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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Par-Tay! Carina Press 1-Year Anniversary with Melissa Johnson

Welcome to the Carina Press Anniversary Party! I'm thrilled that I was asked to host and I hope you'll give a warm welcome to Melissa Johnson.

Leave a comment and you'll be in the running for a free download of a Carina Press book. The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 8.

Take it away, Angela and Melissa!


In celebration of our one year anniversary, I asked as many of our Harlequin team members and Carina Press freelance editors as possible to write a short blog post, talking about what the past year or so has been like for them, working on Carina Press. I deliberately didn't provide any direction other than that, because I wanted to see what people came up with, in the spirit of Carina's 1st anniversary. I was so pleased when I saw what they'd all come up with, and had to say (and some of these posts made me just a little teary)! I hope you enjoy the post, and look for your opportunity to win a Carina Press book at the bottom of this post. ~Angela James

Melissa Johnson is a freelance editor for Carina Press. 
You can follow her on Twitter.

Editing as Social Work

During my time as a freelance editor with Carina Press, a surprising idea has crept into my mind—that as an editor in this genre, my tasks and struggles are not so far from a totally different field I also considered working in.

When Angela hired me as one of the freelance editors for her new venture, Carina Press, I was in the midst of testing another career field: social work.  I was taking my first class toward a master’s degree, with a plan to be a medical and disabilities counselor.  I put social work on indefinite hold because I was so eager to work for Carina Press.  (Had I been a superwoman, perhaps I could’ve been an active freelancer, stayed home with three kids and gone to grad school, but alas I am not.)

So, how have I been using the concepts I was studying in psychology and sociology?  Authors, you can let out the breath you might be holding.  I’m not referring to dealing with you.  You’re perfectly healthy, rational and balanced individuals…just like me.  ;-)

I am talking about your heroes and heroines, and their relationships.  In romance, readers have high expectations for heroes and heroines, and readers’ buying power gives a thumbs up or down to the personalities, behaviors and relationships writers create.  Meanwhile, as part of the feedback loop, writers are pushing into the world their new or modified ideals about individuals and relationships.  (A quick look at romance novels from ten, twenty or thirty years ago shows us how much ideals have changed.)

And editors?  What role do we play in this interpretation of healthy psychological growth and coupling?   We make judgments and ask for changes to show the hero and heroine are in love for the right reasons, that they’ve developed themselves apart from each other, or their parents or their mentors and heroes, and that they have a balance between self- and other-focus.  

We do a lot of tweaking of characters along the lines of:  

• Does this anger/sadness/frustration make sense and how will he/she resolve it?
• Does she/he seem too callous (or coddling)?
• Will she/he lose the readers’ sympathy by doing this? 

We also try to make sure the relationship between the characters is “balanced.”  

• Is he taking too much care of her or vice versa?
• Why are they attracted to each other?  What do they admire in each other and why?
• Do they see the flaws or rough spots in each other and accept those too?” 

I think it is a mistake when outsiders to the genre claim the heroes and heroines are all the same.  Sure, the spitfire and the Alpha are fairly common, but main characters can be shy and bold, anxious and calm, grumpy and chipper, wounded and wounding. 
Heroes and heroines don’t have to start out perfect, and the story shouldn’t even end with them perfect, but they have to show a trajectory of growth and their efforts have to be admirable. 
I suspect this is what a therapist hopes for in his or her dealings with clients.

The best part of working with Carina Press has been collaborating with my colleagues on some of these questions.  When I doubt my judgment or simply want more input, I present the “case,” anonymously, to my colleagues.  I love hearing what the other editors at Carina Press think of character growth and admirability.  And I love their ideas on how to keep the dramatic tension high—characters’ problems big and realistic—within these constraints.  After I digest their perspectives, I offer my authors what I hope is comprehensive, expert advice.  

