Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Welcome Harlequin's Lara Hyde!

Today we are happy to have visiting us at the manor a gifted , intelligent woman that I am proud to call friend and editor. And yes, she is fresh, vibrant and gorgeous, but we don't hold it against her;)

I speak for Charlotte, Kristi and myself when I say her vision and encouragement has not gone unnoticed. A rare gem among today's editors, we warmly welcome Lara Hyde to the Manor. She was hoping that Lord Craven-Moore might offer to make her blueberry-banana pancakes in his skivvies.

Spoken like a true Spice editor;)

To all who leave comments, I am giving away some yummy Spice Brief mousepads for as long as they last!

Grab your coffee , tea, or soda and join us for part I of our visit with Lara Hyde.

Amanda: Good morning, Lara! (we'll dispense with the our usual Bawanna for today;) Your picture is gorgeous! Darn it! Beautiful and brainy to boot! *sigh we love you anyway ;) Why don't we begin with a little bit about you and how long you've been at Harlequin?

Lara: I've been with Harlequin for almost 7 years. I studied journalism in university and worked on the production side in television after graduation, then went back to school and got my teaching degree. After a stint teaching abroad in South Korea, followed by teaching night school English, I realized teaching wasn't my passion. Harlequin was looking for a proofreader at the time, and I jumped on the opportunity to get my foot in the door of a publisher I had always dreamed of working for. In between proofreading and my current position as Assistant Editor for MIRA/Spice, I worked for nearly 4 years on Harlequin American Romance and Superromance.

Amanda: Harlequin is so well known and respected in the romance industry, I can understand your desire to work there! This year Harlequin celebrates its 60th anniversary! That is an amazing accomplishment! Further I note that earnings for Harlequin/Silhouette remain constant and/or have shown improvement, in spite of the recent economic blight. Harlequin /Silhouette provides such a broad variety of lines-do you feel this diversity is part of Harlequin's long-running success? What else would you say continues to work for Harlequin/Sil?

Lara: Absolutely--the variety of lines of imprints that Harlequin publishes is incredible. Harlequin is all about staying relevant and giving readers what they want to read. That means continuously revisiting our current products and launching new products where there is a demand. Because the name Harlequin is synonymous with romance, many people are amazed to learn that Harlequin publishes everything from traditional romances to mainstream thrillers to literary fiction and erotica under its various imprints. Of course, when it comes to series romance, Harlequin is #1, and series readers know that when they buy that Harlequin Presents or Silhouette Romantic Suspense, they will get the happily-ever-after ending they are looking for. And I think that promise keeps them coming back.

Amanda: I'm sure our readers have their favorites. I personally love the diversity of Harlequin /Silhouette lines and the fact that they are always open to growth and researching what readers want. In your experience, what would you say are the tried and true lines and what is new at Harlequin? Anything new coming down the pipeline?

Lara: Well, the tried-and-true lines like Harlequin Presents, Silhouette Desire, Harlequin Historical and Harlequin Blaze aren't going anywhere. And then we have the more recent lines and imprints like LUNA (female-focused fantasy), and of course, SPICE, that offer something really unique. As for new products, we've got Harlequin Teen launching this August, and Nocturne Bites (short paranormal e-books) and Harlequin Historical Undone (short historical e-books), which are following in the footsteps of the Spice Briefs program, which is the erotica e-books program I have the pleasure of being involved in.

Amanda: E-Books and "going green" is a very big step for many pubs these days as well as the devices for reading e-books like Sony's E-Reader and Amazon's Kindle. Hopefully, the move toward e-book will help in offering books to a whole new generation of readers! Is Harlequin/Silhouette planning to offer all of its backlist books in E-Book format?

Lara: We are currently in the middle of releasing a large number of titles in backlist throughout 2009. Since it is difficult to know where to start/stop, so we are using customer requests, sales history, volume of titles by an author, connected editorial etc….as our guidelines. We actually just released 50 titles in March and will be releasing another 85 in May. Our goal is to meet as many of our customers’ needs in eBook format as we can, so it will an initiative that will continue beyond this year.

