Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday with an Editor - Kelli Collins

My special guest for today's Thursday with an Editor series is the brilliant and sarcastic Kelli Collins, Editor-in-Chief of Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

1. Did you always want to be editor-in-chief for a publisher of erotic books?
Can’t say it ever crossed my mind. In school, I leaned toward science and mathematics, but I was also a rapacious reader, never went anywhere without books. My careers ended up following that path organically and, I have to admit, rather effortlessly.

2. How do your husband and family feel about your job?
They don’t feel any particular way about it. It’s what I do, not who I am, and they get that. I certainly don’t hide it, nor do I edit under a pen name (many do and that’s fine; it’s a highly personal decision). The hubs enjoys my wackier author stories. And owing to the size of my family (17 kids; hard to keep track of all those careers!), I suspect some of them probably think I’m still working in a bookstore in Florida (2 states and several jobs ago).  :)

3. What is your educational and career background?
I relocated from Michigan to Florida halfway through a finance degree. As much as I love math, I ultimately didn’t love it enough to make it a career. While living in Tampa, I charmed my way into a journalist job at a chain of alt-weeklies. (Note: I have the most amazing job luck.) I really had nothing to recommend me but a sparkling personality (*smirk*) and some natural writing talent. Ultimately, that was enough. I had worked my way up to associate editor when, in 2004, I edited a cover story about a little e-book company owned by Tina Engler…  It was inspiring, to say the very least. The next thing I knew, I was freelancing for EC. In February of 2009, I accepted the Editor-in-Chief position.

4. How many authors do you edit yourself and how do you choose them?
Technically I have 59 authors in my stable, but their writing schedules are such that I’m working on projects for perhaps a third of them or less at any given time (barring those rare times when they submit en masse; an evil plot to make me go mental, I’m sure). And I use several criteria to choose authors, all important to me, but item #1 is imagination. I can explain technical stuff; I can teach grammar and structure and the particulars of characterization, world-building, etc. I can give authors a lot of tools, but I can’t give them an imagination. If a story is unique and inspiring, if I fall in love with the characters, I’ll do what it takes to help an author translate her/his vision to the page.

5. How many editors do you manage?
I’m personally responsible for talking 14 content editors and 9 copy editors off the occasional ledge.  ;-)  The publisher, Raelene Gorlinsky, edits a small group of authors as well. We also employ 2 acquisitions editors, who work more closely with the COO.

6. What are the perks of your job? The pitfalls? (It’s okay to dish, we won’t rat you out to your boss ;-)
Great conversation is high on the list. Lol! Both in the office and with authors. I go to several conferences each year, which are a blast (I love just hanging with and meeting authors, EC’s and others). And I’ve never worked at a more fun office; we have some seriously funny people at HQ (CEO Patty Marks being the funniest of all), which is important to me. If I can’t laugh, I die. The company is also extremely generous. We all know it’s impossible to please all people, all the time. But EC really does do everything within its power to keep the authors happy. I’ve also witnessed truly extraordinary kindnesses during my time here, the sort of behind-the-scene things you’ll certainly never read about in the blogosphere. As for pitfalls…reading about sex for 7 years can make you jaded.  :)  It’s a rare day when an author surprises me with his/her sex scenes. And because of the digital nature of the job, the potential to overwork is high. I’m at home, relaxing, playing on my laptop…why NOT edit some more? I have to force myself to turn off my computer most evenings.

7. What do you like to read for pleasure (assuming you have any time left in your busy schedule)?
I rarely ever have time, but when I do…horror, suspense and a wide array of nonfiction.

8. Have you ever written and published any fiction? If not, do you secretly aspire to be a writer?
God no. And I could if I wished; EC has no rule against editors writing. A long time ago, I thought I might one day publish something, have even started a few projects over the years. But despite that aforementioned modest writing talent, I simply have no love for it. I can happily edit for 12 hours but I can’t force myself to write for 20 minutes. Editing is what I’m crazy-time passionate about, so I don’t push it. I know too many people who aren’t even doing something they like, let alone lucky enough to do what they love.

9. What’s the best advice you can give aspiring writers planning to pitch to you at a conference?
I don’t bite. So take a few deep breaths and relax. I feel just wretched when someone is so nervous during a pitch that they can’t speak. And here’s the thing about that—I’m really no big shot. I don’t get my jollies by intimidating authors. And I truly believe I can’t edit effectively, certainly not with the author’s best interest in mind, if I let my ego go unchecked. I’m not in this for worldwide editorial domination, don’t treat bestsellers differently than I would an unpublished author, and have no interest in popularity contests. I never want an author to feel as if I hold the fate of her/his career in my hands—just one particular book’s fate at EC.  The worst I can say is, “No thank you”, and if I do, I wholeheartedly encourage authors to try again.

10. Chocolate, vanilla or something entirely different?
Which day? Which hour? You know what they say about variety…  ;-)


Mel Teshco said...

Hi Wynter and Kelli!

I was lucky enough to see your editing skills myself just recently. And loved the interview, great insights into an editors life =)

Debra Glass said...

Kelli, so glad you gave up that career in math to herd us kittens!

Katie Reus said...

Awesome interview! Love seeing more about an editor's view on things :)

Wynter Daniels said...

Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Kelli. Having met you at a conference, I will second that you don't bite. In fact, I think you're the most approachable editor I've met -- and lots of fun.

Kelli Collins said...

Aww! Thanks, ladies! Mel, it was a true pleasure. And Debra, someone should have warned me how hard it is to herd cats... ;)

Gina Lamm said...

Awesome interview with an awesome lady. It is now my lifelong goal to write a love scene that will scorch your eyebrows off. (Maybe not) ;)


Mia Watts said...

Love it! Great interview and what a fantastic opportunity to get a glimpse behind the scenes.

