Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beware The Devil’s Hug

 Today, as part of Marvin Wilson’s Hugs Therapy Tour 2010 to promote his book, Beware the Devil’s Hug, Marvin’s editor at All Things That Matter Press, Deb Harris, has agreed to answer my questions. My goal was to ask her questions that I thought all of you would if you had the chance. Before we get to those, however, here’s a bit about Ms. Harris:
Deb Harris, Editor-in-Chief of All Things That Matter Press, has been in love with words and books since early childhood. She’s also a believer in giving people a chance. All Things That Matter Press was born of the desire to allow promising new authors an opportunity to share their “Self” with the world.

Deb, whose prior career involved many years of work as a paralegal and legal transcriptionist/proofer/editor, and her multi-published author husband, Phil, lived for fifteen years in very upstate New York in a home they built themselves, totally off the grid, relying on solar and wind power. There, they raised vegetables, horses, and dairy goats, canning and preserving much of their own food, as well as making their own cheeses, butter, and soap. Now they raise books.

A Maine native, Deb spends her days at the computer, occasionally taking a moment to look out at the horses in their pasture, and surrounded by indoor critters as well: three dogs, a cat, 4 birds, and a fish.

Welcome Deb Harris.

1. Not only is Marvin one of the authors in your stable, he edits for other authors at All Things That Matter Press. What is he like as an editor and why would an editor need you, another editor, to edit his book?
I trust Marvin’s editing. He’s very meticulous (and being a nit-picker myself, I admire that quality), and able to work simultaneously on all of the necessary levels, not just the “does the comma go here” mechanics.

Marvin and I agree that no author is capable of completely editing his/her own work. The mind sees what the mind knows the mind meant! And, while a manuscript may be mechanically perfect, or close to, just about every author has little “pet phrases” and/or writing habits that are often, and always unintentionally, overused. For instance, one of our authors (not Marvin, in this particular case) used a certain phrase over 400 times in a less than 300 page manuscript and was astonished that he’d done so. These things are almost always invisible to the author, since they tend to be ingrained writing habits or personal ways of speaking, but they jump out at that other set of eyes.
2. The editing that you do is the last level of editing before publication. If an author feels strongly about something that you recommend cutting or changing, should the author fight for his/her viewpoint, give in and change, or present a compromise? If they refuse to change, would that affect the relationship?
You know what? If I find I need another doormat, I’ll go to Wal-Mart. Absolutely I want my authors to present their viewpoints. I didn’t write the book, s/he did. I try to be as flexible as possible in the editing process, always keeping in mind the ultimate goal: to have the best finished product possible. The vast majority of my editing comments, other than punctuation issues, include “How about if we …,” or “What do you think about ….” If an author feels strongly about something, unless it is so grossly incorrect that there can be no “give,” we let the author decide. This is a partnership, a collaborative effort between publisher and author. We’ve been very fortunate that our authors all tend to be reasonable people who also want their books to be as perfect as we can collectively make them. I can’t think of a single instance where an author and I have disagreed and it’s affected my perception of the relationship. Obviously, I can’t speak for how the author feels on that subject.
3. How did Marvin handle the corrections or changes you recommended?
Like the true professional he is, albeit with a little grumbling and grousing. Marvin’s goal is the same as ours: perfection.
4. How do you choose the books to publish? Are you open to certain genres or is it the writing that matters most, no matter the genre? What was it about Marvin’s book that made you decide to publish it?
We’re open to anything except sex-for-the-sake-of-sex, pornography, racial bigotry, religious bigotry, push-a-particular-religion-down-your-throat, and/or hate-driven books. We’re not particularly into children’s books or YA, although we’ll look at them. Other than that, we’re all across the board, which makes it a lot of fun.

One of us has to like it. That’s the basic decider. Not everyone likes the same genres, so I’m fortunate to have a great crew of submission editors to review things that aren’t my personal cup of tea. Sometimes it’s a decision by committee. And, while the quality of the writing most definitely matters, we strive to look beyond “the edit” to the heart, and are willing to work with promising authors who are willing to work hard with us.

