What made you interested in publishing as a career?
I have always loved books. I love writing them, I loved dissecting them, I loved researching how they’re made and how they work. Books like Harry Potter, Sabriel by Garth Nix, and The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay informed my own writing and my curiosity about books from a young age, and continue to do so. I’ve always been interested in how books speak to people, how prose can enhance or take away from plot and characters, how genre can inform how we view the world from a young age.
But for some reason I always thought of Publishing as this far-away place I could never go. I never actually thought I would find a way into that world.
How did you get your start in publishing?
My degree is in writing and directing for film and TV, and I was so sure I was going to head to LA to fight for an opportunity to write for TV. When my boyfriend got a call from a New York production company, everything changed. Suddenly, publishing didn’t seem so far away. I started scoping out agents on twitter, and when some of them starting tweeting about remote internships, I sent out some resumes and managed to snag a remote internship with a great agent. It was a start, and I was a go for New York.
Once I got here, with the help of said agent I managed to impress Adam Silvera enough to recommend me for a job at Books of Wonder, a fantastic children’s bookstore in the city. An internship at Soho Press followed that, and finally I ended up as a full-time literary assistant.
What is the most surprising thing about publishing that you’ve learned thus far?
The publishing world is very small. Much, much smaller than I ever thought possible. This is partially because so much of the industry is in Manhattan – the offices of the Big Five publishers are all just a train-ride away from one another. Literary agencies have a bit more flexibility when it comes to location, especially thanks to social media. But the industry was built on the creation of close relationships, and that still holds true today.
What are 3 of your favorite books from this past year and why?
Marie Rutkoski’s WINNER’S CURSE series. It’s beautifully written, incredibly well researched, with smoldering characters who are intelligent and terribly flawed. These are considered fantasy because they take place in a world Marie created – but there is no magic. They feel very much like a time in our own history. This is, in a way, true, because these books are based on historical empires. Also, there is angsty romance galore.
Jandy Nelson’s I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN. Beautifully written (are you sensing a pattern here?) contemporary YA told from two perspectives: a brother and sister who are both artists, at two separate times in their young adult lives. It’s an incredible portrayal of art, first love, grief, and the bond family.
V.E. Schwab’s A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC. This is not considered YA though it features protagonists who are still quite young, and since Victoria also writes YA it seemed to fit. This book is dark and scary with fantastic characters and a crazy plot that made complete sense thanks to skilled storytelling.
I also have to shout out to Adam Silvera’s MORE HAPPY THAN NOT. When I read it, I had just moved to New York and it was not yet the beautiful hardcover it is now. But I loved that it proved YA can be serious, affecting, important, daring.
If you weren’t in publishing, where would you be?
I’d be elbowing my way into writing for TV, auditioning for roles in film and/or television, or just generally trying my hand at that industry. It is, after all, what I studied. But I am a storyteller first and foremost, no matter what format I’m working in. My heart will be spinning stories until I’m being spoon-fed mushy peas and dancing with my creaky walker in assisted living. Hopefully, there’ll be other old storytellers dancing with me.
HANNAH FERGESON is formerly a lit agency and small press intern. Currently a literary assistant, writer, geek, and coffee-binger. The rest of the time: Tardis-dress-wearer and worshiper at the altar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.