Thursday, February 14, 2013

Interview with Editor Chelsey Emmelhainz HarperCollins/Avon Impulse: Final Judge in Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest

This year's 2013 Linda Howard Award of Excellence has a wonderful final judge for the Historical Romance category. Editor Chelsey Emmelhainz works for HarperCollins Press/Avon Impulse and she's sharing her desires and wants with us today. Please join me in giving Chelsey a warm welcome and let's learn more about her. Our own Carla Swafford works with her on her Circle of Desire books. So we're doubly delighted to host Chelsey again on the Romance Magicians blog.

Let's start off with the usual question. So tell us a little about your background? 

I initially went to school to become a journalist, but I always knew I loved fiction too much to pursue it seriously. Eventually I relented and accepted my fate: I was an English major, through and through. Several years, hundreds of books, and 2000 miles later, I found myself in New York working for HarperCollins. Though romance was not an area I saw myself in, I quickly realized that it was a natural fit and am proud to claim it as my genre today.

English major. Sounds like a perfect fit to me.  Is there any type of story you're hoping to find but not seeing in your submissions?

Unique, fresh historicals that stand out in today’s competitive market: They’ve got to be sexy, smart, and witty – think Eloisa James. Creative, high-concepts with series potential are a must. Sexy, gritty contemporaries: I’m not the right person for your sweet, small-town story, but if you’ve got hard-edged heroes, sassy heroines, and a great hook, I want to see it. Thrilling, romantic suspense: Sexy, heart-pounding, and action-packed, a la Cindy Gerard. I want page-turners that take your breath away!

Keep an eye on where we’ll be updating our submission “wish list” with our latest wants!

I'm so glad you mentioned the website. Certainly everyone needs to visit. You can submit your completed manuscript on the website. Speaking of website, how often do you select manuscripts from the "slush pile"? 

The best part of working for Avon Impulse is the ever-present possibility of finding an undiscovered gem. We’re reading submissions every day, so there’s always a chance that we’ll find one that we can’t live without!

Southern Magic's Carla Swafford was fortunate in being Avon Impulses's first slush pile find. The angels were looking down on her that day. Next question is, while reading a manuscript, how long does it usually take before you know whether or not you want to request the full? Why?

For me, I can usually tell within the first ten pages. While we may not want to judge a book by its cover, I can generally tell fairly quickly whether or not the writing is clicking. My advice to authors? Grab ‘em early and really showcase your writing!

Such great advice. And what do you consider the most important qualities of an author?

A good attitude and a great sense of humor. Believe it or not, I find that those two qualities come through strongly in your writing. Plus, they’re essential to handling the stresses that come with being a published author.

You have that right. Laughter and a good attitude makes life so much easier and helps keep the wheels running smoothly. So if you had to give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?

Even if writing is your second, third, or fourth job, make it a priority. Set goals for yourself and do your best to achieve them. Get a cheerleader (a friend, spouse, coworker, etc.) who knows you write and can help hold you accountable. Make them ask you if you’ve written yet today! Oops. That was more than one…

That's okay because we need all the advice we can get. See a good friend(s) is an important key to success. I'm so blessed to have so many. Now what question do you wish someone would ask? And what's the answer?

Question: What can I do to make my book truly marketable?

The answer: Make sure your book is high-concept, witty, and memorable. This goes for everything from the plot to the title and synopsis. Then, carry those attributes throughout the first book and into a second and third. Truly marketable books, series, and authors are those that readers remember when they’re browsing in-store or online.

Great question and answer, Chelsey. Now here are a couple fun questions…

What book or books do you like to reread every year?

I rarely read books more than once for fun—there are just too many to choose from! However, I read all kinds of books and some of my perennial favorites include: Blindness by Jose Saramago, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and young adult books by Christopher Pike and Francesca Lia Block.

Great list. Have you ever become star-struck when meeting an author? If so, who?

We get a lot of authors in the offices here, but I remember awkwardly tip-toeing in to meet Gregory Maguire, who wrote the Wicked series. He was so kind when I handed him my torn, dog-eared copy of Wicked—even though I was dopey and awe-struck. He even drew a picture of a witch in my book along with signing it!

I love it! That would tickle me to no end. I know that I've been privileged to meet and become friends and/or friendly acquaintances with a few of my all time favorite authors such as Sherrilyn Kenyon, Linda Howard and more. Plus I got to meet the divine Susan Elizabeth Phillips at RWA's conference in Orlando. Gracious and so kind.

Thank you so much for visiting Southern Magic's blog and answering our questions.

Everyone, here's your chance to ask an editor from AVON what you've always wanted to know.  Don't forget to check out the website,, and at the bottom of that website is the FAQ.


Chris Bailey said...

Thank you so much for the Q & A! Goals are good!

Susanna said...

You say "high concept" twice, but I confess I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that. What is a "high concept" story?

If a new author comes to you with a book in hand, how much stronger are her chances if she also has one or two follow-ups conceptualized? Do you even prefer that a two- or three-book series be completed before the author reaches out to you?


Carla Swafford said...

Happy Valentine's Day, Chelsey! Thank you for visiting us again.

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...

Hi Susanna,

High concept means a unique, FRESH idea. Something that hasn't been done before or a traditional story line with a new twist. Think Eloisa James' recent fairy tale re-tellings for instance. Essentially, it's a marketable idea that sticks in the minds of readers.

I'm much more likely to consider an author with a series platform in mind. Book One should certainly be done, but if she has several hot ideas in mind for Books Two and Three, that works for me. They don't need to be written but they (and the series arc) need to be thought through and again, high concept.

Thanks for the questions!

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...

Happy Valentine's Day, Carla! Thanks for having me :)

Christine said...

Hi Chelsey,

Thanks so much for doing this interview. Do you like to know if the person has another book planned for a series when she/he queries you with the first book?

Chelsey Emmelhainz said...

Yes, Christine!

Rita Bay said...

Thank you for sharing so much valuable info.

Heather said...

Thank you so much for sharing your time with our blog and our chapter's contest.

Based on your experience judging contests like ours, what are the benefits to entering contests for unpublished authors?