We love you Kelli!

Kelli Collins said...

::blush!:: Thank you, Mia! It was wonderful seeing you at Romanticon!

And Gina...go for it. Though really, I like my eyebrows where they're at. Lol!

Mari Freeman said...

As much as I love you as an editor, I can't imagine having you as a math teacher! LOL.

Very glad you herd Kittens.


Kaily Hart said...

Great interview! One thing Kelli failed to mention is her fabulous voice. I don't mean 'voice', I literally mean her voice. I could listen to her talk about anything all day long :). Sigh..

Lolita Lopez said...

Holy moly, woman! You are busy. I'm about to break out in sympathy hives over here at the mere thought of juggling all those authors, editors and conferences. I bow down to your mad organizational skills!

Kelli Collins said...

Mari, I'd make a great math teacher! Gentle as a lamb. *smirk*

Kaily, you're too sweet. I'll happily call you whenever you want and read NASDAQ prices in my sexy voice for hours and hours... ;)

(BTW, my captcha for this post is "reckstr". I like it. Oddly fitting Can WreckStar be my new nickname?)

Loretta said...

What a fun inteview! I had a great time reading this.. it's mornin' gal, with no java OR chocolate in me, so it had to "bring it home" on its own:)
You have such a refreshing outlook and wit,that working with you must be a delight...definitely something I've been looking for;)
Just sayin'...:)

Dalton Diaz said...

Love the interview! As always, common sense prevails.
Did you really say there are 17 kids in your family? As in, you have 16 brothers and sisters? No wonder nothing phases you!

Belle Scarlett said...

As one of the lucky 59 cats, I'm purring over this! Kelli, I didn't know you were great at math! Now, not only can you edit my WIPs... you can also do my taxes?! Best. Editor. Ever!

Kidding aside, love this! And thanks for all you do for us kittens, Kelli.


Kelli Collins said...

Thanks Loretta! I don't know if my authors would consider me a "delight", but I'll take it. And hey, did you use me as a substitute for coffee?!? Cool! Now I've got a potential cottage industry to fall back on if this whole editing thing doesn't work out. :)

Yes, Dalton, 18 sibs (8 older brothers, 8 older sisters). They've done wonders for my patience. Lol!

Belle, I am, like, the tax MASTER!

Kelli Collins said...

Erg!! Make that "16 sibs". Doh!

I iz a editur...

Charlene Roberts said...

Great interview ladies!

Kelli, you are so talented! I knew you were good but hol-ee!!

I've gotta make it my mission to come to the next Romanticon to finally meet you face to face!


Dakota Cassidy said...

I just experienced my first edit w/Kelli, though I've been a longtime fan since I met her on a panel at a convention. Quite honestly, out of all the editors on the panel, she was the most market informed, well-spoken, warm and audience friendly one of the bunch.

Anyway, my edit It was probably the most thorough vetting I've ever received.

And I liked it. A lot. She has an amazing eye for detail, but she's also incredibly in tune with who you are as an author, and she allows your voice to expand and breathe while she chops you off at the knees :) She's pure genius :)

Kelli Collins said...

Char, you HAVE to come to Romanticon! Best. Time. Ever.

And there you go, Dakota, making me blush again. I'm truly touched, hon. And humbled. Thank you. (BTW, did I mention that axe chops a little higher with each book? Say goodbye to your thighs come Jan. 15. :) *ticktock*)

Ju Dimello said...

Hi Kelli,

Great to "know" you through this fab interview! Loved the chocolate / vanilla variety... I love me some variety too :)

I've gotten my very first contract with EC and I'm so excited to be one among the authors whom I've admired and read! Can't wait for the editing process to start ;) I have a different editor though ;)

Wynter Daniels said...

Ju - you'll love being with EC. Everyone is fun yet professional. My experience there has been terrific and I look forward to a long relationship with the company and the people.

Kelli Collins said...

Hey Ju, welcome to EC!!! So happy to have you, and thank you so much for sharing your hard work with us. :) I hope you love the editing process...but if you don't, you come talk to me. ;)

Ju Dimello said...

Thanks, Wynter! That's my feeling so far too - in word - Terrific :)

Aw, Kelli, you're so sweet :) But I already have a soft spot for my editor, Briana - cos she's fab with a newbie like me ;) (ie, doesn't mind my retarded questions)!

Jayne Rylon said...

How the heck did I not know the finance thing? You're so my spreadsheet buddy from now on!

Sasha Devlin said...

It was fab meeting you at Romanticon, Kelli! Best Con Ever! Loved the Shivers panel...totally has my bunnies hopping.

Great interview ladies

Cristal Ryder said...

Hey WreckStar! I'll start the nickname bandwagon ;)

So glad I stumbled across this interview. Very cool getting a snippet of the real person.

I'm loving EC as one of Grace's Fallen Angels.


Kelli Collins said...

Sasha! It was fab meeting you as well, though now I have Twitter envy. I thought my tweets were funny...until I read your #Romanticon11 tweets. They became part of my nightly ritual at the hotel: Wash face; brush teeth; read Sasha tweets; go to sleep with smile on face. :)

Cristal, I know *you* know how lucky you are to work with Grace. She's definitely my editor crush. <3

Cristal Ryder said...

Absolutely Kelli :) that I do. I wonder if she chops higher with each new book edit....

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Awesome interview. I love meeting up with Kelli at conferences; always look forward to our conversations which can go in any direction. :-) I don't get to work with her as much as I like, but I always like. She doesn't rubber stamp my submissions but gets me to work on them and think about what the heck I'm trying to do. I appreciate that.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic interview, Kelli. Thanks for sharing. And so nice to see a fellow Tampa area native! ;) Best of everything to you and all at EC!

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