Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wrangling Raintree: An Editor's Perspective

As John Wayne would say, "Now listen and listen tight." We're excited to have a very special guest today. The authors of Raintree: Inferno, Raintree: Haunted and Raintree: Sanctuary blogged about their books. Here's your chance to read about the editor who led the trail ride for this project. Pull up a log and sit around the Playground campfire and listen while Harlequin/Silhouette editor Leslie Wainger tells her side of the story. And if this southern heat and humidity (not to mention the campfire) gets to be too much for our visitor from up north, we'll mosey on over to the creek for a spell and cool off .

Any editor can tell you that there are some books they’ll never forget and will always be proud to be associated with, and the Raintree trilogy is definitely one—well, three—of those for me. From the moment several years ago (I forget how many, but two or three, I’d guesstimate) when Linda, Linda and Beverly (who are nothing like the Larry, Darrell and Darrell yahoos I just got a flashback of) told me the bare-bones outline of the trilogy, I was hooked.

Even at that early stage, the set-up and the characters were so well thought out and so compelling that I couldn’t help wondering how everything was going to play out, and what surprises were going to show themselves along the way. Since the point of my being here is to talk about the editorial end, though, not simply to gush, I’ll just say for now that the books didn’t disappoint (I win the Understatement of the Year Award for that line, just in case you were wondering) and move on to how I fit in.

In many ways, an editor is a facilitator, and that was a big part of my job when it came to Raintree. Because all three authors had to fit the trilogy in around their other writing projects, it was a long time ’til I got the OK from them to let the Powers That Be at Silhouette even know the books existed, and then we had to think about where and when to publish them. The “where” was easy, because we were in the planning stages for Silhouette Nocturne. The “when” was tougher, because we had to schedule the Raintree books so they wouldn’t compete with the authors’ mainstream pub dates, but we managed to solve that one, too.

And then the craziness began.

Publishers run on schedules, not just publication schedules, but schedules for writing copy, creating cover art and, most relevant of all in this case, handing in line edits, going over copy edits and galleys, and getting books on press. Suffice it to say that all those most relevant dates were not only ignored but pretty much blown to smithereens in the course of getting the trilogy to readers. In fact, we skipped the deflag (copy edit) and AA (Author Alteration aka galley) stages, something I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing with most books and authors. But this project had been so long in the making, and was coming from three authors I felt so comfortable trusting, that I was willing to go with my line edit—luckily, as a line editor I’m also a good copy editor—and a quick in-house proofread, and head to press.

Ideally, any trilogy gets edited in order, and that’s especially true when the three books take place simultaneously. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible, so I edited the second book first, then the first, then the third. Hey, at least one was in order, right? Every one of them was late to Production, but it was Linda Howard’s INFERNO that was nearly the death of both of us. Now I can laugh, but at the time, editing it chapter by chapter as she e-mailed it, and e-mailing the final chapter to the office with literally two minutes to spare before I had to catch a train to meet a friend who was in town for a single night, was pretty much the dictionary definition of nerve-wracking.

It would have been less so, though, if I’d only had the editing part to worry about. But here’s where the facilitator part really came into play. We were so far beyond every production date known to man that I suspect heads were almost literally exploding in Toronto. I was doing a lot of soothing, a lot of reassuring and a lot of promising, even while I was frequently not entirely sure myself it was all going to come together before Drop Dead Date #142 passed. But I guess some things are meant to be, and Linda, Linda and Beverly were as committed to getting these books to readers as I was, and it did, in the end, come together.

Three of the most exciting books I’ve worked on—recipients of three gorgeous covers (and we all did some sweating over that, too, as we waited to see what the art department came up with)—made it out into the world and onto all three major bestseller lists. My hair stopped standing on end, all four of us started breathing again, and—sort of like what they say about childbirth—I forgot all the pain in the face of all the pleasure. And if Linda, Linda and Beverly ask me to do another trilogy, even if it means waiting a few more years and losing more sleep and fielding more frantic phone calls from the Keepers of the Schedules, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

L to R: Leslie Wainger, Linda Howard, Linda Winstead Jones and Beverly Barton


Nini said...

It's 5:47AM on the east coast and i'm out the door in less than 10 minutes to head for the first day of school, but i wanted to stop by here and read an editor's view.

I have a couple of questions and then i won't be able to read the blog (for some reason it's blocked at school)until i get home.

1. In fact, we skipped the deflag (copy edit) and AA (Author Alteration aka galley) stages, something I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing with most books and authors.

Would you have done the same thing, the mishaps, the missed deadlines, etc. with any other authors?

2. What are the five main things an editor looks for in an MS?

3. Do you prefer pre-published authors to get an agent and have them submit through them, or directly to the publishing house?

4. Words of advice? Words of wisdom? Words of horror?

Thanx Ms. Wainger!


Todays verification is's the way my stomach feels as i get ready for the beginning wave of middle school students....

Problem Child said...

Hi Leslie! It's so cool you're here.

I loved the books (and the Mavens), but the production sounds insane!

Maven LJ said...

Hi Leslie!

