooks as though they were novels, watches Top Chef, The Blacklist, The Americans and The Walking Dead, and still obsesses over the unresolved mysteries of LOST.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I wanted to make the transition from film development to publishing because I knew the two were relatable, especially as editorial would enable me to stay with a project from acquisition through publication. And I loved the idea of being able to work with authors, to help nurture and build their careers. So it seemed like a good fit. And thirteen years after walking through the doors for my first interview at Harlequin, I think it’s worked out quite nicely!
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST OR CURRENT PROJECT?
I’m working on a number of different projects at the moment, including an ongoing multi-author continuity (a six-book limited series) called The Fortunes of Texas: Cowboy Country, which will be followed up by another six-book continuity called Montana Mavericks: What happened at the Wedding? This month’s title in the Fortunes continuity is My Fair Fortune by Nancy Robards Thompson, a great, sexy read.
I’m proud to report that my author Brenda Harlen has two projects out this month—A Forever Kind of Family, a new release in her ongoing miniseries, Those Engaging Garretts, plus a linked online read on the Harlequin site called A Tuscan Proposal—this is a weekly free read, one chapter per week. The first three chapters are up now, and they not to be missed!
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
Our office is very focused, but very social as well. Of course we crack down and get our jobs done, but we often have brainstorming sessions for new projects, and occasionally we’ll have what we call a Book Around the Office meeting, where we might read an important article or book relevant to the industry and discuss. We also have our annual holiday party and Summer Outing to look forward to—time where everyone can socialize away from their desks, which is important, too! But we’re always in and out of each other’s offices chatting, or meeting up for lunch or after work—it’s a wonderful atmosphere.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I work in the office four days a week, and from home one day a week, but I keep the same hours every day. My day starts early—I come in at 8AM. Once I get into the office, I’ll scan the day’s headlines and my Twitter feed while I have coffee, then organize my to-do list for the day before getting started on my tasks for the morning. Often there will be a meeting or two during the course of the day—perhaps an art briefing, or a marketing meeting—plus manuscripts to be read/edited/approved. Sometimes I will make calls to authors or agents about revisions (or a new contract—always a thrill.) And I’ve always got several proposals to read as well. There’s never a moment without something to get done.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
It is always difficult to tell an author that a project isn’t working. There’s just no easy way to say “no,” no matter how good the author/editor (or author/agent) relationship might be. It is always a complicated conversation, but occasionally a necessary one to have. It is probably the part of my job I like the least.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO FIND NEXT?
I’m always interested in finding exciting new voices. For Special Edition—the series romance line I primarily acquire for—I would recommend people read the series to get a sense of the substance and style of the line before submitting, as writing for category romance is a different medium, structurally, than single title. But I always welcome submissions from interested authors!
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Unfair and tough question, as I could go on forever, probably! But if I had to pick a few . . . most of my favorite female writers are honestly the ones I read growing up, because those books did—and still—resonate with me the most. My heart will always belong to Judy Blume—I think Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was the first book of hers I ever read. I also love Louise Fitzhugh (Harriet the Spy!) and S.E. Hinton, and a little-known writer named Edith Konecky who wrote a fabulous book called Allegra Maud Goldman.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt is one of my absolute favorites. Some of Jodi Picoult’s books are wonderful—I particularly loved House Rules and The Storyteller, but then they were a little personal for me. I love Diana Gabaldon, and Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders. These are really the ones I return to over and over (you don’t honestly want to know how many times I’ve reread the Outlander series and The Secret History . . . )
I have to give a shout-out to a few of the male authors I love as well, though—particularly two I think craft vivid and believable female characters—Herman Wouk (I adore Marjorie Morningstar) and Justin Cronin (The Passage! Just incredible. Waiting impatiently for the third volume in the series.)
Currently, I’m reading Station Eleven and Bittersweet, and I’m trying to work up the nerve to start A Game of Thrones, which I find more intimidating than the TV series! All those names . . . It’s a challenge, for sure.
Thank you, Susan Litman!
— Nicole Melanson
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