Did you know that when Harlequin Presents launched, it was intended to simply be a verb, that is Harlequin was “presenting” the author to the readers? Well, here I am to present Mary-Theresa Hussey, Executive Editor of the Silhouette imprint.
What does she do? She is responsible for overseeing the overall direction for all Silhouette lines: Desire, Special Edition and Romantic Suspense at the moment, as well as working with her own individual author base.
She is a remarkable reader with an amazing memory and is the unofficial “go to” person for all queries received that start: “I read a book about a guy with a girl and an escaped bear and a car race, but I can’t remember…” But let me let her speak in her own words! Tell us, how did it all begin?
“I began as an Editorial Assistant for Silhouette Romance, working for Tara Gavin in ’89. She said she knew she wanted to hire me when I sat down, saw Diana Palmer and Ann Major covers on her wall and knew the characters names!
From that point on I moved from Silhouette Romance, Special Edition and Intimate Moments, back to Silhouette Romance to be Senior Editor and then Executive Editor for Silhouette. I was also lucky enough to be in on the start of LUNA Books, and still work with many of those authors.”
My list is fairly eclectic. Iâ€™d love some Romantic Suspense or Desire writers, and currently work with Red Dress Ink and MIRA authors as well as a lot of paranormal/fantasy writers for Romantic Suspense and Nocturne as well as LUNA. While Iâ€™m not as active in acquiring as some other editors–I have a lot of management responsibilities as well–I do keep an eye out for strong projects to bring forward for the company.
“I first started reading series romance when I was 11. We were in Ireland and I ran out of my Nancy Drew titles and my aunt (also Mary Theresa), gave me a batch of Mills & Boon titles. The first one was a Janet Dailey title called THE MASTER FIDDLER and I was hooked by Cholla (yes, that was the heroâ€™s name!). After that, I discovered the stash in the library and used book stores and Iâ€™ve never looked back!
“Even in college I used a friendâ€™s local address to get access to the library so I could feed my addiction throughout the year. (I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out on that crime. 🙂 ) I still love the books we publish, and my only frustration is that Iâ€™ll never get to read them all!
“I read a lot of Presents, Desire, Romantic Suspense, Special Edition, Intrigue and Blaze and a smattering from the other lines. Iâ€™ll also read a bunch of the MIRA and HQN titles as well. And of course all the LUNA titles I didnâ€™t work on! So when I graduated and discovered I could actually get a job working for this company and get these books for freeâ€¦Well, my fate was sealed!
“I was a series addict from a young age! Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Rick Brant, Cherry Ames, Vicki Barr, Trixie Belden, The Happy Hollisters, The Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, Tom Corbett and more were followed by Tolkien, Heinlein, Norton and others. Characterization, dialogue and fast-paced plotting are and were key. Along with romance, I still love fantasy, romantic suspense, mystery, thriller and larger than life stories.
“The best part of this job is access to the wonderful peopleâ€”authors and colleagues and readers. Even when Iâ€™m reading a manuscript that wonâ€™t be publishable, I feel that thereâ€™s a sense of hope and positivism in romance that I donâ€™t always find when reading other genres.
“For me, the most difficult part of the job is rejecting manuscripts and dashing hopes. Itâ€™s especially hard when it comes to projects that arenâ€™t really very bad, but thereâ€™s nothing special about them. As we say, we can often work with a storyteller who needs structure, but someone who has structure but no voice, well, that just isnâ€™t something that an editor can easily fix.
“On the positive side, one of my purchases has been for debut author Rachel Vincentâ€™s werecat series. STRAY came out in ’07 and ROGUE in ’08. [Isabel interjects that Rachel made her debut on the April 13th 2008 New York Times Bestseller list at #32, whoo hoo!] and PRIDE is out now. I’ve already read the proposal for PREY. Sheâ€™s got a wonderful voice and energy and enthusiasm and I really look forward to everyone else reading these projects.
“I have always felt that series novels have a ‘formula’ in the same way that other genre fiction or certain types of poetry does. Thereâ€™s a structure, a rhyme scheme, an expected conclusion and a theme, but the writerâ€™s voice and subject matter make it sing…or falter.
“And at the heart of genre fiction is the characters. The reason readers can return to a familiar story idea is the characters are believable, relatable and filled with emotion. The ability to have a reader live vicariously through the character is what makes a real storyteller.
“Itâ€™s not an easy thing to do eitherâ€”Iâ€™ve tried maybe twice to write something and never got beyond two pages. The commitment needed to finish a book is intense, and the work is hard! I have total respect and admiration for those who make it look easy and who can face the screen or empty page day after day.
“As for what it takes to make a good editor, most editors I know are intensely curious about a lot of things, but always about people. They watch movies, read magazines, obsess about TV and pop culture. They respond to the zeitgeist, but what interests them is the individual in the situation. They also have to have great memories and incredible patience, as they read a manuscript multiple times!
