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

An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Denise Roy
Editor at Simon & Schuster – Parent Company: Viacom, Inc.

June 1999


Recent acquisitions:

Fluer de Leigh's Life of Crime

How did you first become involved in publishing?

While in college, I interned at Yale University Press.

What did you do before occupying your current position?

After completing a master's degree in American history, I came to Simon & Schuster as an editorial assistant, then worked my way up to Editor.

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

I love working with writers on their books, so editor is a great job for me.

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

My mother, a children's librarian, read to me in the womb, so my relationship with words and books dates back to before I was born. Frances the badger (BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES, A BIRTHDAY FOR FRANCES, etc., by Russell and Lillian Hoban) was my favorite.

Who influenced you most as a child to read?

I've never met anyone who loves books more than my mother does, and her enthusiasm definitely rubbed off on me.

Who are your favorite 2 or 3 authors?

I'm a great admirer of short form fiction, so I have to choose Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore. I've been reading each of their work since I was a teenager, and each new book is more and more remarkable.

What is your favorite book of all time and why?

That's a tough question, and I don't know if I could narrow it down to just one favorite. My favorite book of the moment, though, is BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh. One of my authors gave me a copy as a gift, and I found the theme of lost innocence and youth poignantly timeless.

What categories do you acquire for?

History, science, literary fiction

What other categories personally interest you?

History and Americana are truly my favorites. Since I studied the subject for both my bachelor's and master's degrees, I feel that I have a strong base of knowledge to build on. And, for me, the lives of past generations makes for fascinating reading.

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

Nonfiction queries should be as long as it takes to answer one important question: "WHY THIS BOOK?" For fiction, topic is important, but the quality of the of the writing is crucial.

Do you accept email queries?

I've received only a handful of electronic queries, and since I'm not especially eager for more, I'd say I prefer an old-fashioned typescript query.

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

For first-time nonfiction writers–do your research.

Find a topic that's highly promotable and that fills a hole in the literature. For fiction–if you have the talent, show it off. Build a resume of short-story publications, literary honors, etc., that will get the publisher's attention and make taking a risk on your book seem worthwhile.

What are your three biggest turn-offs when you're considering a manuscript (packaging? typefaces? no SASE? viewpoint shifts?)

single-spacing–This format is virtually unreadable, and is likely to be skipped over entirely. stalking–Editors have a lot to read, and agented submissions usually come first. Don't call repeatedly to ask for responses to unsolicited queries. speak up–If you want to show that a topic is timely, supporting magazine clips by other writers are fine to a point, but editors want to hear your ideas–not somebody else's.

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

Fiction acquisitions are all about passion–I try to sign authors whose writing stays with me long after the initial read. Nonfiction books should offer new information in an appealing way. The successful proposal makes me feel like I've learned something so interesting that I'll want to call a friend and say, "Did you know . . . ?"