Amanda: The possibilities are endless certainly! I am impressed the more I hear about Harlequin and its goal to retain its traditional works as well as offer amazing new lines and even non-fiction! The challenge is there to authors and editors alike to find the stories that will please readers on all levels of the reading palette! And I find that challenge very exciting!

Harlequin has its two sides, category and single-title. You currently edit for the single-title Spice and Mira lines at Harlequin. Have you edited for the category side of Harlequin? How is that the same? How is it different?

Lara: I edited a number of American Romance and Superromance novels before moving over to the single-title side. I loved working on series! The editing process is virtually the same; the only real differences are the length of the books you're editing and, of course, the subject matter (my current MIRA authors write ultra-gory, serial-killer thrillers). I really enjoy working on Spice because many of the stories (particularly the historicals) are wonderful romances at their core, but they are edgier and less predictable than category romance. And the authors who write them are really fun to work with!

Amanda: I love less predictable ;)especially if it involves steamy romance!;) So, I'm curious, what does an editor read for pleasure?

Lara: Oh, all types! Lately I've been reading a lot of non-fiction memoirs about quirky families and dysfunctional childhoods, like THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeannette Walls, and RUNNING WITH SCISSORS by Augusten Burroughs. I can't seem to get enough of those.

Amanda: Which conjures up a whole host of questions that I will ask in my second half of our visit with Lara, come tomorrow! Meantime, please feel free to ask Lara questions or tell her what you as readers would love to see in your reading!!

I'll see if I can hunt down Lord C. M and bribe him into putting on his silk boxers. Usually he simply tosses on his silk robe and a wicked smile as he prepares our breakfast;)


Charlotte Featherstone said...

Hi Lara!!
Welcome! Lord Wallingford allowed me out for a few hours to come and chat with you! He was giving me a headache, so I ditched him in the middle of a tirade that only Wallingford could produce!

I have a question regarding editing erotic novels. Do you ever feel yourself becoming desensitized to the sex? I would think reading all the submissions, plus editing the purchased works would get a little...I don't know....same old, same old? Or am I off base here?

Currently, I have Lord Craven-Moore chained to the bed, we're brainstorming logistics with a headboard and silk ribbons for a scene in Sinful.
I could untie him, I suppose, but he's a rakish devil, you never know what he could say or do!

Barbara said...

Hi, Lara, the ladies of the manor and of course my darling Lord Craven-Moore! Great interview!! I really enjoyed reading it.

I have to say the very first Harlequin ebook I read was Charlotte's, Improper Pleasure. I was so accustomed to the smaller epubs but I have to say I think that the formatting and general appearance (cover art and so on) of Harlequin's ebooks is just wonderful. The site is easy to manuever and feel very comfortable ordering and downloading from there.

Since Charlotte's story I've become quite a frequent customer. I even recently tried a few of the Historicals Undone which I loved and I'm looking forward to the Nocturne Bites--which until today I had no idea was even launching!!

Amanda McIntyre said...

Just an FYI-Harelquin's website is always changing and offering great things like Free reads and whats new on the horizon! These people do not let the grass grow benath their feet! Warning though: www.e-Harlequin.com can be suck you in for hours!


Lea said...

Good Morning Lara, Amanda:

Wonderful interview. It's so interesting to read a post regarding the editing side of the publishing business.

My first exposure to Harlequin was in the 1960's (I was pre-pubescent - lol) when I pilfered my mother's books to read. The stories at that time were quite "formulated" with respect to specific guidelines that an author was required to follow. It has been extremely interesting to see the expansion of the Harlequin lines over the decades to suite, I think, a more sophisticated and diverse audience.

I am quite partial to the "Blaze" and "Nocturn", lines myself and it's wonderful to see Harlequin support some great authors. I've only recently been introduced to books published under the "Spice" umbrella and am looking forward to those reads.

Best Regards

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Lea, the interesting thing about Spice is the diversity of the line. I think I can safely say, that no two books are alike. That's the beauty of Spice that their books cater to all tastes and desires. As an author, it's a very liberating line to write for.

