Fast Five with Editor Andrew Karre
Andrew Karre is the executive editor at Dutton Books for Young Readers. He is also on the faculty for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCBWI fall conference
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I have about ninety-nine questions I’d like to ask you, but I’ll keep it to this fast-five (ummm, so I cheated a little with multiple questions wrapped in one, but I’m excited. That’s how I roll J).
1. Me: Help! Nobody wants to come across as a rookie. I noticed in your interview in 2013 with she asked “What are rookie mistakes you see first-time authors make?” Your answer was, “Rushing through revisions.” Please give us another rookie mistake to avoid.
Andrew: Valuing information over intrigue, especially in first chapters. Where the beginnings of novels are concerned, I value intrigue over information, feeling over knowing, magical confusion over mundane clarity.
Much like a good magician, an experienced novelist knows that she must keep things moving quickly and perch at the ragged edge of comprehension in the beginning of a novel. There is a sweet spot of confusion that an inexperienced writer will shy away from but the master will aim for.
(Andrew edited Ashley’s books, What Can’t Wait (2011, Carolrhoda Books), The Knife and the Butterfly, Carolrhoda Books) and Out of Darkness (2015, Carolrhoda LAB)
2. I recently attended the SCBWI International conference in California where a panel of editors was asked a series of questions. Let’s imagine you are part of that panel—you’re in Los Angeles, the sun is shining, and you’re about to go to the pool bar and order something exotic, but first you must indulge and dazzle the audience with answers to the following questions:
a. What hooks you in a manuscript?
A confident, bewildering, and enthralling first chapter. If I read the first pages and am completely confused but my heart rate is elevated, I know I’m reading something special.
b. What turns you off when reading a manuscript?
Condescension and careless clichés. Children and teenagers who fulfill adult wishes.
c. What’s on your #MSWL (for those of you on Twitter, #MSWL is where agents and editors post their Manuscript Wish List)?
I try to avoid specific topics or subgenre wishes. I rarely find them helpful. There are qualities and characteristics that I wish for though: Stories of children and teenagers from authors whose stories and life experiences are outside the white mainstream of children’s lit. Books by serious writers who know in their bones that writing about children is as high a calling as any in fiction.
3. Please tell us about your move from Carolrhoda to Dutton Books for Young Readers, and also please tell us about the shape and plan for your list.
I am very proud of what I accomplished in my six years at Lerner and am grateful for the creative freedom I had there. When the opportunity arose to work for Julie Strauss-Gabel and contribute to a list as exciting and discerning as Dutton’s (and to do so without leaving my home in St. Paul) presented itself, however, I knew I had to take it.
I intend to publish a diverse list of risk-taking, provocative, and thoroughly entertaining YA and MG fiction and nonfiction (probably around nine titles a year, eventually). I hope the books will continue to be surprising, and I plan to value care and craftsmanship in writing and storytelling as highly as I always have.
Follow up question: How does working remotely affect your job?
After more than a decade spent working in various offices surrounded by colleagues, I now work in the attic of my home in St. Paul (“attic” is probably misleading. It’s finished and quite nice). Working remotely has gone well—even more smoothly than I’d hoped. The Dutton team is small and used to being flexible. They’ve been great about keeping me in the loop. (Plus I travel to New York regularly). Remote editors are not entirely uncommon in publishing, and there are more of us all the time. I think experienced editors can edit and advocate for our books effectively wherever we are.
At Dutton, I do far fewer books than I did before, and so I have the luxury of focus and time to be extra maniacal about all the details of how my books are published. So even though I’m remote, I am very aware of what’s going on with my books.
4. What role do you expect authors to play in the launch and promotion of their books?
I expect authors to be honest with themselves and with me about their comfort levels where promotion are concerned. I hope they’ll work with us to channel their efforts into forms of promotion that suit their personalities and talents and that will get them in front of an audience. I’ve seen enough books and authors in my career to know there’s no one way to make a successful book, so we spend a great deal of time discussing the promotional strengths of an author and the opportunities her book presents. And every author has promotional strengths and all our books have opportunities.
Follow-up question: Would you like to add anything more on your thoughts on claiming social media real estate?
As a practical matter, any aspiring author should own her domain name and recognizable identities on major social media (as in, your real name if available and if that’s what you write under).
5. I recently wrote an article (bought by Stephen Mooser for The Bulletin pub date TBD) titled, Reading for a Rich Conference Experience. In the article, I propose conference attendees read books written, edited and/or agented by the faculty of a conference they plan to attend. Not only does it make for a richer conference experience, it’s a great vetting tool to discover if an agent or editor is a good match for the attendee. I’d like to put my money where my mouth is. Please provide a list (broken out by genre, if you will) of books you’ve edited over the past year or two.
This is a good idea, I think:
Sex andViolence by Carrie Mesrobian (January 2015) Morris Award Finalist
The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston (January, 2015)
Infandous by Elana K. Arnold (March, 2015)
No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (January, 2012)
No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (January, 2012)
AMatter of Souls by Denise Lewis Patrick (April, 2014)
Brooklyn,Burning by Steve Brezenoff (August, 2014)
FourthDown and Inches by Carla Killough McClafferty (September, 2013)
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