Saturday Interview: Heather Osborn, Acquiring Editor, Tor Paranormal Romance

I adore Heather Osborn, and not just because she had the good taste to acquire my first two erotic romances for Ellora's Cave before heading off to acquire paranormal romances for Tor Books (Heather, was it something I said? Should I not have sent that shrunken head as a thank-you gift? Was the shrine I built to you in my living room too much? It was actually much smaller than it looked in the pictures.)

Perhaps her only lapse in judgement was agreeing to let me interview her here, but I'm sure she won't make that mistake again.

1. So how crazy are things at the Tor offices these days? Moderate crazy? Really crazy? Is it busier in any particular time of year?

Actually, the holidays are a fairly quiet time in the offices, since most authors are not writing and most agents are vacationing. So yeah, I would place it at moderately crazy. It seems that much of an editor's life is either feast or famine. You are either REALLY busy or twiddling your thumbs.

2. Can you tell us what some of your absolute pet peeves are, regarding submissions, queries, plots, people who don't use coasters, that sort of thing?

Hmmm, absolute pet peeves... Well, an easy one would be someone who obviously has not done their research. For instance, Tor always accepts unagented/unsolicited submissions -- the typical first three chapters and a synopsis -- yet we still get query letters. Since information about submissions can be found on our website, it is annoying and obvious whne someone hasn't done their research. Also, I edit romance for Tor, and additionally have expressed an interest in acquiring Urban Fantasy as well. Please do not send me your mystery/horror/SF/Women's Fiction title. I am not aquiring it!

As for pet peeves in plots, that is tougher. Obviously there are certian plot points and elements I prefer over others, and yet, in the right hands, almost anything can work. I don't typically like ghost romances, yet I just signed a series where the heroine is a ghost hunter. I don't typically like time-travel romances, and yet I am a huge fan of Lynn Kurland. I pretty much never say never.

3. What about the editing process? How does that usually work for you? Do you personally edit everything you acquire, or do some books get assigned elsewhere?

I currently edit everything I aquire for Tor Romance. Anna Genoese is also still editing some Tor Romance authors on a contract basis as well. I do have an assistant who will sometimes read submissions for me and offer input where requested, but as far as edits go, those are all done by me at this time.

As far as my editing process is concerned, because of my background in e-publishing, I prefer editing on the computer in MS Word. I also will do editorial letters and edit on paper as well if needed.

4. Just so we all know ahead of time, if we were to run into you at a convention, what drink should we buy you?

Ha! This is actually sad, in that my tolerance for alcohol os pathetically small. Two drinks and I am giggly. As a result, I tend to go for fruity drinks that cut the liquor into managable amounts. At last year's RWA National I was on a pina colada kick. I am also a fan of margaritas and mojitos.

5. Tor has an open submission policy for unagented/unsolicited partials. Who reads those? Are they read as they come in, or is there a particular day per week or month?

As I mentioned above we accept unagented/unsolicited partials. Any that come in specifically addressed to me or marked as romance get put on my desk. The majority are read by me or my assistant. As for as other queries are concerned, about one or two times a month, a group of editorial assistants as well as an editor or two will gather in a conference room for 3 or more hours and do nothing but open and assess submissions.

6. Would you be willing to describe your typical day at work? What makes a day a good one or a bad one?

Hmmm, a typical day... Well they can vary wildly depending on meetings and where we are in a particular season, but the average day has me in around 9:30. I usually spend my mornings answering e-mail and doing non-editing tasks, as I am useless as an editor until I truly wake up. I usually start editing around 11, break around 1 for lunch (although I often eat that at my desk), then I will edit from around 2 to 4 or 4:30 and then break for more non-editing tasks until 5:30 or so. Most reading of submissions, etc, gets done at home.

7. What is the worst injury you've ever had?

Ha! I love this one. I am really hard to injure actually, and other than a cracked toe, I've never broken a bone. But just this summer I had an awful flip-flop malfunction and tore several ligaments in and around my ankle. I still haven't fully recovered from that one.

8. What's your opinion on talking animals--charming, or creepy?

Well, is this where I admit to my abiding love for Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books? I think talking animals can work, but I would prefer that any communication be mental or psychic. Animals talking aloud is a little too Alvin and the Chipmunks for me!

Thank you so much, Heather! I really appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions. In fact, I appreciate it so much I've sent you a...well, I don't want to spoil the surprise. Let's just say, you might want to wear a smock when you open the package so you don't get blood anything on your clothes.


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