When Lara became my editor, I freaked, and that's putting it mildly. I was afraid of what she was going to think of Wallingford, and his secrets. When we chatted and I confessed to Wallingford's past and all his little peccadillos, she didn't run and scream, she embraced them and loved that the secrets, and Wallingford himself were so naughty. It's made the ease of working with a new editor much easier because we both have the same vision for him.
It's great to work with an editor who will take risks, and think outside the box, and it's great the fantastic that the publisher will let her!

Kristina Cook/Kristi Astor said...

Hi, Lara, and thanks *so* much for joining us here at he manor today! It's always such a treat to learn more about the folks on the 'other side' of publishing (and learning how they came to be there!).

It's been such a thrill working with Harlequin this year--both on the single-title side and category side (with SPICE and Harlequin NASCAR). I feel like the romance industry in general owes so much to Harlequin and their longevity, and their willingness to grow and evolve to meet reader interest.

So, gory thrillers to erotic historicals?! That must be an...interesting...change of pace!

Jennifer August said...

Hi Lara,
Wonderful interview, thank you for the insight! I've been a HQ fan for a long while and at one time had every Desire ever printed. I had nearly one entire side of a two-car garage just for them!
I have a question: In the erotic genre, do you notice more of a prevalence toward one or two types of "sex-ttings" such as menage or voyeur, etc?
Thanks for your time!

Lise said...

What a wonderful interview, and introduction to Ms. Hyde! I am always amazed when reminded of the depth and breadth of the Harlequin empire. Certainly a business model to be emulated when it comes to appealing to the broadest possible audience and offering quality product. With such a diverse background, Lara seems almost like a romance heroine herself, world-travel and all. I'm glad to meet an author of two of my favorite HQ reading experiences - Spice and Mira. Congrats on your continued success with the HQ team and thank you, daring ladies of Lust In Time for presenting this diverting interview. A big fan of the erotic romance, I'll be back for more.

Lise said...

Correction - I meant pleased to meet an EDITOR of my two favorites!


Jennifer Salaiz said...

Hello Lara!
I just wanted to say how wonderful it was reading your interview. I'm glad we get the chance to ask you questions because there is one I've been dying to know.

What is the maximum amount of electronic submissions an author should stop at before they drive the editor crazy? This is of course concerning the Spice Briefs.

I hope you have a wonderful day!

ranearia said...

Welcome to the Manor Lara! &
Wonderful interview Amanda!

Lara, being a editor must be very stressful job. How do you handle your author's works without hurting they're feelings or just stressing out?

Amanda McIntyre said...

I must chime in with my agreement of Charlottes shared view of Spice.

I think it was a review from Amy that stated it best (paraphrase alert!) when she said that the stories in Spice do not always take the most direct route to the HEA;)

I love the encouragement I receive to stretch my imagination and ask "what if" to the extreme!

Where else will you find the story of a young women , taken slave from a Saxon tyrant and sentenced to become his executioners apprentice?? And still have the sensual, erotic steam of romance and plot as well?

Laras vision made this a reality for me. Causing me to look deeper into my characters.

That perhaps, is something else most people dont realize, editor's don't just correct the mistakes, they look for every possible way to challenge the author to make that story the ultimate best it can be.
Her visionary abilities have helped me grow as an author and I appreciate that;)


Lara Hyde said...

Hello everyone!

First, I must apologize for arriving so late to the party. My baby girl came down with the stomach flu on Sunday and I stayed home this a.m. with her, but my awesome husband is with her now....

I am so excited to be here! It is great to see so much interest and enthusiasm about Spice, Spice Briefs and Harlequin in general! There are also so many good questions here--where to begin? I guess I'll just start in order...

I love Charlotte's question about becoming desensitized to sex scenes. When I started out reading submissions for Spice Briefs, I'll admit to walking around with pink cheeks all day, but after having read so many, the sex scenes have to be really good to have an effect on me anymore! By really good, I mean the emotion between the characters definitely has to be there, and it usually helps if the "sex-tting" (as Jennifer so aptly put it :-)) is unique in some respect. But to be honest, while the sex scenes in Spice definitely need to be steamy, it's what leads up to them that I spend most of my time as an editor on. If the characters are well-realized and have a great connection, and the writing is top-of-the-line, the sex scenes are almost guaranteed to be hot. If all you're giving me are scandalous sex scenes with no storyline to back them up, you can bet my eyes will be glazing over as I read through them...and not in a good way!

