Guest Post: Leading my Double Life – Amy McCulloch

I’m delighted to welcome Amy McCulloch to my blog today. Now, she says that she is no superhero, but do not be fooled–this is a woman who edits, writes, and runs very long distances clad in spandex. Sounds like a superhero to me! 

Amy is a fellow member of Team Mushens–we both have Juliet Mushens of PFD as our agent. Just yesterday she posted a great interview with Juliet here

This past week I (and it appears most of the world) saw Marvel Avengers Assemble at the cinema. I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with the superheroes because alas I too live a double life… Okay, I’m no superhero (trust me, an editor’s outfit is much more boring than a skin-tight catsuit ala Black Widow) but I do take on dual roles in the publishing world as both editor and author!

Getting to see both sides of the publishing business has been a really fascinating – and sometimes painful – experience. When I first went out ‘on submission’ to agents, I made sure to use a pseudonym as I didn’t want the association to be immediately obvious, and I wanted to make sure agents felt comfortable giving their honest opinion without worrying about it affecting a professional relationship. Juliet Mushens (my agent), however, learned I was submitting from Twitter and asked me to submit to her directly – so there was no need to obfuscate my identity there!

When The Oathbreaker’s Shadow went out to editors, we made the decision to stick with my real name. Knowing what goes on the other side of the commissioning desk, as it were, both helped and hindered me – I didn’t stress as much about timings (boy do I know how slow editors can be!) but once I heard my manuscript was going into the meetings stage at a few different publishing houses, I was desperate to know more. Was it just the editorial meeting, or was it going to acquisitions? Were they circulating the manuscript or still just reading solo? Were they talking money yet or just debating the merits? I wanted to dissect the goings on so badly, but trust me – it’s pretty much impossible to really know what’s happening at that stage until it’s happened.

Now that my book is going through the various preparation stages for publication, I find my editor hat can be helpful, but surprisingly not in the ways you might think. It doesn’t help me at all when it comes to editing the book. Once I get past a certain point, my writer brain just will not switch off enough for me to be objective about my own work, which I think is pretty natural. It does mean however that I am very receptive to editing (at least I hope so). I know what an important part of the publishing process it is, and I’m not precious about my work. I know that when an editor takes on a book, it becomes as much theirs as it is mine – and it is their championing of it in-house that can make such a huge difference to the success of its publication.

I’m also really lucky to have some great role models, in whose footsteps I would be beyond happy to tread. Jane Johnson, my boss at HarperVoyager, is a brilliant editor (she was up for editor of the year at the Bookseller awards last night) and she also writes gorgeous books for Penguin, including the recently published The Sultan’s Wife. Nick Lake, the editorial director of HarperCollins Children’s Books, is another stellar editor/author package – his latest In Darkness is one of the most haunting books I’ve ever read. So really whenever I think it might be hard to juggle both full-time jobs, I take inspiration from my coworkers who are doing it with brilliant success. Luckily, the thing that editors and authors have in common is a love of books, so I can’t complain on that front – I get to work in a field I love either way!

Amy McCulloch is a commissioning editor at HarperVoyager, where she works on books by George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb and Raymond E. Feist, and edits new upcoming stars of SF/F like Blake Charlton, James Smythe and Janet Edwards. Her debut YA fantasy novel The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is coming from Random House Children’s Publishers in Spring 2013. Follow her on Twitter @amymcculloch or visit her at her website:


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