Pub Rants

P&W’s Interview With Editor Chuck Adams, Algonquin

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STATUS: TGIF and I’m off to take my nieces birthday shopping. Can’t wait to see what the hottest things are for the under-15 set.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHY CAN’T I BE YOU? by The Cure

Links are fixed! Sorry about that.

I have to say that the interview series done by Jofie Ferrari-Adler for Poets & Writers is just hands down the best I’ve ever seen. Jofie just has a way of pulling the great stories out of long-time publishing folks that as a reader, you feel like you are absolutely getting the most inside look at the industry that you can.

And his interview with Chuck Adams does not disappoint.

Here is a venerated editor who has edited nearly 100 books that have gone on to become bestsellers and yet, as Jofie mentions, “like many editors of a certain age (and pay grade), Adams was rewarded for his years of service with a pink slip.”

Hard to believe, isn’t it? But Mr. Adams gives wonderful insight as to why that had happened and how much he enjoys being at Algonquin. Chuck Adams is also the editor behind the mega-successful WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and he tells the story behind that acquisition. That, in and of itself, is a good education about this biz.

Other Highlights:

Jofie: Let’s talk about agents. There are a lot of them, and I’m curious about the factors that you would look at if you were a writer, knowing what you know, and had your pick of a few.

Chuck: I would want them to ask certain questions. (click here to read on). He also highlights two young agents that should be on everyone’s radar (and one is a friend—waves to Dan).

But here’s my favorite quote from the interview. You’re preaching to my choir, Chuck, as so many people like to turn up their literary noses at commercial fiction.

“There’s a tendency of publishers to pooh-pooh books that are really commercial. You get this at writers’ conferences sometimes. “Oh, how can you edit Mary Higgins Clark?” People just shiver because they think she’s not a great writer. I’m sorry, she’s a great storyteller, and she satisfies millions of readers. I’m all for that. Again, Harlequin romances—give me more of them. A lot of good writers have come out of Harlequin romances: Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Barbara Delinsky, to name three right there. I think literary fiction is great, and the ideal book is one that is beautifully written and tells a great story, but if it’s just a great story that’s written well enough to be readable, that’s good too.”

18 Responses

  1. AC said:

    I LOVE his comment about commercial v. literary fiction. Mary Higgins Clark probably won’t ever win a Pulitzer, but I inhaled her books when I was younger, and you’d better believe my sister and I bought each and every one of them (even the ones published before we were born). I still have a whole shelf of them at home. Sometimes all you want from a book is just to be thoroughly entertained, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  2. Ginger said:

    I couldn’t wait and I googled and found the website. WOW! What an eye-opener! This interview should be studied, not just read! Thanks!

  3. Cora Zane said:

    The interview links didn’t work for me, so I’ll search it out on Google. That final quote you highlighted is a comforting tidbit to know.

  4. Anita said:

    The Chuck Adams interview was awesome—completely inspired me to get to the keyboard. Thanks for making your blog fans aware of the interview!

  5. Chris Bates said:

    Thanks for the link to this article, Kristin.

    I’d certainly be one author who would ante up my own cash to have an opportunity to collaborate with Chuck Adams.

  6. Gabrielle said:

    I saw Chuck Adams at a conference this month and was so impressed by his quiet and honest demeanor, and his obvious gift for pulling incredible stories out of talented writers. He talked a little about “Water for Elephants,” and how he didn’t need to edit that manuscript as much because Sara Gruen (sp?) writes a very clean manuscript.

    Fascinating stuff.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Unfortunately, Dan Lazar is on everyone’s radar. He’s been Numero Uno on Publisher’s Marketplace for–how many weeks now? Probably several months.

  8. Writer's Coin said:

    I too was dazzled by the honesty and straightforwardness of the interview. Red marks all over it on my copy!

    Side benefit: I found this site too, so it’s a win win either way!