Of course, when you're writing a 5,000 to 15,000 word story (what Spice Briefs are), there is not as much time to develop the characters and the story, so an interesting "sex-tting" and a unique voice really help to set a short story apart.

As for Jennifer's question whether there is a prevalence toward a certain type of sex-tting in the submissions we're seeing, I can tell you that our submissions run the whole gamut! We definitely see a number of menage stories...not as many pure voyeur stories, although those can be interesting! When doing our scheduling we try to offer a good mix of "sex-ttings" and sub-genres (paranormal, historical, etc.)

Wow, this comment is turning our really long, so I think I'll end this here and post another comment!

Lara Hyde said...

I wanted to address Jennifer Salaiz's question about the max amount of e-submissions an author should send before s/he drives an editor crazy...this is a great question, as we certainly do see a number of authors who are very prolific and don't give up easily! There is no limit to how many submissions you can send, although, to be honest, if we've rejected three consecutive submissions, there is likely something about your writing that is just not working for us. I truly do wish that we had the time to provide each author with some individualized feedback on what is and what isn't working with their story, but with the number of submissions we get, and all the other responsibilities we have as editors, there is just no way that is possible, unfortunately....

This segues into Ranearia's comment about editing being a stressful job. It can be, certainly. Ask any editor and s/he will tell you that turning down a submission or idea, or having to explain to an author why their writing/plot/characterization just doesn't cut it, is one of the worst parts of the job. Having to tell an author that we won't be renewing his/her contract is the absolute pits. It can also be very stressful when authors/agents don't understand the publishing process and the fact that we have deadlines we have to adhere to. I'm also always nervous showing my authors their covers for the first time! I am just so lucky that I get to work with such genuinely nice, fun, talented and professional authors as Amanda, Charlotte, Kristi and Victoria (Janssen)!

Genella deGrey said...

Hi Lara! Hi LIT Gals!

I must say, I am *so* impressed with Harlequin's willingness to step into the 21st century.

I keep wondering when all the other big houses are going to catch on.


Charlotte Featherstone said...

Ah, thanks, Lara! You're so sweet! Now, can I ask about Wallingford's cover for Sinful....lol!

Jane said...

Hi Lara,
I would love to have your job. I didn't start reading Harlequins until a few years ago. I was surprised at how many different lines were available. I love the Blaze line and hope it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Jennifer Salaiz said...

Thanks Lara for answering my question!

Amanda McIntyre said...

Hope the wee one is feeling better, Lara...ah yes, I remember those days! Sending healing wishes and faery dust her way.

Thanks for your kind words, its nice to know the feeling is mutual ;)

On the coverart, I have to give a high five to the Spice /Spice Briefs artists extraordinaire! I know we all go nuts here when we get a new cover ;)

How much input do you have as an editor, with what ends up on the cover?


Lara Hyde said...

Sorry, Charlotte...no cover for SINFUL yet! We were supposed to brief it yesterday, but the meeting was postponed to next week.

Amanda asked how much input we have as editors as to what gets on the cover. When we brief a cover for the Art Department, we go by what the author has filled out in their "Art Fact Sheet," and incorporate any ideas or preferences we may have based on what has performed well in the past and our knowledge of the editorial. Marketing will also have prepared a sheet with images of the author's past book covers and other competitive covers that have similarities to the editorial or the look we are going for.

After I say my bit, the art director will offer up several different versions of what he/she envisions the cover to look like. The next stage is the concept stage where the art director shows us several different mock-ups and as a team we decide on which one we like the best.

All the decisions regarding cover selection are made as a team, with input from Editorial, Marketing and Art. Of course, the more details an author includes on her "Art Fact Sheet," the more likely she will get a cover that she's pleased with (although sometimes we have to bow to the expertise of Marketing and Art when it comes to what they believe will work best).