We have a visitor to the SYTYCW blog! Please give a warm welcome to Editor Extraordinaire Allison Lyons, who works primarily on Harlequin Intrigue but dabbles in several other lines. She has been with Harlequin for 19 years and has a lot of wisdom and inspiration to impart to writers. In addition to being a favorite in the office and author community, she is one of the most voracious readers you’ll ever meet. Here’s a little bit about Allison…
How did you get started at Harlequin? Did you always know you wanted to be a romance novel editor?
I answered an ad in the New York Times, back when they still had a big classified section, for an Editorial Assistant. Human Resources called me, brought me in and interviewed me. Then I met with Leslie Wainger, who would be my boss. I guess she must have liked me because almost 19 years later, I’m still here. And no, I never really thought about being a romance novel editor. My mother was a book editor back when she was in her 20s, and it always sounded awesome to me. But romance, specifically, wasn’t something I considered. Until I did!
What was the first project you were really excited about? What drew you to it?
I remember the first time I got to work on one of Leslie’s line edits. It was a Silhouette Desire book by Justine Davis called A Whole Lot of Love, about a plus-sized heroine who’s swept off her feet by a very sexy man. It was the first time I saw what truly went into editing a story and I still remember when the book came out (March 2000) how excited I was to see something I had a hand in, in print! What drew me to it was the way the author told a very realistic story about a woman who had body image issues and how the way she saw herself was vastly different from the way the hero saw her. One look and he was head over heels. I think so many woman are much too hard on themselves and need to realize just how beautiful they are, inside and out.
What is your favorite part of your working day?
Mornings, for sure. I love coming in and having a fresh mind and the whole day ahead of me to take care of my work. Of course, I try never to get too attached to my to-do list because I know the day will usually take me in a different direction. But when I get to actually complete pressing projects, it’s a good day.
What have you learned most about working with writers?
I learned early on that creative people can be so much fun to deal with. They have ideas practically bursting out of their brains that they cannot wait to get down on paper. The authors I work with are also all professional and know this isn’t just a creative endeavor or a hobby, but a passion, a dream, and a business. For most, this is their career and I try never to forget just how much is riding on what they send me.
Are there any books you’ve read recently that capture the sort of projects you’re hoping to edit?
Every day I read the types of books that I would love to edit. From big mysteries written by people like Stephen King (recently finished the Bill Hodges trilogy) to heart-stopping thrillers like those written by Harlan Coben (this year’s Fool Me Once was un-put-downable), to psychological crime stories like those by Megan Abbot (You Will Know Me) and Laura Lippman (Wilde Lake). I’m a sucker from any sort of suspense. I do read other types of books, like Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, but I’m really drawn to the twisted side of humans and would love to work on that sort of book some day.
What’s something no one (in the office/out in the writer world) knows about you?
Hmm. My co-workers know me pretty well, I think. I mean, I have been here a while. But maybe the writer world doesn’t know how much I love everything about Christmas (even though I don’t technically celebrate it), that I made one of my longtime dreams come true 2 years ago by visiting Paris, and that I love nothing more than trying new foods (accompanied by a glass of red wine). Luckily I live in NYC and have so much to choose from.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
I always tell aspiring authors to never give up on their passion for writing. Even if it takes 200 submissions before they get published, every time you put your heart into something, I’m convinced that it will catch fire somewhere. It just needs to land on the right editor’s desk. After all, writers don’t write because they want to. They write because they have to. Their creative brain will never rest as long as there’s a story to be told. And, really, there’s always a story to be told. Right?