An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Sarah Durand
Senior Editor of Morrow/Avon, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

August 2006

"I would love to be a college English professor . . ."

AUTHORLINK: How did you first become involved in publishing?

DURAND: I did many informational interviews to see if I might be interested in a position in publishing— then I attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course. I enjoyed what I learned there and decided to seek a publishing position.

AUTHORLINK: What did you do before occupying your current position?

DURAND: I attended Northwestern University.

AUTHORLINK: What job would you do if you could do any job in the world?

DURAND: I would love to be a college English professor or run a winery.

"I loved stories of adventure and heroic young girls . . ."

AUTHORLINK: What is your earliest memory of your love for words or books?

DURAND: I remember pretending to read books to my friends when I was a toddler and even before I could read—but I would hold the book upside down! I later remember reading the first three books in the Little House series sitting in my parents' car on a road trip—reading words I didn't understand out loud to my Mom. I loved stories of adventure and heroic young girls caught up in strange situations—like LITTLE HOUSE or ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS.

AUTHORLINK: Who influenced you most as a child to read?

DURAND: I went to a wonderful school for Kindergarten and First Grade, and every night they literally filled up your book bag with books to read. My grandfather would make me read them to him over the phone, and along with my mom, who read to me at night, he was my biggest influence.

"I don't really have a favorite author, but I do have favorite books."

AUTHORLINK: Who are your favorite two or three authors?

DURAND: I don't really have a favorite author, but I do have favorite books. I tend to like certain kinds of books, and just move among those genres. I love suspense, historical adventures, exciting narrative nonfiction, and anything with characters you miss when you put the book down.

AUTHORLINK: Why do you like each of them?

DURAND: I love getting lost in other wonderfully-imagined worlds.

AUTHORLINK: What is your favorite book of all time and why?

DURAND: LOLITA by Vladimir Nabakov. He made the most detestable person in the world interesting, and I couldn't write like he did if I tried (and English was his second language!) I'm amazed at how skillfully he [Vladimir Nabakov] took a horrible subject and made it fascinating and so, so readable.

AUTHORLINK: What categories do you acquire for?

DURAND: Suspense, narrative nonfiction, movie and television tie-ins, relationships, commercial fiction, and historical fiction.

"I also edited a terrific New York Times bestselling novel called CARVED IN BONE . . ."

AUTHORLINK: What other categories personally interest you?

DURAND: I love good adventure stories like INTO THIN AIR or ALIVE—I would love to work on more exciting narratives like that.

AUTHORLINK: Of the projects you've edited and published, can you give us two examples of books (titles and authors) that would best represent your interests or tastes?

DURAND: I'm about to publish a wonderful first novel called DAWN OF EMPIRE that's a historical set in the Bronze Age—it's CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR-esque: a big, sprawling epic about a town that defends itself against a group of invading barbarians. I also edited a terrific New York Times bestselling novel called CARVED IN BONE by the founder of University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Center, aka "The Body Farm." It's a forensic novel of suspense set in and around the Body Farm, and starring a forensic anthropologist.

AUTHORLINK: What do you want to see in a query? How long?

DURAND: I only accept agented submissions, but they should include plot, author description, marketing ideas, advance blurbs, and anything else that makes the book stand out.

"Have a great first line, a great central character, and a new idea."

AUTHORLINK: Do you accept e-mail queries?

DURAND: I don't, unfortunately. I receive about 10 a day and have to delete all of them—I simply have too much on my desk to be even able to look at them.

AUTHORLINK: Do you accept direct queries from authors or do you prefer to work with agents?

DURAND: I much prefer to work with agents. They protect an author and help me weed out material.

AUTHORLINK: What advice, if any, do you have for the new writer trying to break in?

DURAND: Have a great first line, a great central character, and a new idea.

AUTHORLINK: What are your three biggest turn-offs when you're considering a manuscript (Packaging? Typefaces? No SASE? Viewpoint shifts?)

DURAND: I really don't like viewpoint shifts, books about terrorism, and double-sided pages.

AUTHORLINK: What was it about the last three manuscripts you've acquired that caught your eye, made the decision for you to buy?

DURAND: I started them and couldn't put them down.