A book has to grab and hold our attention, whatever the genre. Have something to say, and say it from a different angle. Take a fresh approach. Don’t write by formula, and don’t try to write like someone you’re not. Write like you. Make me want to cancel my dentist appointment to finish reading your manuscript.

I decided to publish Marvin’s book because it’s good! Of course, the bribe he sent didn’t hurt, either.
5. What about Marvin makes him stand out as an author? His writing? His willingness to promote his books? His enthusiasm?
 Everything about Marvin stands out, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now. I love his off-the-wall kind of backdoor approach to getting his messages across by hiding them in his stories. Marvin’s books can be read for pure entertainment or for the thought-provoking insights he provides. It doesn’t hurt that he writes well, either, and his love for his craft shines through in every word.
Thank you very much, Ms. Harris!

To find out more about Deb Harris, visit All Things That Matter Press. And to find out more about Marvin Wilson, visit his blog, The Old Silly’s Free Spirit or catch him on Twitter.

Tomorrow, Marvin will be visiting Lacresha Hayes blog. There are only two days left on Marvin’s tour, so be sure to visit his Contest and Prizes page, too.

But before you do all that, leave a comment or question for Marvin Wilson or Deb Harris.


  1. Nicely done, Helen! I'll be back later in the day to interact with readers. Gotta go 'e-nudge' Deb and gether to bop in, too, lol.

    Marvin D Wilson

  2. We'll see you when the sun comes up, Marvin!

  3. The sun's not up here yet either, lol ... I get my early am blogging done before 7am, then it's off to work. I'll be checking in around mid-day on my lunch hour, and again in late afternoon/early eve.

    Have a great day, my Texan Gal friend!

  4. Author's pet phrases. Hmmm. I'm glad I'm not the only one who uses pet phrases/words in a ridiculously large number.

    Marvin, love the title of your book. Makes me curious.
    South Africa

  5. I love this interview with Deb Harris - so interesting to read what an editor is really thinking, as well as to hear that it's not just me who re-uses the same phrases over and over in the same manuscript, lol!

    Best of luck with this book, Marvin!

  6. Bribes work? I need to remember that.

  7. I'm here, Marvin! And will be checking in periodically as the day goes on.
    Helen, it's good to know someone else is up and working before the sun's up! Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts on this amazing book.
    -Deb Harris

  8. Mornin' Deb. I used to stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning writing, then sleep til 10 or 11, but alas I married a man who automatically wakes around 4 a.m. I've begun to take on his habits.

  9. It's great to read about the editing process. I sometimes find it bitter medicine but I swallow my editor's advice on faith in her knowledge and experience.
    Good luck with your book, Marvin.

  10. Hi Helen,

    Thank you for the introduction to Deb. It was good to see what an editor thought prior to its final release and while in the making.

    I was just a little disappointed to know that ATTMP aren't particularly interested in children's books but I understand. I was given more information that should help me when it comes to looking for a publisher. That's a plus.

    So I'm just tagging along for the next 2 days and I'm taking this with me:

    1. The mind sees what the mind knows the mind meant! (Oh how this applies to more than just editing. I know it's something we all know but it's one of those things when you hear it, you only can think of one thing. PROFOUND)

    2. Don’t write by formula, and don’t try to write like someone you’re not. Write like you. (Adding this to my blogging checklist!)

    Thank you, Ladies. It has been a pleasure. :-)

  11. That is a seriously good title.
    I'm re-reading this and taking notes (underlining the part about bribes).

  12. Interesting interview. We get to know a little something about the editor side of Marvin.

    Thoughts in Progress

  13. Two excellent points, Kissie.

    Several of you are picking up on the "bribes." ;-)

  14. Love this interview! Lots of great information.

    With editing your own work before submitting to a publisher, I've taken this to the extreme. I have a project that I am becoming fearful of actually submitting it somewhere.

