An Author Interviews Her Editor, Karen Chaplin at HarperCollins Children’s Books
Hi there, I’m Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, author of the tween animal fantasy series, The Guardian Herd. Before I signed my publishing contract, I had never worked with an editor. I believed that book editors corrected grammar, but I soon learned that is the specific job of a copy editor.
As Senior Editor Karen Chaplin and I began working together, I became fascinated with her job. She manages every aspect of my book series from content editing of the manuscript, cover design, marketing copy, and the promotional materials.
When she’s not working on my series, she’s acquiring new authors, attending meetings and conferences, and working on other projects. It’s an exciting job, and so I decided to interview her about it and about her work on the Guardian Herd series. Today I’m happy to share this exclusive interview with the book lovers over here at Pragmatic Mom.
JLA: Karen, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions! First off, I’d love to know how you became an editor? Was it something you wanted to do as a child?
KC: I always loved reading. That was my favorite thing to do as a kid. So my dream job was to work with books or reading in some way. I thought maybe I would be a teacher or librarian (I even worked in a library when I was 14!), but when I realized I could work in publishing, I knew I’d found my calling.
JLA: You edit books for children and teens. Do you tap into your pre-adult years when you’re helping authors shape their stories?
KC: All the time! Sometimes I wonder if I still attend high school in my head! I think all editors who work on children’s and teen books have a piece of them that will always and forever be stuck in middle or high school. Those feelings are so intense and raw that they always leave scars (good and bad).
JLA: So I’ve heard that you like to garden, Karen. Are there any similarities between gardening and editing?
KC: Absolutely. In editing, as in gardening, you are always weeding. Weeding out extraneous plot points, characters, details that obscure the core story (or plant). You’re always trying to get to the heart of the story (the seed of the story, if you will) and grow it in a natural and organic way.
JLA: What were your thoughts the first time you read The Guardian Herd: STARFIRE manuscript? What did you think young readers might enjoy about this book series?
KC: When I first started reading STARFIRE, I remember that it was the early afternoon on a sunny winter day, and I was sitting on my couch with my cat. And the next thing I knew, it was getting dark. I thought perhaps a rain cloud was passing over, but actually 3 hours had gone by! I just was sucked into the world, which was familiar but so different than what I was used to reading. And the characters were pegasi, but with accessible human qualities that really made me feel for them. It just took me to a different place, and I got lost—in such a good way!
JLA: I love books that I get lost in, and I’m honored you felt that way about mine! Now, there are a lot of characters in the Guardian Herd series. As the editor, do you have a favorite?
KC: I have to say there isn’t a character that I don’t like in this series! But I do have a special place in my heart for Morningleaf. She’s just such a strong-willed character, and is never afraid to speak her mind. She’s loyal and fearless, and I love her devotion to Star.
JLA: Well you’ve helped me hone Morningleaf’s voice during our work together, so I thank you for that! Prior to working on this series, did you have much experience with horses?
KC: In a weird way, yes! I never rode horses before, but I grew up in a house that was located behind a small horse farm. I was able to go up to the fence that divided our property and if the horses were out and about, I could feed carrots to them. It is one of my favorite memories!
JLA: When you’re reading for pleasure and not for work, is it difficult to turn off your inner editor?
KC: It can be difficult, especially when I read children’s books. But if I am reading adult fiction or nonfiction, it’s usually pretty easy to dive in and just enjoy.
JLA: Can you list some of the favorite books from your childhood?
KC: Oh, there are so many! Harriet the Spy, the Encyclopedia Brown series, the Ramona books, Charlotte’s Web, and then for a while I was reading all of Agatha Christie’s mysteries. Later on, it was the Sweet Valley High series. My friend and I would exchange those—I’d give her ones she didn’t have, and vice versa. I think I still have my SVH collection!
JLA: If you could give aspiring young writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
KC: I would say—read, read, read! One of the ways to hone your craft as a writer is to read everything you can get your hands on, see what other writers are doing, and how they are doing it. Read things that take you out of your comfort zone—you may be surprised by what you discover! And then just keep writing—practice the craft, refine your skills, and enjoy the process!
Karen Chaplin began her publishing career at Scholastic. She was an editor at Puffin Books/Penguin Young Readers Group for six years before she moved over to HarperCollins Children’s Books, where she is currently a senior editor of middle-grade and YA fiction. Karen received her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Delaware, and her MA in English from Simmons College. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, traveling, finding DIY projects to do around her house, attempting to dabble in photography, and growing her vegetable garden. Look for her on Twitter: @CapChapReads.
Jennifer Lynn Alvarez received a degree in English literature from UC Berkeley. She blogs about her books and the publishing business and speaks regularly at schools about creative writing. She lives on a small ranch in Northern California with her husband, three children, and more than her fair share of pets, including horses. Jennifer draws on her lifelong love of animals for inspiration. When she’s not writing, Jennifer can be spotted galloping her mare across the golden foothills of Sonoma County. The Guardian Herd: Starfire is the first book in this series. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @JenniferDiaries.
Short Description of The Guardian Herd Book Series:
The Guardian Herd is an action-packed book series about winged horses living in the land of Anok. The first four books follow the story of Star, the special black foal who is fated to become the most powerful pegasus in the land, if he can survive to his first birthday.
Book #1, STARFIRE, and Book #2, STORMBOUND, are available now.
Critical Praise for The Guardian Herd Series (which speaks to Karen’s editing ability!)
- “Will prove popular with both animal-lovers and fantasy fans. …A good choice for reluctant readers. The clever resolution will get kids psyched for more tales from the Guardian Herd.” Booklist
- “Chock-full of adventure and twists, making it difficult to put down. Readers will be clamoring for the next book in this adventure.” School Library Journal
- “Alvarez’s world is lush with description and atmosphere, and her premise has much to offer. Fans of animal fantasies should find it enjoyable.” Publishers Weekly
I am giving away a signed ARC of LANDFALL, character trading cards from STORMBOUND, and a poster of STARFIRE. Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to win.
To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.