Of course, this is only one aspect of what an editor does, and a therapist has an entirely different world of real clients rather than characters.  Nonetheless, I’m pleased that editing for Carina Press involves this normative and collaborative social work, and I’m thrilled that I chose this editing path. 

To celebrate Carina's one year anniversary of publishing books, we're giving away some prizes. Today, on each of the nineteen blogs our team members are featured on, we're giving away a download of a Carina Press book to one random winner (that's nineteen total winners!) All you need to do to be entered to win is comment on this post. You can enter to win on all nineteen posts. In addition, on the Carina Press blog, we're giving away a grand prize of a Kobo ereader and 12 Carina Press books of the winner's choice. Visit the Carina Press blog to enter to win, and to see links to all 19 of today's blog posts.
And a sincere thank you from all of us, to our readers and authors, for making Carina Press's first year a success!


Angelina Rain said...

Great post! Editors amaze me. The way they can take a choppy story and make it flow just by altering a few words. I’ve learned so much over the last couple of months that I’ve worked with editors.

Mason Canyon said...

Interesting and informative post. Editors do perform several roles in helping an author.

Congratulations on your first year anniversary, Carina Press. Best of luck for the coming year and wishing you many, many more.

Thoughts in Progress

Carol Stephenson said...

Wow, I'm printing this out, Melissa! Thank you for bringing such great stories to the readers and mucho success in the next year!

PhyllisC said...

Congrats on the first year and to many more to come. I've ready many authors comment on how much of a difference their editor has made in their story and even in their career.

Maria said...

Congratulations on your one year anniversary! Interesting post- have never thought of approaching a romance novel from a psychological perspective. Here's hoping year 2 is even more wonderful than the first for both you and Carina!

Amy S. said...

Great post and congrats on the first year! Hoping for many more years!

CrystalGB said...

Happy one year anniversary. Wishing you many more successful years.

kog said...

Congrats to you & the rest of the Carina team on a fabulous first year!

Thanks also Melissa for the insight into what makes characters work. I've never thought about it that way.

Patricia said...

Great post. Happy anniversary!

flchen1 said...

Great post, Melissa! As a reader, I'm thankful you chose this path (although I have no doubt that you'd have been a spectacular social worker as well). Congratulations on Carina Press's first anniversary, and thank YOU for a job excellently done! Looking forward to more great stories with real, interesting characters in the years to come!

ReneeRearden said...


I'm so glad you decided to become an editor. I know that's selfish of me, a reader, versus individuals that could benefit from your skills as a social worker. All I can say is keep up the good work, 'cause I'm loving the books!


kerry said...

Happy birthday carina press and looking forward to many more

sherie said...

Congrats on a year! I know I love my digital books!

MaureenAMiller said...

Someday, Melissa, I'm going to remind you that you said this about me.

"You’re perfectly healthy, rational and balanced individuals."

You're the best! Happy Birthday, Carina Press.

joyce said...

Congratulations on a very successful year! It seems like just yesterday I was following the countdown on the Carina Press blog. Well, here's to many, many more successful years of publishing GREAT books!

Susan said...

Happy Anniversary Carina Press!

Ju Dimello said...

I am trying to edit my own story with comments from my fab CPs..and I sometimes really want to bang my head on the desk when I find a "motivation" flaw.. or "character arc unclear" type of edits!! :) But then, I am also learning that those are what makes a story from good to fantastic!

And editors are the light in the dark tunnel ;)

Thanks for sharing!! Happy anniversary to Carina Press!

Jess (Gone with the Words) said...

Yay!! Happy Anniversary!!

jess [at] gonewiththewords [dot] com

Claire Robyns said...

Melissa, I'm (selfishly) also delighted you chose editing :)

After I digest their perspectives, I offer my authors what I hope is comprehensive, expert advice Yes! Yes you do. Your advice is always spot on and now I know why you've got such a knack for pointing to the root of the problem with a character a scene, no matter how big or small.

Congrats on your first year with Carina Press and I hope to share many more years with you.

Lisa B said...