    I'm beginning to learn that, through time and excessive self-edits, while one can uncover the cracks of a project, doubt and insecurity can seep in through the cracks.

    Again, Great post with great info.

  15. Enjoyed meeting Debra and getting to know more about Marvin's book. It was helpful to get the insights from an acquiring editor.

  16. New authors may think that when a publisher signs you on, they like your manuscript and you've done your job of editing, but that's rarely true. There are more edits to come.

  17. You are so right, Helen! Again, it's that whole striving for perfection thing.
    And J.L. is right, too, when he says that doubt and insecurity creep in through the cracks. It's easy to over-think and second-guess yourself when you're self-editing, which is why Marvin and I agree totally that no author, even one who's an outstanding editor, should do the final edit on their own work.

  18. Nice interview! And I agree that it's really easy for certain pet phrases to sneak into a manuscript. I guess that goes hand in hand with a writer's voice--if we speak in our own voice, it's only natural that we use some of our favorite phrases. But it's so important to catch them before the book is printed if there are a lot of them!

  19. Judy - glad you are curious - now FIND OUT! (wink)

    Katie - thank you!

    Alex - oooh yeah - an editor's initial fee is just the start. Ya gotta grease 'em a little, dude. lol

    Deb, YAY! Glad you're with us today. And Helen, I love the way you two are chatting and talking shop!

    Susan, yes, sometimes editors can be hard pills to swallow, lol, but it's for the book's best health, hmm?

    Kissie, well said! Hey everyone, Kissie is hosting the Grand Finale stop on Saturday - it promises to be a GREAT one, too!

    Laurita, teehee. ;)

    Mason, thanks for dropping in and the comment. :)

    J.L., drop the fear, buck up, and SUBMIT! A li'l Old Silly advice, lol.

    Maryanne - thanks for being here today!

    Liz - yes we authors do, hmm? How I got around the bulk of that problem in Hus is, I let one of the characters be a version of me. I let him use all my pet phrases, and when I caught another character using them I would change it - worked for me on this book.

  20. Marvin, someone is gonna believe writers have to bribe their acquiring editors! Just because you did it, that doesn't mean others should. ;-0

  21. Aw, c'mon, Helen, don't spoil my profits!

    Joking, folks, on the very off chance that any of you actually believe Marvin!


  22. A wise writer knows he cannot edit his own work!

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. This is a really interesting insight into the whole authoring/editing process. Thanks for sharing.

    It surprised me how similar it is to working with tertiary students on their reports prior to submitting them for assessment. Even there, those repetitive habits creep in. And how frustrating when they refuse to follow advice, submit and get marked down for the clunky phrases. I guess it's all part of the learning process.

  25. Helen and Deb - you two are cracking me up! BTW, the check are in the mail. (wink)

    Diane - true dat, honey!

    Sue - yes indeed, all part of the process, hmm?

  26. Great interview - I love the point about no one person being able to catch everything. That is sooooo true! :)

  27. I lived in the house of "Hugs" for several days and now it's interesting to learn about the plumbing. We often don't hear much about the behind the scenes process of putting out a book and usually it's just about the author.

    Thank you for this look at an aspect that is of so much interest to those of us who are writers and looking forward to going through this process ourselves.

    Helen, this was a great presentation.

    Tossing It Out

  28. What bribe did Marvin send you? Naughty Marvin!

    My Darcy Mutates…

  29. Y'all are funny. I will tell you, though, that most acquiring editors like chocolate. So you might try that.

  30. I enjoyed the interview, Helen.

    I agree with Deb, no author can final edit their book. It takes a professional, impartial editor to do a book justice and to see with fresh eyes what's really there rather than what an author intended or thinks is there.

    That's one thing that has impressed me about smart small presses. They realize that a professional editor is an absolute must.

    Marvin, I've enjoyed reading your different blog posts. I've missed a few but I do try to go back and find them.

  31. Great interview, Helen! This was very informative and enjoyable.
    I'm in awe of Marvin's promotional tour...he's everywhere lately.


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