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Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Kathryn Purdie and her editor Maria Barbo, who is at Katherine Tegen Books, here to share about the author/editor relationship. Kathryn’s YA fantasy BURNING GLASS has gotten fantastic reviews, and I can’t wait to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Kathryn Purdie
Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, and she can’t always decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the charming-yet-volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

Hi Kathryn and Maria! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. I don’t know much about the submission to publisher process, and I bet others are confused too. Did you two have any e-mail or phone conversations while Kathryn’s book was on submission before an agreement was entered into and what were each of you looking for from the other in your communications? What should aspiring authors discuss in these important conversations?

Kathryn and Maria
Kathryn: My agent, Josh Adams, handled 99.9% of the submissions process. There were 3-4 editors (I can’t remember anymore!) who wanted BURNING GLASS, so I did get the opportunity to have a few conversations before I finally accepted Maria’s offer from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins. (That was my .1% part of the process.)

What I was looking for in an editor was her clear vision of my story and how to tackle it in edits. Of course, I also wanted her to love it and be enthusiastic about championing it at her publishing house. I got that perfect package with Maria. When we chatted, we immediately clicked, and she understood the deep psychology of all my characters and how to make their nuances more apparent on the page. And when she compared a scene in my book to one of my favorite episodes of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, I knew she was my dream editor, and that was that!

Maria: I loved that Kathryn was a Joss Whedon fan because it gave us common ground from which to start our conversations about storytelling, series arcs, and creating a strong heroine with a solid support network of friends. We were lucky. We had a shorthand from the beginning so that if one of us was ever trying to explain something to the other we could always say, “You know how in Buffy when she came back from the dead and…”

But I think that initial phone call is all about getting a feel for whether or not you think you can work together. Do you get a good feeling from your editor? Does she seem like someone you can work with? Does her vision of the project or the way she talks about the project ring true to you? Do you have similar ways of talking about storytelling? Get a feel for the editor’s style, and be your true self.

2. Many authors—especially debut ones—say that they dreaded the first editorial letter from their editor. Share a bit about the first editorial letter for BURNING GLASS. What advice do you have for debut authors about to get their first letter from their editor?

Kathryn: I actually LOVED my editorial letter! Maybe it’s because I got it within a month of the offer on the trilogy, so I was still in that honeymoon phase. I didn’t need to process it at all. I just dug right into the work, and it went pretty smoothly. Maria and I did have a few phone calls to clarify some things, but, all in all, it a pretty painless process.

Then a year later I got my editorial letter for the second book in the trilogy…and that was so much harder! For one thing, book two’s are just crazy difficult, and I was also a little run down from a very intense year of editing book one and drafting book two. But I still completely agreed with Maria’s amazing notes and her suggestions to help me discover the book I am trying to write. (I’m still in revisions right now.) I realized this would involve A LOT of rewriting, which was overwhelming because my books are long, and I’m not super speedy.
 Kathryn gave Maria this plaque after slipping up and calling her "my emperor" instead of "my editor." It's been a joke ever since.

Thankfully, Maria has been in my corner all along. She’s given me more time when needed and chatted with me again and again on the phone and through emails to make sure I have everything in my arsenal to tackle this daunting project. I’m extremely grateful to her and feel I’m in the best hands. My book two is going to be great, thanks to her guidance.

Maria: I like the image you’ve got going of me as boxing coach! I’m totally smiling right now. Editors love knowing when our authors find our letters helpful. We also feel vulnerable when we send out that first edit letter to a new author.
A former colleague once described an edit letters as a conversation starter and I use that phrase all the time now. I always try to remind my authors that an edit letter is just the beginning of longer process.
My favorite part of the process is the post-letter phone conversation in which we hash out all the details and concerns, and basically nerd out over storytelling. I usually try to give an author time to process the feedback, kvetch about me to their BFF, and figure out what they think about the points I’ve made before we schedule a call. I love love—and I had this experience with Kathryn—when I give some feedback and an author says, “I see what you’re saying. I don’t know if I totally agree with you, but I’ve been thinking about what might be making that scene/moment/chapter feel off and this is what I think.” We’re here to elevate each other.
I listen to a lot of Alec Balwin’s podcast, “Here’s the Thing” and in this week’s podcast, he talks to Micky O’Rourke who raves about the director he worked with on THE WRESTLER. Mickey relates how he’d perform a scene and give it everything he had and afterwards Darren Aronofsky would say, “Okay, that was good. Let’s do it again and give it more this time.” In some ways, being an editor is like being a director. It’s my job to get Kathryn to dig deeper but, of course, there’s a fine line between fussing too much with something and pushing an author to do her best. I’m still working on it.
3. Did you have any challenges or different approaches as you worked on revisions to BURNING GLASS? How did you work them out?

