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Chris Keesler, Senior Editor Dorchester Leisure Books

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Welcome to Book Editors: Close Up at http://www.authorlink.com . This regular Authorlink column provides an intimate look at important book editors in New York and elsewhere. Interviews focus on editors as real people. The columns explore their likes, dislikes, preferences, prejudices, and why they buy the books they do.

An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Chris Keesler
Senior Editor at Dorchester Leisure Books

by G.K.Sharman

September 2001

 

"I can help give a male perspective."

 

The way to Chris Keesler's heart is through a good query letter. A feisty love story that knows when to break the rules doesn't hurt either.

Keesler is a romance editor, one of only a few fellas in a female-dominated field. His position on the flip side of the gender divide works to his and his writers' advantage.

"There's always a guy in the romance, and I can help give a male perspective," he said. Besides, he continued, "a little broadening of the genre couldn't hurt anyway."

 

If he had to choose another job, it would be . . . "dictator of the world! "

 

Keelser grew up devouring fantasy, which he calls "sort of the male equivalent of romance, really." Both genres are escapist, he said, and feature people overcoming odds and being their best. Working with new authors is a rewarding part of his job. "It's nice to develop talent," he explained. One of his latest "finds" is Susan Squires.

Her first novel, Danegeld, is a gritty tale of Vikings in Dark-Age England that appealed to him because it pushed the boundaries of the genre. Brutal things happen to both the male and female protagonists, he said, but in the end they're redeemed by each other's love.

He just bought two more of Squires' books: Sacrament, a Gothic, and Philomancer, which has a sci-fi angle.

If he had to choose another job, it would be . . . "dictator of the world! "Some of my authors would accuse me of that," he laughed.

Keesler buys two to four books a month and is starting a sci fi/fantasy line in late 2002 or early 2003. He accepts unsolicited and unagented material.

 

His advice to new writers: "Read a lot, and read critically".

 

His advice for breaking in:

* Keep the query to one page. Start with the hook-how is your book different? Then tell what the story is about and mention any thematic details.

* Do research. Know what the publishing house buys and send an appropriate manuscript. You can always ask for guidelines.

* Know what the story is and where it needs to start. A 30-page prologue doesn't make a good impression. "Part of being a good storyteller," he said, "is knowing what not to tell."

* Read a lot, and read critically. "Try to figure out what makes the stories you like work," he advised. Keesler enjoys the classics, especially The Count of Monte Cristo.

* Know the conventions of your genre. Romances, for instance, must have a happy ending. One you learn what works and why, you can exceed the boundaries.

* Don't be afraid to take chances, and write something different. You're more likely to be successful.

"I encourage people to send me the stories they really want to write," he said.

 

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