“They must be willing to invest themselves by striving to help the author say what she wants to say as clearly and cleanly as possible, walking a delicate balance between being a â€œfirst reader,â€ a representative of the publisher and an advocate for the author. Communication is key, and making sure that the end goalâ€”of a â€œgood story, well toldâ€â€”is achieved.
“If I wasn’t going to be an editorâ€”and money, skill and talent were no object!â€”Iâ€™d probably like to be a photographer for children, landscape or even weddings. But it makes a nice hobby at least!”
Their loss is our gainâ€”though Matrice is also our unofficial photographer and in between the numerous piles of books, her office has many beautiful photographs of children and landscapes and family events. Truly, a renaissance woman.
Thought I’d check in here when Isabel mentioned she was reposting this article. Thanks for the kind words–I’m a fan of all of yours as well!
And yes, we editors are also people, too! Isabel’s blog has some great photos and she’s got a wide range of interests as well.
In general, I think everyone dealing with publishing and books has an impressive curiousity about life and the possibilities and potentials in all sorts of things. I love sitting around and chatting with all of you as well, on everything from the biz to pop culture to favorite books.
And, yep, Marianne, I’ve read the Five Little Peppers and loved them!
and so many others books! I’m always torn between rereading favorites and finding new things to enjoy….
Trixie Belden –wow! I thought I was the only person in the world who read Trixie Belden.
How about The Five Little Peppers?
Isabelle, Great profile on Mary-Theresa. I was lucky enough to spend some time with her and was so inpsired I just finished an Intrigue. What I think I really appreciated about the interview was being reminded that what I write needs to stand out. Sometimes we play it safe and Mary-Theresa is right – we’ve got to bring something unique to our work. Thanks again. Rebecca Forster
What a wonderful interview! Mary-Theresa is indeed a renaissance woman — a gentlewoman and a scholar who knows books and pop culture like nobody’s business — and apparently a force to be reckoned with on the Wii too!
Thanks for the interesting read.
Thanks for another great blog for OCC, Isabel, and thanks especially for highlighting Mary-Theresa. I am so proud to say that she’s been my editor for many, many years and youâ€™re so right: M.T. is definitely the â€œgo-toâ€ girl for info on publishing, and just about any other subject as well. Sheâ€™s honestly amazing!
Just wanted to add for those that don’t know that Mary-Theresa is also the first recipient of OCC’s Industry Award–an award she totally deserves. Iâ€™ve always thought editors have it so hard, serving as the link between the bottom line marketing people and the creative writers–kind of like being the doorman between a bank and an insane asylum. 🙂 I know no one works harder than M.T. to satisfy both.
Like everyone has said, Mary-Theresa is simply the best.
(I was in the middle of responding to the first posts when I had to go out to lunch & missed responding to the last two).
Kate Carlisle: so pleased you enjoyed the link. It can be time-consuming, but I like to "enrich" my content and really appreciate that someone has clicked through to enjoy the bonus info. I was in England when I was little so my series were the Enid Byton books–Secret Seven & all the Famous Fives…
Michele: it's lovely to hear my posts are enjoyed–see, editors when they post become a writer, loving to hear from her readers! Thank you.
Jen Lyon: you are very welcome! And what a lovely (and true!) comment about Matrice. It really does take a village–for in their own way, stories are our children, aren’t they?
Maureen–Hi! Wonderful to “see” you here! Thank you for your kind comments.
Kathy–thank you for your kind words. I know it can be a surprise for some, but editors are indeed people too! Glad to be able to bring that out in an interview. And most editors–like most writers–started by being readers, so respect for and love of the story is what both writers and editors have in common.
Isabel, thank you so much for another great post. 🙂
Oh my gosh, I loved Nancy Drew and The Happy Hollisters! In fact, I’m fairly sure I still have them all. LOL
And what an insightful look into what it takes to be an editor, Mary-Theresa. Thank you!
Isabel, thank you so much for this wonderful inside view of such a fabulous editor!
And thanks for that link to the Cherry Ames page! That was one of my favorite series growing up, too. If anyone’s looking for me, that’s where I’ll be. 🙂
What a fabulous interview – and what a fabulous editor. Now I want to submit something to her!
It’s so wonderful to learn something about the editors so that they become more than just a name. It personalizes the whole process.
It’s so great to have you here! And thank you for bringing us such a fabulous interview with Matrice!
Nice to get an insider’s view on being an editor–and I’m with Tara Gavin. Matrice’s memory for the books she’s read and the characters and storyline is really amazing!
Thanks for the peek into the editor’s world!
Isabel, thank you for sharing Mary Theresa with us today!
Mary Theresa, thanks! You gave great insight into what it takes to be an editor, and the important role in editor has in developing a book to its fullest potential. An author would be lucky to have you as her editor!
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