Kathryn: See above! :-) Maria can probably tell you how she’s had to talk me off a couple ledges. She always tells me it’s going to be okay and to write without anxiety! My book IS about a character who gets overwhelmed when she has too much to process…Sonya *may* have that in common with me. But the advice Maria has told me that has helped the most is how to find what’s at the core of fixing a scene—or the whole book, for that matter—and that often has to do with the characters’ driving motivations. Maria will compare something in my story to a scene or character from BUFFY or another TV show or a painting or something really tangible like that—something I can really latch onto—and it just opens up my mind, and I see the solution.

Maria: Yes, I speak in stories. I also like to send articles—snippets of things I hear in the news that relate to our characters. Don’t forget about those!

I went to graduate school for painting so I have a very intimate relationship with the sort of anxiety that surrounds the creative process and the vulnerability it requires. And I know that if you don’t separate out creative brain from editing brain, editing brain won’t let you get any work done. Kathryn likes to pull marathon writing sessions and I’m always telling her to stop and go for a walk to rest her brain and give the ideas some space to piece themselves together.
4. What advice do you have for authors on handling these different approaches or conflicts with their editors?

Kathryn: I believe in honest communication. I think that’s critical in any healthy relationship, and I’m grateful I feel comfortable enough with Maria that I can share any editorial concerns I have with her directly. She gives me a safe place to do that. The only big concern I’ve ever had is having enough time to do the work…everything else we’ve run into has just been little clarifications or me bouncing new suggestions off of her. I know many authors who don’t have such an open dialogue with their editors, or whose editors don’t make themselves available to them, and I think I’d be a basket case (or more of one!) if I didn’t have that with Maria. Again, I’m super grateful for her!

Maria: I second honesty. KP expressed her concern about not having enough time to write early on, which I very much appreciated, and because of that I was able to do everything I could to buy her more time.

I would also keep in mind that your editor is on your team and you both have the same goals: to make the book the best it can be and get it into the hands of as many readers as possible. Keeping that in mind makes disagreements easier to sort out.

The best tips I ever learned about conflict resolution is that the anticipation of a difficult conversation is often worse than the actual conversation, so it’s helpful to address concerns as soon as you can. Editors and writers both tend to have strong introverted tendencies and most of us don’t enjoy conflict. Chances are, if you address the disagreement directly in a non-defensive, non-accusatory way, the other person will be responsive.

And if you and your editor reach an impasse on something you feel strongly about, loop in your agent—not to take sides but as an objective third party. Agents know the industry and they know you. Often they can see both perspectives and help reach a resolution.

5. Kathryn had a different title for BURNING GLASS when her manuscript was on submission. Share how you decided on the final title for her book.

Kathryn: My first title for this story was THE EMPATH AND THE EMPEROR. When I spoke with my agent on the phone and told him this, I remember hearing silence on the other end of the line, so I promptly said, “I’ll think of something better!” I soon came up with AURASEER, which is my word for the type of empath Sonya is, and it’s a term that’s still used in the book. The sales team found that word confusing as a title, however, so Maria came up with THE SEER’S CURSE. But then the sales team felt that skewed too high-tween rather than young adult, so Maria had a brainstorming session with the editorial team and came up with BURNING GLASS—which is perfect! I’ll let Maria tell you why she chose it.

Maria: I love the inherent contradiction in BURNING GLASS. As a title, it evokes a strong mental image. It’s also inspired by an image in the book, which is often a helpful tip when you’re stumped on a title. I can’t remember the exact line or phrase. KP, can you?

Kathryn: The context is Sonya is walking around the burned rubble of the convent. “When the stables swallowed him from view, I caught my reflection in a pane of broken glass, flames still smoldering behind me.”

Maria: Yes, that’s it! I like the way it evokes the concept of a phoenix ready to rise up out of the ashes. The title reflects both Sonya's heated passion and simmering guilt over the fire as well as her fear of being just a mirror without getting too literal. It's got that winning combination of dark and pretty. Hope that wasn’t a spoiler.

