L. AVERY BROWN
- Guest Writer, Author and Editor -
Welcome to an interview with a very talented editor ... and Southern Belle from the US of A - L. Avery Brown. My guest is a former secondary level educator with over a dozen years devoted to the fields of history, special education, and curriculum development. Since 2007 she has become a devoted writer, something she's loved to do for as long as she can remember. Professionally speaking, when Avery isn't busy working on her own writing projects, she is also a freelance editor, publishing consultant, and digital media promotions consultant for Independent Authors like herself.
Welcome, Avery ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BOOK-EDITING JOURNEY.
I am a former secondary educator having spent a dozen years teaching in both public and private schools. I’ve a Master’s Degree in History with a cognate degree in Theatre Arts. After years of teaching using a system I liked to call ‘edutainment’ wherein history was told through crafting stories around the people of particular eras wherein significant historical events just so happened to occur, I decided it was time for me to make a major life change and explore an avenue that I’d dreamed of my whole life. (That and I feared I might go off the deep end if I stayed trapped in a system which puts ‘numbers’ ahead of students.)
Writing has always been a passion of mine. I suppose I get it from my father, a master storyteller, newspaper editor, and poet.
When I left teaching in 2007, I focused solely on my own writing. However, as I met other writers through my blogging and a ‘standard’ writing, I realized there is a huge market for the Independent Author…unfortunately, IA’s tend to not make oodles of money following their dreams and therefore cannot afford to hire skilled editors to help hone their masterpieces. And that, to me, was a shame. Only at the time, I didn’t know By 2010, after I’d joined an online site called BookRix.com, I felt as though I’d found ‘my people’ … a group of like-minded authors who wanted nothing more than to help push forward the cause for Indie Authors.
By 2011, I found myself mentoring young authors (typically between the ages of 15-20) who had that something special which most wanna-be J.K.Rowlings, Suzanne Collins, and Stephen Kings do not have. Eventually, I was asked to edit a book for one of the young ladies I was mentoring. And so, I edited the short story and took it from ‘pretty good’ to ‘award-winning’ … literally! You see, she entered it into a contest called ‘The Biggest Fear’ and with the help of my edits; I unwittingly helped thrust her book ahead of my own entry! She got first and I got second.
I suppose I should have been upset, but I thought it rather humorous and decided to look at it as having placed/won two-times-over … once for my own words and once for my ability to help someone rework their words into something better than it started out as!
And that was when my sideline job of ‘Editor’ was born. I started small, working with young writers at the site until eventually my reputation as a thorough editor who genuinely cares about the success of the authors with whom she works grew. After a while, I was editing the work of my peers – writers who’d written numerous books and had a good deal of success. Eventually, I expanded my service, creating an actual ‘business’ for editing and publishing consultation … which is where I am today.
Somehow, I find time to write my own work, edit the work of others, create websites for authors, and do book reviews - all while keeping my sanity as a wife and mother to a very busy 16 year old daughter!
WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?
Very much so. By the time I was in 1st grade at 6 years old, my teacher realized I was reading at a level well above my classmates and had me tested which eventually meant that when all my classmates were in their reading groups, I had to go to a different part of the school so I could be in a reading class with 5th graders who were 9-10 years old. That was … weird, to say the least. Eventually, I was put into an inclusive class with other children who read on a very high level so there was no need to travel or to sit in a class and feel like the odd man out.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A BOOK EDITOR?
As I mentioned in the opening, the actual ‘becoming of a book editor’ was a role into which I sort of slipped as opposed to chose. However, I can say that as a teacher, I spent many – many hours reading the essays of my advanced students and marking issues that they needed to address. So, I suppose you could say it really goes back to my teaching days!
WHY A BOOK EDITOR?
I find that the more I edit – the stronger a writer I become because I find myself being aware of so many things that I used to overlook. I like the idea of helping take an idea and watching it grow into something beautiful whether it’s my own writing or the work of others.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING AN EDITOR?
I love it when people ask me to edit something expecting me to rip it to shreds and bleed all over the work. It’s like they don’t think their work is worthy and they want me to prove it to them. But even if I do return a manuscript looking like I opened up a vein and decided to scribble across it – I always find the good in the work, too. And I point out to them that if I didn’t think the work was worth the time it took to go to such extremes with the old red pen (or rather, the edit tracking program on my laptop), I wouldn’t have invested so much time.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Occasionally, I am asked to review manuscripts that are truly horrible. They’ve no rhyme or reason - the plot is non-existent and the characters are about as in depth as tissue paper. That’s when I have to write ‘the letter’ explaining all the reasons why I think the author needs to seriously re-examine the work they’ve submitted because ‘that wonderful idea they had for a book’ might be awesome – but they simply cannot write to save their lives. Some people can – some people cannot. It’s not the end of the world, but I feel like I’m squashing their dreams like a bug!
