The following are excerpts from an 2007 interview on DearAuthor.com. Click here to read the interview in its entirety. Reprinted with permission.
Heather Osborn is a trailblazer. She worked for the first erotic romance publishing house, Ellora’s Cave, and acquired authors that have now become household names. Recently, Osborn took the role of acquiring editor for Tor which is primarily known for its focus on science fiction and fantasy, becoming the first epublishing editor to move into a NY publishing house. Over the past few years, Tor has made a concerted effort to reach the female reading demographic.
Jane: How much time do you spend actually reading as part of your job?
Osborn: I spend almost no time reading while in the office. I usually use all of my office time to answer e-mail, regular mail, and edit. I read after hours while at home. When you break it down into percentages, I probably read (not counting the re-reading as part of editing) for about 30% of my job.
Jane: Do you get to read for pleasure? If so, do you have favorite authors?
Osborn: Yes. I am a big believer in always reading for pleasure. Even if I can only read for 10 minutes a night, I do it. Otherwise, I might burn out on submissions. The genres I read are primarily romance and sf/f.
For romance, I read JR Ward, Carla Kelly (huuuuge fan), Gaelen Foley, Ruth Wind/Barbara Samuel, Loretta Chase, PC Cast, Lynn Viehl, Linda Howard, Diana Palmer (I can’t help it, it’s an addiction!), Marjorie M. Liu, Nalini Singh, Robin Owens, Susan Brockmann, and many many more. (I deliberately did not list any favorite EC authors, because if I list one, I need to list them all!)
For sf/f, I read Sara Douglass, Mercedes Lackey, Diana Pharoah Francis, Patricia Bray, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, Linnea Sinclair, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (love them!), Keri Arthur, Holly Lisle, Kelley Armstrong, Tamora Pierce (a favorite), Laurell K. Hamilton (I just can’t quit her), Rachel Caine, and many more.
Jane: What are you looking for in terms of a romance these days? Any particular themes? periods? Subgenres?
Osborn: …I love Urban Fantasy, and would love to see more of it for the romance line. Romantic Suspense is also of interest, although it should be noted, nothing that hints of Category romance, please. If I had a dollar for every “woman on the run from the mob who meets up with small town sheriff (and former Navy SEAL)“ submission I have --well, I might not be rich, but I’d be on my way!
I also see Tor eventually expanding to include really well-written contemporary romances. Again, nothing category romance. Think Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, or Deborah Smith. The kind of book that you finish reading thinking “that was a great story“ not “that was a great secret baby story!“
Of course, like all editors, what I am really looking for is a great book!
Jane: Tor is primarily known as a science fiction and fantasy powerhouse who has been providing a small contribution to the paranormal romance shelves. It sounded that with your hiring, Tor plans to branch out and increase its female readership. What plans can you share with us about Tor’s future in women’s fiction?
Osborn: Well, Tor has already been promoting its books to the female readership through its Women in Fantasy program, which is often advertised in RT. They are eager to grow their market to include more women, and have made it clear to me that if I am submitted books that would fit better in the Science Fiction or Fantasy lines I should feel free to pass them on.
Jane: Do you think readers today are more accepting of rule breaking romances (pushing the envelope) or are we still very traditional in our buying habits?
Osborn: Can I say yes to both? I think there is a tightrope with romance that needs to be walked. For me, the most important rule that cannot be broken in terms of romance is the happy (i.e. romantic) ending. The reader must feel as though the romantic relationship in the book is special and will last. Any book that does not have an HEA is not a romance. Of course, in this day and age, HEA is not necessarily a wedding and babies and a white picket fence. Regardless of how it is done, the HEA is still vital.
Within the context of that HEA, other rule breaking is possible. I am willing to try everything at least once.
Jane: Do you have a favorite way of spending time away from books?
Osborn: I truly am a book geek. I love reading for pleasure! But non-book things I enjoy include RPG video games (final fantasy, w00t!), Mario Kart, an obsession with the Lord of the Rings movies, and Karaoke Party Revolution.
Jane: What is the worst part of an editor’s job?
Osborn: Rejecting the meh books. The ones that are decently written and plotted, but that don’t have any sort of spark to them. Those rejection letters are hardest to write.
Jane: What is the best part of an editor’s job?
Osborn: Finding and contracting a really great book.