Interesting post. Thansk for sharing a bit about what you do as a editor. Happy anniversary and congrats on one year!

Lisa B
modokker at yahoo dot com

Karen said...

Congratulations on the first year anniversary of Carina Press! I enjoyed your post and the insight you provided on the very important role you play in the overall process. Thanks for a job well done. Wishing you continued success!

shiderly77 said...

Happy Anniversary! Carina has had some awesome books this past year, glad I got to read a few!

Cathy M said...

Carina Press produces some very special stories, made all the better for the great editing. Happy Anniversary.

caity_mack at yahoo dot com

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

What an awesome way to look at it! And a benefit for you is that you and the authors can make sure your "clients" (characters) get to that healthy, happy place, every time. :)

booklover0226 said...

Congratulations for such a grand and successful year.

Thanks to Carina Press, I've discovered many new authors.

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Dee J. said...

Great post. And thanks for being the terrific editor you are. Now I know (at least one of) the reasons why. Happy Anniversary.

Eva said...

Thanks for a great and enlightening post!

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary to Carina and all the wonderful authors!

Julie said...

Happy first anniversary and I wish you many, many more in the future:)
jwitt33 at live dot com

Jenny Schwartz said...

Fab insight, Melissa. I studied Sociology way back at uni and seriously considered Social Work. But volunteering soon showed me I'd burn out in less time than it took to earn the degree. Really interesting to think that concern with people's lives and relationships is an editor (and author) responsibility -- even if our people are fictional.

June M. said...

Congrats on your first year. Hope that the next is even better, thanks for all the wonderful books published and for the writers who write the stories.
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

holls said...

Carina press books are addictive. I'm so glad I could celebrate birthday one with you!

Holly wright at comcast dot net

Melissa said...

Thanks to everyone for all the anniversary congratulations.

I am so honored by the appreciation for editors being expressed here by readers and writers...and glad you liked my ramblings.

@Maureen Sanity is overrated, yeah?

@Ju "light in the dark tunnel"--very nice. Perhaps I'm an ankle-biting dog with a light attached to my collar ;-)

@Claire & Dee J. Aw, thanks.

@Natalie & Jenny It IS sweeeet to get that fictional HEA.

emilystarr373 said...

Yahoo for one year down!!! Also, congratulations on such a good job. It's great that you're able to use what you were learning to help sculpt all of the characters!

Carla said...

Happy Anniversary Carina Press!

JulieD said...

great post! thanks for your insight and keep up the great work :D

lindseye said...

Interesting thougths on character development. But it is true I will stop reading if the actions and reactions of the hero and heroine do not seem to ring true.

Jen B. said...

Happy Anniversary! I hope you are around for many more years!

mbreakfield said...

Congrats on the year!

Anonymous said...

Interesting mix of social work and editing. hmmmm.

Sheree said...

Great post! Thank you for the glimpse into how editing works!

ironss [at] gmail [dot] com

Stella (Ex Libris) said...

Thanks to you this last year I have discovered so many wonderful new authors, series, books and many have become favourites of mine, THANK YOU!

Congratulations to the whole Carina team and Happy 1st anniversary, here's to many more! :-)

stella.exlibris (at) gmail (dot) com

gigis said...

Happy Anniversary and to many more!



Margo Benson said...

Thank you a great post (which is now bookmarked) - Many congratulations to Carina's to many more successful years!

Sarita said...

Happy Anniversary!

This is a wonderfully informative post. I peeked into the Carina Press website and was very impressed. Lots of good stuff over there!

Misha said...

There's definitely a lot of psychology involved when it comes to writing.

If a character does something that doesn't suit his/her personality, it leaps up and hits the reader between the eyes.

It's something I focus on a lot.


Madeleine said...

Great post. Yes if all the heroes and heroines were the same then we'd all get pretty bored with them fairly quickly. Editors do a difficult and amazing job. Good for you :O)

Dru said...

Congrats on Carina Press first year anniversary.