Editorial Spotlight: A Little Something Different
Every time I look at the title of A Little Something Different, I’m struck again by what a perfect title it is for the first Swoon Reads book. After all, every single step of this process has been a little different—and the edit meeting was no exception. Normally, I connect with authors via email, and multi-hour phone calls where we work our way through the notes. But since Sandy Hall is a local, she was able to come in, meet the team, hand deliver the contracts and have a rare face-to-face edit meeting.
After surprising her in the elevator bay with a Publishers Clearing House style greeting, we were able to settle down in Jean’s office and get to know one another. It was so much fun to get to sit and brainstorm in person, and I loved being able to flip through the stack of index cards she plotted the book on.
But eventually we got down to business. When I first started writing the edit notes, I knew that the biggest issue was tightening up the different points of view and making sure that each individual character was unique and distinct from any other narrator. And I also strongly felt that this was going to require cutting the number of different viewpoint characters down by almost half, from 23 to 13 or 14. Needless to say, that’s a BIG rewrite, and I was a little nervous about suggesting it. I had made a list of every point of view character with reasons why I thought that they should either be kept and expanded, altered a bit, or cut completely. I was fully prepared for a long session of negotiation, but I was very pleasantly surprised when Sandy and I turned out to be on the same wavelength. We loved the same characters and scenes, and agreed wholeheartedly on the ones that absolutely had to be kept. She had also gone through my recommendations for changes, and used them as a launching point to go above and beyond in deepening these characters. It was great!
And going through the new plans for each character was such a fun conversation, especially since Sandy and I both talk with our hands and would often sort of act out the traits we were describing. (This became VERY clear when I looked back at the sequence of pictures that our lovely marketing intern took. Our hands are never in the same positions twice. Here, see for yourself…)
So, just when I thought that everything was going to be smooth sailing (after all, we had flown so smoothly through the big hurdle) we came to what Jean and I had felt was a relatively minor suggestion: “Can we age Gabe and Lea down a little bit? I’d really like for Lea to be a Freshman, so we get a bit of that fish out of water, just starting college feeling. And then Gabe could be starting his Freshman year over again.”
As a teen librarian, Sandy understood exactly why we wanted younger protagonists. We felt that the fish out of water feeling would deepen Lea’s character, and making them both younger would allow us to market the book as a Young Adult novel instead of a New Adult novel, which would widen the audience considerably. And we all agreed that the story itself, being so sweet and quirky and focused on young love and romance, felt right for a younger audience.
But, as an author who knows these characters, this note gave Sandy all kinds of problems. Namely, she knew that Gabe was so shy that he would never be able to have this many friends and connections after having spent only a few months at school.
Fortunately, she had also come up with a solution. First, a bit of a compromise – Gabe will be restarting his sophomore year, not his freshman year. And secondly, she’s adding an exciting new member to the cast—Gabe’s older brother. He’s going to be very helpful in maintaining connections and shoving Gabe out of his shell in Lea’s general direction.
I can’t wait until you get to meet him!