6. How often did you communicate while working on revisions and edits? Mostly via e-mail or phone? Did that change as the publication date neared?

Kathryn: I’d say we chatted maybe three to four times on the phone regarding the edits of each book so far, and we’ve emailed anywhere from one to three times a week over the last year. There are many rounds of edits and several discussions about book two and the direction of the series, and Maria sometimes runs promo copy by me and has other little updates, or I’ll have random questions.
Our communication has felt pretty constant, but I’ve been on a fast track from the time book one sold to its publication, while getting book two ready in the meantime. I don’t know if this rate of communication is normal for her other authors—maybe I’m just high maintenance! But I’m grateful for how involved Maria is in the writing process, and how involved she lets me be in the publication process.

Maria: You are not high maintenance! My short answer is, we communicate as needed. I enjoy staying in touch with Kathryn while she’s revising. And I’ll often have additional thoughts after the edit letter is sent, which is part of the reason I like to have follow-up conversations.
I am not the sort of person who can always put my finger on precisely why a scene isn’t working on the very first read, so I like having the chance to continue editorial discussions. Some ideas—particularly the psychology of a scene, have to simmer. Characters are people. Their driving forces aren’t always immediately transparent.

And I’ll often come up with thoughts or ideas while I’m doing something else like working out at the gym, daydreaming on the subway platform, listening to NPR in the morning. Or sitting in a meeting. Then I’ll get really excited and type it up on my phone so I don’t forget and send Kathryn an email when I get back to my desk.

I know that definitely happened with book two. I was listening to a BBC report on Tunisia and suddenly the political situation in Riaznin came into focus.

7. I know HarperCollins probably assigned a publicist to help Kathryn prepare for her book release. Did you two have any conversations about marketing or the transition Kathryn was going through from unpublished to published author?

Kathryn: Ro Romanello is my publicist at Katherine Tegen Books, and she’s fantastic. She’s a big
fan of the book and another champion for the series at the imprint. I’ve corresponded mostly via email with her, but I got to meet her in person when I visited HarperCollins in November. As far as helping me transition to being a published author, neither Ro nor Maria and I have had any specific conversations to that point, but they’ve always been supportive of my efforts to promote the series on my end and say I’m doing a great job. I have a background in acting, so I feel pretty comfortable presenting in front of other people. I know that’s very stressful for more introverted authors. The problem we extroverts run into is too much foot in the mouth. I sometimes gotta think more before speaking! ;-)
Kathryn and Maria with the Sales & Marketing team at HarperCollins.

Maria: Ro is amazing and she’s been a huge fan of the book from the very beginning. I remember her coming into my office to gush after she read it the first time. That doesn’t really answer your question, but we do begin having conversations with our marketing and publicity teams early on to build excitement and brainstorm promotional ideas.

Kathryn is also a member of The Sweet Sixteens. I imagine it must have helped to have a community of debut writers to go through that transition with.

8. Do you have any other advice to authors about having a good working relationship with an editor?

Kathryn: It’s good to remember your editor is a human being and knows you’re also human. Sometimes I try too hard to be a perfectionist on all fronts and be an amazing publishing pro, when the truth is I’m just a debut author and have a lot to learn. That’s, again, why I advocate for being honest while being as professional as possible. Maria is very intuitive and can see through to all my struggles, anyway, so it’s just better to be frank about them. :-)

Maria: Aw, you make me feel like a guru! We can all be a little too perfectionisty at times and we all have a lot to learn—on both sides of the process.  

Again, I would remember that your editor is on your team. I wouldn’t have signed up BURNING GLASS if I hadn’t sparked to it and thought that it was an important book for teen readers. And I’m so grateful that I get to talk to Kathryn and have in-depth discussions about things like empathy and emotions.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kathryn and Maria!

You can find Kathryn at:

You can find Maria at:

Kathryn and Maria are generously offering a copy of BURNING GLASS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through April 2nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This giveaway is for U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I have a guest post by debut author Kristy Acevedo and a giveaway of her YA science fiction CONSIDER.

The next Monday (can you believe it will be April?) I have an interview with debut author Elizabeth Briggs and a giveaway of her YA science fiction FUTURE SHOCK.

Wednesday that week I have an agent spotlight interview with Elana Roth Parker and a query critique giveaway. 

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Lindsay Eager and a giveaway of her MG magical realism HOURS OF THE BEES.

Friday that week I'll be participating in the Showers of Books Giveaway Hop!

Hope to see you on Monday!