Now, there's no need to make us sound troublesome and/or challenging. :-)

It was a ride, wasn't it?


Smarty Pants said...

Hey Leslie! We're glad to have you here today. What a ride! I hope one day my editor thinks I'm worth that much trouble.

How rare is it for a "category" book to hit the bestseller lists like these did?

Leslie said...

OK, let's see if I can master technology and actually answer comments. *g* (Oh, please forgive all typos, too.)

Nini, school sure starts early down there! And no, in most cases I/we would have rescheduled any book/books that were so late, but because there were a lot of other things to consider with this trilogy, we went ahead. In part, I admit, that was because I had the confidence to guarantee that the books would be terrific.

5 things, huh? Really, it all boils down to 3: characters who feel real (and at least one of whom I can like/care about); a good, tight, interesting plot; good writing.

re: submissions - For our series we allow unagented authors to query, but for single title we require an agent.

Words of wisdom? Write because you love to write, and never stop working at getting better.

Problem Child, thanks for the welcome.

LJ, it was a great ride. And you guys rocked (and still do).

Smarty Pants, it's very rare for a series title to hit the NYT list, but Linda H. has done it twice.

OK, see y'all later. I'm off to do a bit of editing now.


Playground Monitor said...

Thanks for the great blog, Leslie.

You wrote it's very rare for a series title to hit the NYT list, but Linda H. has done it twice.

I'm curious. What was the other book?

And as for schools, the ones in my area started 3 weeks ago on August 2. Since we were in the throes of a major heat wave (10 days of 100+ degree temps) there were real concerns about kids on un-air-conditioned school buses and such.

Anyway, I hope you can wrangle these three into another series someday because I truly enjoyed the Raintree books. That's a lot coming from someone who doesn't normally read paranormal. :-)


Instigator said...

Hi, Leslie! It's great to see you on the playground. It's very intersting to hear about the production side of getting these stories in print.

I absolutely loved these books and adore the Mavens. Not only are they all fantastic writers but they're so supportive and giving too. Maybe you can get them to do another triology...;-D


Jen said...

Leslie, it sounds harrowing. And I do know that when I'm late, it puts me ed in the hot seat which just adds one more gut clench to the process of racing/writing toward that drop-dead deadline. Ack. Now I better definitely get to work.

Leslie said...

Playground Monitor, whatever happened to Labor Day being the end of summer? Yikes! And Linda's other NYT bestselling series book was A GAME OF CHANCE, one of her Mackenzies.

And I agree with everyone that another trilogy would be great. Maybe someday... (Never say never, right?)

Jen, your editor will appreciate your timeliness, I promise.


Kelley St. John said...

Welcome to the playground, Leslie! So exciting to read the behind-the-scenes footage! Dante, Gideon and Mercy won my heart from page one. Great job to you on editing, and great job to Linda, LJ and Beverly on fabulous stories! And Lord knows I'd love another trilogy :)


Smarty Pants said...

Leslie, what are some of the market trends right now that will impact publication over the next couple years? I know not to write something just because its popular, but it would be interesting to know what's "in" right now. I heard several people at conference say vampire stories are on the downswing and historicals seem to be on the upswing.

Maven Linda said...

I want to put in my two cents worth and add that we wouldn't have worked with any other editor at H/S on this. We knew Leslie would "get" the trilogy, knew she could handle all our concerns, and we also knew that because the books were connected that they all needed the same editor. She was great at running interference when I was so down-to-the-wire with my manuscript. Leslie, you say you trusted us to get the books done, to develop the story, but let me say that we trusted you, too. With a project this complicated, trust was necessary.

And, my oh my, what beautiful covers!

The verification word is ielfye, which sounds like something out of science fiction.


As usual, the first verification word didn't go. The second one is "pflbacp."

Maven Linda said...

Just for fun -- the THIRD verification word, which I didn't have to use, is "qmwuisr." Pronounce that out loud (EG). -- Linda

Leslie said...

Thanks for the welcome, Kelley. And your request for another trilogy is duly noted. *g*

Smarty Pants, I think paranormal is here to say, but I agree that there are an awful lot of vampires out there, so as much as I love them, I think the way to make your mark in paranormal these days is to do something different, witness Raintree, or a book coming up in September that I edited, BEG FOR MERCY, by a new author named Toni Andrews.

Historicals definitely seem to be on the upswing, though the wonderful thing about them is that they never go away entirely, just wax and wane a bit.

I think "big womenm's reads," especially when the author has a really recognizable voice (Curtiss Ann Matlock, for example), are another rising tide. And personally, I'd like to see more female-focused thrillers. Not romantic suspense, but genuine international LeCarre/Bourne/daVinci-type stuff, but centered or co-centered on a strong female protagonist. I think there's a real gap there, and I'd like to see it filled.

Linda, what can I say? Mutual kudos all round. And sometimes I still look at those covers and marvel at how perfect they are. Btw, my word? qlwerz.


PS - It didn't post. Now my word is pxypk, which I kind of like.

Karla said...

