Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Editor Interview with Whitney Ross of Tor!


This week Honestly YA welcomes editor, extraordinaire, Whitney Ross! I had the pleasure of meeting Whitney at a conference in Chicago this year and she's delightful.

Welcome Whitney!

1.      What book(s) spoke to you most during your teen years? Do any of them continue to influence you now as an adult, or in your career as an editor?

I read Pride and Prejudice when my age was in the single digits, and still re-read it every year.  I actually missed a stop on the train recently because I got so caught up in the story!  It’s a character driven novel with a distinct voice, qualities that I tend to focus on as an editor today. 

 A few YA favorites are Ella Enchanted, A Wrinkle in Time and Mara, Daughter of the NileI still go back and re-read these three periodically, and the stories never get old. If you haven’t read them, go, buy, read!  I can’t recommend them more highly. All three have strong, distinct voices and characters that you can’t help but wish were your friend.  I loved reading books with admirable—or at least sympathetic—characters, and that hasn’t changed!

2.      We talk a lot about “voice” here at Honestly YA. How do you define it? Do you have any tips to help aspiring writers develop it?

“Voice” is so difficult to define, but I would describe it as the phrasing and diction that makes a character come alive, feel real and unique. 

Don’t force it!   This tends to be more of an issue for YA authors trying to have a specifically teen voice.  Yet the YA characters that we love the most don’t necessarily have a teenage voice, but a voice that is their own.  It’s distinct, fits with the character, and is consistent throughout the novel.

The best thing you can do is know your hero/heroine.  How would he/she respond in a certain situation?  Are they funny, sarcastic, shy, unselfish, brave?  Make a list, and make sure their responses are consistent with who they are.  The “voice” will follow!

3.      We keep hearing how crowded the YA market is. How can aspiring YA authors ensure their work stands out from the masses?

Don’t write to trends! The publishing timeline is so long that you’re going to be at least a year or two behind.  Instead, write what you love.  Write what you feel inspired to write.  If you love it, chances are someone else will too. 

4.      Is there anything on your current wish list? Anything you’re not interested in seeing at this time?

I’m always looking for a unique YA fantasy with a strong female lead, and I’d love to see a YA historical with a supernatural hook.  But most of the time, I end up buying things that weren’t on my wish list, books that surprise me, and that’s always fun.

5.      What releases do you have coming up that you are especially excited about?

I’m particularly excited about Mindee Arnett’s The Nightmare Affair, YA paranormal about a girl who’s half nightmare, half human. It’s a fabulous read, witty and just so much fun.  Check out Mindee’s website for more information:

6.      Just for fun, who are some of your favorite YA Heroes of all time?

What a fun question!  There are so many wonderful YA heroes out there, but I tried to keep my list limited to my absolute favorites:

Brigan from Kristin Cashore’s Fire
Sean Kendrick from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races
Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series
Shane from Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampire Series
Cassel from Holly Black’s Curse Workers series
Finnikin from Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock

Am I missing anyone that you particularly love?  If so, I’d love to hear your recommendations!


Bio: Whitney Ross is an editor at Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, publisher of Forge, Tor Books, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen. In her free time, she’s also a book collector, wannabe jet-setter, and Starbucks junkie, and enjoys competitive sports such as skiing and shopping. She is from Phoenix, Arizona, and is actively seeking science fiction & fantasy, urban fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and young adult novels.


Thanks so much for stopping by, Whitney! After those hero recommendations, you're welcome anytime. ;D



Lorie Langdon said...

Thanks so much for this great insight, Whitney!
I appreciate that you said 'write what you love', I think it's wise advice in this ever changing market.

Have you read Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms Series? Based on your list of top heroes I think you'd like Han Alister. He's one of my personal favorites!

Melissa Landers said...

Thanks for stopping by, Whitney! It was wonderful meeting you at RT, and I hope our paths cross again soon. Did Nicole tell you we saw your doppelganger in Manhattan a couple weeks ago?

CareyCorp said...

Thanks for taking the time to share our common YA passion. I read P&P every year as well. It fuels my creativity.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Great interview, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I loved A Wrinkle in Time, too.

One of my all-time favorite books with "voice" is Charlotte's Web...each of those farm animals was their own person. And I still cry every time that stupid spider dies.

Whitney Ross said...

Thanks, everyone!

@Lorie, I have read all of Cinda's books, and love every one. Aren't they fabulous?

@Melissa, it was wonderful to meet you too! Nicole did tell me I must have a twin here--how funny.

Kimberly said...

Very informative interview! Thanks so much for answering these great questions.
I notice that you talk more about supernatural and fantasy. Does that mean that you don't handle contemporary at all?
Thanks again!

Whitney Ross said...

@Kimberly Thanks for clarifying--I definitely do handle contemporary as well. In fact, I'm reading Jennifer Echols' ENDLESS SUMMER right now. Love it!

Tonya Kappes said...

Fun article! I love hearing from editors!

mordicai said...

I like Fire so much more than Katniss, but I think I like Bitterblue best of the three. & I like Eugenides FINE but many of the straight women in my life have huge crushes on him...I don't get it.

Jacqui said...

Thanks for the interview!

I have written an historical YA with a supernatural hook; can we submit to you directly? If so, how?

Whitney Ross said...

@Jacqui Unfortunately, I don't accept unagented submissions unless they are pitched to me at a conference. I'll be taking pitches at RWA, though, so if you attend, I'd love to hear about it!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! I had the joy of making Whitney's acquaintance at the conference for my local RWA chapter and she requested the first 100 pgs--so sign up for those conferences if you can:) Now after reading Whitney's list, I have more books to add to my TBR pile! And Teri, I soooooo agree about Charlotte's Web. I, too, read it every year and cry. I want, “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Jamie was both" on my tombstone!

Jacqui said...

Thanks for letting me know though I won't be at RT (young children at home precludes travel at the moment!)

Cecily White said...

Whitney, thanks for stopping by! I agree entirely on the heroes list, but would add Sam Roth from Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver series. :-)
T'was nice meeting you at RT!

P.S. My daughter says you're very pretty and would like to submit her science fiction novel to you. I told her to give it a decade or so until she can spell science fiction. (She's seven.)

Thanks again!!!

Cecy Robson said...

Great interview. I had the pleasure of meeting Whitney a few months back. And yes, she's just as wonderful as she sounds. Psst, Whitney. Did you see the Avengers?