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MAY 2010 SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

TINA JAMES
Senior Editor, Steeple Hill Books

 

 

Tina James WG:      Welcome Tina, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.

TJ:      Hi Winnie, thanks for having me here! I'm the senior editor for the Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical lines at Steeple Hill Books in New York City. I've been with the company for fifteen years. I began as an editorial assistant and worked my way up.

WG:      Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an editor and what steps you took to get you where you are today?

TJ:      Careerwise, I always knew that I wanted to spend my days doing what I loved most�reading. I graduated from Hofstra University with a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in Publishing Studies. I landed a job at Harlequin after responding to a help wanted ad in the New York Times.

WG:      What genres/lines do you currently acquire?

TJ:      I am acquiring books for Steeple Hill's three lines: Love Inspired (contemporary Christian romance, 55,000-60,000 words), Love Inspired Suspense (contemporary Christian romantic suspense, 55,000-60,000 words) and Love Inspired Historical (historical Christian romance, 70,000-75,000 words).

WG:      Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?

TJ:      I am definitely seeking out new authors for all the Steeple Hill lines, but most particularly for Love Inspired Historical. In January 2011 the Love Inspired Historical line will be increasing from two to four books per month so there are a lot of great opportunities for both brand new, unpublished authors and authors who write for other houses who are interested in writing for Steeple Hill. I'm looking for good stories, well told. I want to care about the characters. That means an appealing, warm heroine readers can identify with, and a strong hero readers can fall in love with. The romantic conflict between should be compelling, emotional and arise out of the relationship - not from external forces, such as a misunderstanding or cliche'd devices.

WG:      Do you think contest credits help an author further their career? Have you ever acquired a manuscript that you discovered via a writing contest?

TJ:      Yes, I think contests can help an author because they can bring her work to an editor's attention. I acquired a manuscript from an unpublished author last year after first seeing it in a contest.

WG:      Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?

TJ:      We aim to respond to a query within a month's time and we try to respond to partials and complete manuscripts within three months.

WG:      What input do you personally have on the cover art selected for the manuscripts you acquire? What level of involvement do you feel the author should have in this process?

TJ:      Authors who write for us fill out an art fact sheet for their books. The art fact sheet includes information about character descriptions, story synopsis, and suggestions for cover scenes. The information on the art fact sheets helps to inspire the editorial, marketing and art departments to come up with a saleable cover. We depend on an author's input and inspiration and knowledge of her story to generate cover art ideas.

WG:      Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of personal contact with your authors, other authors (either published or unpublished), and/or other industry professionals? Do you receive any value from other offerings such as the presentations, pitch appointments, and/or networking opportunities?

TJ:      I enjoy attending conferences and meeting face to face with authors because I get the opportunity to speak with authors about the exciting things that have been happening and are happening at Steeple Hill Books and I get to let authors know what we're looking for. In addition, it's great to meet and really get to know the authors I regularly work with in person.

WG:      Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?

TJ:      I give equal consideration to submissions sent by authors and agents. After all, I never know where I may next find an exciting new talent.

WG:      What piece of advice or 'pearl of wisdom' would you like to offer authors who are considering submitting a work to you--or to any editor for that matter?

TJ:      An exciting opening chapter that grabs my attention from the first line of the story is really important. And an appealing voice, compelling characterization and emotional impact are other distinguishing factors that will also get my attention.

Aspiring Steeple Hill writers should familiarize themselves both with our guidelines and our books. By reading our romances, an aspiring writer will get a very good sense of what the readership likes and, by implication, what doesn't work.

WG:      What do you do to relax and have fun?

TJ:      I enjoy going out to restaurants; shopping; exploring New York City; traveling; watching TV; surfing the Internet.

WG:      What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

TJ:      I love romantic comedy movies and I love the TV shows Lost, Glee, The Mentalist, Grey's Anatomy, 30 Rock, The Office and Chuck.

WG:      Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?

TJ:      I am actively seeking new writers for Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical. For Love Inspired Suspense, stories should be equal parts romance and suspense. One should not take a backseat to the other. We are looking for riveting, heart-pounding romantic suspense. We are not looking for cozy mysteries. For Love Inspired Historical, we are always looking for exceptional stories set in the West. But we are actively focusing on acquiring manuscripts with non-Western settings, too. Americana (post-Civil War), European historical eras (e.g. Tudor, Regency and Victorian England, eighteenth-century Scotland, etc.), twentieth-century (turn-of-the-century through World War II) and foreign settings are all welcome.

WG:      Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?

TJ:     Guidelines, along with submission information, are available on our website at www.eHarlequin.com (click on "Writing Guidelines").

WG:      And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!

 

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