An Interview with Editor Kelly O’Connor
Assistant Editor Kelly O’Connor joined HarperCollins in 2013. For the Voyager imprint of William Morrow, she works with authors like Viola Carr (The Diabolical Miss Hyde), Alex Gordon (Gideon), Mel Odom (Master Sergeant), and Caitlin Kittredge (Black Dog) on books ranging from steampunk to military sci-fi to dark fantasy.
Kelly is on the lookout for dark and gritty fantasy, ass-kicking heroines, genre mash-ups, and psychological horror that will keep her up at night. Read the interview below to learn more.
Kelly O’Connor: It’s different for every author, so I always try to take the time to get acquainted and familiar with their preferred style. There’s no default route I take. I consider myself very hands-on. A lot of my job as an editor is managing expectations and being the “face” of our company. I know there’s a lot of trust that’s necessary during this entire process – we’ve both taken big chances on each other – but ultimately it’s about recognizing that we both want the same thing for this book!
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
KO: What I care most about is if they can tell a great story. If the story is there, then I can work with them on the fixable things like world-building, character development, and spelling. And an author who breathes new life into old genre tropes always grabs my attention – new takes on old favorites are my catnip. But storytelling is the most important to me. I need to know an author can tell a fully realized tale that doesn’t crumble by the end. The rest we can polish together!
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
KO: I think it can only help you as an author to organically grow your platform, to connect with readers directly, and to build relationships with other authors. I wouldn’t turn down a book because the author isn’t on social media, but I’d certainly encourage them to take the time between signing and publishing to get active on something – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr. If you don’t like the platform then you’re setting yourself up for failure, so stick to the one you prefer and it’ll be more natural. I will also point out that it’s a great way to build a relationship with your editor: I chat with and learn so much about my authors that strengthens our connection just by following them on social media! (But I can also see them spending time socializing when their manuscript is late…)
Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor.
KO: My list was heavy on military sci-fi and urban fantasy when I first started at Voyager. So when a steampunk, gender-swapped retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came across my desk I knew I had to have it. The Diabolical Miss Hyde is so fun, but such an outlier to the Voyager list: it’s got a lot of romance (which is probably evident by the cover), but also a lot of grit; there’s Victorian-era dialect; the narration switches tenses; there’s clockpunk and magic, and a werewolf….there’s a lot going on! But I couldn’t get the author’s voice out of my head, and it was unlike anything I’d read before. Being different can be a good thing!
— Thanks, Kelly!