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME AN EDITOR?
As I said earlier, I was in education. I taught mainly history, United States history was my forte. However, I taught European history, too. Then there was a brief while when I taught science of all things! I also was a teaching mentor to up and coming student teachers. In addition, I spent an entire summer as a curriculum developer for the Middle Grades history program for the state of Texas.
And throughout it all, as I said, I’ve always been a story teller – my mother even said when I was in high school that I should consider becoming a professional story teller and I thought, ‘Oh, please!’
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST BOOKS YOU HAVE EDITED? WHY?
I recently edited Book 2 of Judy Colella’s ‘Overcomer – The MacDara Chronicles’ (she sought me out when she was in a true bind – she had a week to get the book to her publisher and her editor had backed out). It was tough because I had to read Book 1 to get the gist of the follow up and I absolutely fell in love with the story and its characters. But I found some serious issues and I knew since this was a follow up book, Judy needed it to shine like a diamond so I put my everything into it. And by the time I was done, I felt like it was a wiz-bang job. In fact, it was so good – Judy contacted her publisher and told them they’d have to wait because the issues I brought up were valid and she didn’t want the book to be anything less than perfect! Talk about a major compliment.
By the way, that was a weeklong job that I did completely pro bono because she was in a bind. And the result wasn’t just that I helped her write a book that I know deep inside will do well, but also she and I became wonderful friends. Who knows? Maybe for book 3 she’ll hire me and I can reap a bit of a monetary reward for my love of the project!
WHAT ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?
Honestly, I’m reading five different books – books that I’ll be reviewing on my book review website. I spend about an hour in the daytime reading a book (and I take notes). Then I read a different book for another hour later in the evening (and take notes). My system may seem a bit odd but it works wonderfully for me. And sometimes, I come across a book like Vanished (The Lost Children of Managrail, Book 2) by Aron Joice that is so captivating (even though it had a few formatting issues) that I simply cannot put down! When that happens, I KNOW it’s a book worth its salt!
WHAT INSPIRES YOU AS AN EDITOR?
Knowing that I can make a positive difference in the career of an aspiring author. To be able to help someone realize his or her dreams is an amazing sort of feeling.
WHAT GENRE’ DO YOU PREFER TO EDIT? WHY?
It’s easier to say ‘what sort of genre do I NOT prefer to edit … and why. And that would have to be erotica. Not that I’m a prude – heck, I’ve actually written erotica and I know that when it’s written well, it’s a story first --- of course, when you start editing scenes with sex in them – the author tends to get very antsy because it ‘destroys the vision’. I love editing stories with complex plots because it requires that I keep a list of continuity issues which keeps me on my toes. I also like ‘regional’ stories told by authors from those regions that are told with an understanding that the reader might NOT be from the region. It makes my job much easier because trying to explain why a particular colloquialism should or shouldn’t be used can be difficult especially when the author is in LOVE with the phrases.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Tip 1. If you get ‘stuck’ on something trivial like … the title … leave it alone and come back to it later. (Yes, the title. Sometimes new writers think the success of a book or story rides on the title and if they cannot get over that ‘hump’ they might as well give up – even if the story is awesome. Sometimes, the title reveals itself as the writing process plays itself out)
Tip 2. Don’t fear the editor. Many editors are writers, too, so they understand what a writer feels – all the anxiety. There will come a point where you will have to let go of your ‘baby’ for someone else to examine with a fine-toothed comb. Better it be someone who not only knows what to look for – but also how to explain WHY something does or does not work.
Tip 3. When you hit that invisible wall called ‘Writer’s Block’ don’t let it get to you. Step away from the book. Step far, far away and let your brain settle. Do something else, something physical so that the synapses in your brain that have been firing at full-throttle have a chance to calm down. It’ll give you a little clarity and when things become clearer, the words start to flow like water down a mountainside.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED TIME TO EDIT?
Not really. In fact, I have one rule. One job at a time and 1 hour for that job – then it’s time to switch jobs. So, I may start my day at 9AM editing, but around 10:15AM, I stop and do something else for an hour. It could be reading for a review. It might be working on my own writing. I might take the time to simply sit with my mother (she’s quite elderly and lives with me and my family) so she can have someone to chat with or to watch her favourite show. Then, I’ll work my way back to the editing board and the whole thing starts all over again.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE TO WORK?