I usually lurk here. What do you do when the books you like change into something you don't like no more? I was a Desire's reader since it started over 20 years ago and now they are all like Presents that I despise. Is there anyplace reader's can write and let Silhouette know there unhappy with the new Desire's? Eveything's about revenge now. Where's the romance?

The word is jqncjp. I can't even try to pronunce that. LOL.

P.S. I really like this blog and the website. You ladies do a good job keeping us readers entertained.

misty wright said...

Welcome Leslie! I have to say I loved these books!! The time and efforts were a great hit all around. :)


Playground Monitor said...

That's interesting about the female-centered thrillers. I hadn't thought about it but there really aren't any that don't have a romance element involved. Of course I love my romance so...

I guess the Bombshell line was going for that on the category level but readership apparently wasn't great on that line and thus it folded.

Maybe we can convince Linda H to write one. I loved her female assassin in Kiss Me While I Sleep.


Verification word: beioxb. Is that a cousin to botox? Or something like beat-boxing?

Playground Monitor said...

Oh and by the way. I took the garden hose and put out the campfire (had to be secretive though so the water police didn't catch me using water). It's 102 degrees here and way too hot and dry for a fire. :grin: We'll mosey down to the creek now and wade around to cool off. No splashing please. :grin:


Smarty Pants said...

Does HQ have anything new and exciting coming up that writers and readers should watch for?

Leslie said...

Me again!

Karla, series evolve to follow what the readership seems to want, judging by sales and reader mail, so if you don't like something, you should feel free to write (there should be an address in all our books, probably on the copyright page) and say so. It may not affect anything, at least not right away, but I promise you that your letter will be read and taken seriously.

Misty, I'm so glad you loved the trilogy. I think it would take a diehard hater of the paranormal not to be swept away by the Raintree.

Ms. Monitor, I agree re: Bombshell. I think length may have been a factor there, because thriller readers love complexity, and that takes time and space to develop. I think a lot of women do read thrillers, though, and even more would if there were a stronger showing of women in the books, and I'm certainly not averse to romance being part of that.

Smarty P, the newest thing is Spice Briefs, short erotic fiction under the Spice imprint. More info will be on our site,


Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Leslie! Very exciting to have you here. I love the Raintree trilogy and I think it's so cool how it all came together. It's absolutely amazing to me how you had to edit them out of sequence. No one would ever know that, which of course is as it should be. But, wow. :)

And those covers! Holy smokes.

Hope everyone is keeping cool in the good ol' South. :) I've got company coming this week and next, and a trip to Montgomery tomorrow, and I'm tearing my hair out right about now. :) Healing hugs to PC as she goes through her surgery and recovery. See y'all later. :)

Cait London said...

Congratulations all on Raintree. Loved them, and can see why people want more. The last bk left lots of room for continuation of the series.

catslady said...

Oh something to add to my tbb list :) And thanks for letting us in on some of what it takes to get a book ready - I think us readers take it for granted and don't realize how much hard work is put into it :)

Leslie said...

Lynn, don't tear your hair out. I'm sure you look much better with it in place. Cait, so good to see you! And, Catslady, I'm glad you enjoyed your look behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, it looks like the day is about over. Thank you all for letting me come and visit. Southern hospitality is always a pleasure.

Ciao, bellas. :-)


Barbara Vey said...

I'm really late getting to this today, but just wanted to say that I loved the trilogy. I would pick up another in a heartbeat. Great job to all involved.

Kathy said...

Darn! I tried to get onto the playground this morning and kept getting an Error page. Now that I've been gone all day, I feel like I've missed out. :-(

It's GREAT you came to play, Leslie! I've really enjoyed reading everyone's questions and your wonderful answers. Everything about the Raintree Trilogy is mind boggling. The process, from inception to end, editing sequence, fantastic covers, best-seller lists... my what a success!! It must be gratifying to have been key in the development of such a great project. Especially getting to work with 3 phenomenal authors. I think we all hope that there will be another trilogy to come. :-)

When you were working on the trilogy, how many other projects did you have going at the same time?

Also, you said historicals are on the rise. That's great news for me, an historical writer. Do you see this rise in response to writers combining genres? For instance, historical/paranormal, etc... drawing readers into historicals again.

Thanks for playing. And shout out to PC!! Kudos for the booboos.

(abjikwsq sounds Norse.)
(No, umxospmo sounds like something from X-Men)
(Okay, jbaqjihw sounds like something from Star Wars)

YvonneLindsay said...

Leslie, great to see you on the blog! I've only been able to snaffle the first of the Raintree trilogy so far (but I'm sure Barbara's Books will supply me with the other two). I love the side by side supernatural/real world premise of these stories. Actually, thinking about it... what is the *real* world?

Karla, I'm sorry you're not enjoying the current range of Desires. Have you tried writing to the Head Office in NY? For myself, my last three titles have been revenge stories but I still hope that out of the ashes the phoenix of enduring love rings true in them all.

(Erk! my word verification is ucwfuil... is that similar to awful or am I just seeing things???)

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Leslie, thanks for the great writing tips. Paranormal excites me just at the thought of it. A female protagonist could rock!!!

Hugs, JJ/Blue