Karen Lange said...

It's great to meet Kathryn and Maria. Loved getting a look at their process. Wishing them both much success!

Thanks for the introductions, Natalie. I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Have a good week!

baili said...

sound like super ladies thanks for sharing
have a great week ahead dear

L. Diane Wolfe said...

An editor is just trying to make the book better. If the author can realize that and relax, it will all come together.

Bish Denham said...

It's good when author, editor, and publicist are all on the same page. hehe. Love the cover and title and it sounds like a book I'd enjoy reading.

Bish Denham said...

It's good when author, editor, and publicist are all on the same page. hehe. Love the cover and title and it sounds like a book I'd enjoy reading.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

How funny that when Maria compared a scene in the book to a episode of BUFFY, Kathryn knew right away Maria was the right editor. And they really do come across as a unified team here.

Brenda said...

Sounds like a winning duo, I'm going to pass on the giveaway this time, but hope you have a lovely week Natalie.

cleemckenzie said...

Stories like this always make me smile. Congrats to all for making a winning team.

Emily R. King said...

Great insider's perspective between an editor and author. Thanks for the interview, Maria and Katie! BURNING GLASS lives up to the hype!

Stephen Tremp said...

Wow! That's a lot of info to share and I greatly appreciate it. I need to consider an agent in the near future. Best wishes to Kathryn and Burning Glass.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Interesting how the title changed. My second and third books didn't even have titles. Fortunately my publisher is smarter than I am.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Natalie,

Really enjoyed the interview today...Kathryn and Maria seem to have that magic chemistry we as writers are all looking for to succeed.

ALL the best with your debut novel, Kathryn!

Denise Covey said...

Hi Natalie! Hi Maria! Hi Kathryn! What a great interview. Looks like a great fit for Burning Glass!

mshatch said...

There's nothing like a great editor to help bring a book from really good, to great. Great interview, ladies :)

LSpeers said...

I was so excited to read this interview! I already had Burning Glass on my "to read" list and the info in this interview was really helpful.

Following via lcspeers(at)gmail(dot)com

BranwenOShea said...

Great interview. Loved hearing about the editorial process and a successful author-editor relationship. Can't wait to read your book!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the chance! Already follow through email :)

Sydney said...

Cool interview! The plaque was too funny. :) Thanks for the chance! Following via email: xinyi1467 at gmail.

Greg Pattridge said...

What a super interview and the book sounds fantastic. Best of luck with your debut Kathryn!

Eileen said...

I've always wondered about the process so thanks for more details. It's really awesome they found each other and clicked :D Thank you for the chance!

Danielle H. said...

I've had my eyes on this book since I first read about it. Thanks for the interview and chance to win. I posted on my tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/141495452662/literary-rambles-debut-author-kathryn-purdie-and

Valerie Bodden said...

Great interview! And sounds like an incredible book! Congratulations, and thanks for the giveaway. valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

I got to meet Kathryn once at an event at BYU-Idaho! I'm super excited to read her book.

Bow Psyduck said...

I utterly loved the vulnerability beneath Valko's lust and burning desire for glory. Well-drawn characters, unfurled madness and sweet love under the gold-capped domes of Torchev, a compelling character-driven plot: BURNING GLASS is a wonder.

Julie Walters said...

Great interview detailing parts of the process that are unfamiliar to me. I love this! (julie.k.walters@gmail.com)

S.P. Bowers said...

This book has been on my TBR list since I first heard about it. Can't wait to read it.

Suzanne Warr said...

What a fantastic interview! And it sounds like the author-editor relationship we all dream of.

Many thanks for the wonderful insights, but let someone else win the book, as I need to catch up on my middle grade reading.

Anonymous said...

Thisis a great glimpse into the author-editor relationship. Kathryn's book looks fantastic.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I loved reading about the author-editor relationship. I will add this book to my TBR list!

Natasha said...

Great interview!
This book sounds like a great read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Unknown said...

I'm so glad Kathryn found her perfect match with Maria! Wishing then both much success with the book! :)

DMS said...

So interesting to hear about their relationship and how they work together. I can't get over how quickly the edits arrived the first time. Wow! I loved hearing about how the title came about. It definitely stands out.

Nice to meet Kathryn and Maria!

Tabatha said...

Interesting to hear about their process! I can relate to Kathryn's comments about letting ideas/problems simmer while you are trying to sort them out. Looking forward to backtracking and reading other interviews :-)