We actually have a HUGE master closet with a window that overlooks our front yard and our quiet street. I sort of stole the space in front of the window and had my husband put my desk there so that I could look out on the flower garden, watch the children going down the street, or people walking their dogs. It helps remind me that there’s a world outside beyond my laptop!
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN EDITING A MANUSCRIPT?
When I’m DONE - as in done – done … to the point where both the author and I are satisfied with the product and it’s ready to get it to the next step in the publishing process. That’s what makes me truly happy!
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE ALL TIME AUTHOR. WHY?
I simply adore F. Scott Fitzgerald. There’s simply something about the ease with which his narratives move. It’s sort of like reading liquid mercury … shiny, almost silky, and smooth.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A WRITER?
In one acknowledgement an author said, “To L. Avery Brown,
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A WRITER?
idiot author of an early
American romance actually had the nerve to tell me that I ‘Obviously needed to
go back and study my history because I didn’t know anything about what life was
like in Colonial America.’ I thought,
“OMG, really?!?!” I have a Master’s Degree in History – my focus
– Socio-Economic Trends in the Lives of Women in late Colonial America and
during the Early American Revolution Era. That’s when I decided to tell the
author as politely as I could, “You know, I don’t think this partnership is
going to work.”
DO SOME OF YOUR CLIENTS FRUSTRATE YOU?
All the time. Especially when I make changes in grammar/mechanics and they flat out refuse to incorporate the changes because they think it goes against their ‘style’. Unfortunately, many of the authors I work with are so new to writing, they don’t have a style and their ‘flip-flopping, back and forth’ writing habits do nothing but muddy the style waters.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU AS AN EDITOR?
I try to keep my personal life completely out of my editing life. If a story touches on something that I may have a personal link to, for example the totally unexpected death of a close friend, something I sadly do know about – I remind myself that this is NOT the story of my friend rather this is a fictional tale. If I harped on every personal heartstring that the stories I edit plucked, I’d never finish a thing.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU EDITED?
Gosh, that’s difficult. I’ve been editing both for profit and for free for about 3 years – I’d say I edit at least 2-3 books a month (not counting the back and forth process) so - - - I think I’d have to say somewhere around 45 – 50. That’s a total guess!
OTHER THAN EDITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Writing my own work. Reading and reviewing books. Relaxing with my family, watching television shows in a ‘marathon style’ with my daughter. Our most recent ‘-thons’ have been a “Bones-a-thon” and a “Fringe-a-thon” (2 American television series) And cooking. I love cooking!
DO YOU ALSO WRITE?
Yes. I’ve written several short stories, some poetry, and novels. I currently have 4 books on the market. Three are from a series called ‘When a Southern Woman Rambles…’ and they are filled with humorous short stories. I also wrote a satirical ‘educational’ book called ‘Kissing 101: A Guidebook for Men’ (It’s a book guaranteed to bring laughs to men AND women!) I’m in the process of getting my first full-length novel, ‘Fly Home, Earli Byrd’, edited and am working on ‘the perfect query letter’ to send out to agents regarding the book. My other titles are all independently published but I’m hoping Earli Byrd will be able to catch the eye of an agent or perhaps a publishing house.
ARE SOME MANUSCRIPTS DIFFICULT TO REVIEW? WHY?
Yes. Because it’s like the author simply started writing whatever popped into their head. Every now and again, I’ll see something that looks like a continuous train of thought – and then it just disappears ‘POOF!’ Then there are the manuscripts that are supposedly written by one person only it feels as if two or three different authors stepped in to work on it. I always tell authors if they were feeling ‘happy ‘ when they started the book – that feeling will be reflected in the words. So if they go through a period of feeling blue – it’s best NOT to write because that depressed vibe come through in the lines of text. And then there are the people who try to channel authors like J.R.R. Tolkien for a few paragraphs only to wind up sounding pompous followed by offering paragraphs that could’ve been written by J.K. Rowling. Don’t get me wrong - I like Rowling! But her style is a 180º different from Tolkien!
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
On a beach with a light ocean breeze, mild temperatures, and just enough sunshine to make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Oh, and did I mention the beach is my own private beach that I bought after I became an author of great acclaim who won a Pulitzer and has people begging to get my next book on the silver screen?
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Expand my business where I can hire editors who can provide the same detailed services I provide. Also, I’d love to get to a point where I could not only have made my name as a writer but to where I can help grow some of the talent I’ve come across as an editor. The world is always waiting for the next great story – if it doesn’t come from me, I would love to know that I at least had a hand in helping the story come to life!