Thursday, 13 March 2014

Chris Pavone - On an expat, ex-editor

Today’s guest blog is by Chris Pavone.  His debut novel The Expats was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a Macavity, and awards from the Strand Magazine Critics Circle, the Mystery Booksellers Association, and the International Thriller Writers, and received the 2013 Edgar Award and the 2013 Anthony Award for Best First Novel.  The Accident is his second novel and is due to be published in March 2014.

Beginning in 1990, I held 10 different job titles at 8 different publishing companies. I was a copy editor and a managing editor, a proofreader and an associate publisher, a ghostwriter and the author of a little book about wine that consists almost entirely of blank pages. But mostly I was an acquisitions editor, which is like being a consumer product manager, except your products are books: you manage these products’ development and then their launch into the marketplace.

The acquisitions aspect is to figure out what your company should publish—to bring in projects from agents and authors, to reject nearly all of them, and to buy the rights to the ones you want. You consider somewhere between 500 and 1,000 projects per year, but you make deals for perhaps 15 of them. That’s your list.

Then comes the editor aspect of the editor’s job: overseeing the development of these projects from whatever it is you acquired to something that readers, in turn, are willing to acquire. There’s more to it than you’d think. (I suspect there’s more to everything than you’d think. Or honestly I don’t know about you: more than I’d think.) Editors do a lot of writing, a surprising amount of pitching, and they also participate in design and production, marketing and publicity.

And of course editors edit—two drafts or five or ten, occasionally dragging on for years.  Sitting at home (because editors don’t, as a rule, have the required chunks of uninterrupted time to edit in the office), manuscript pages in your lap, scrawling comments in the margins of thousands upon thousands of pages per year.

 This is what I did for most of my adult life. Then at age forty I left New York, moved to Luxembourg for my wife’s job, and wrote an espionage thriller. The Expats was based on my intense but not extraordinary (which is to say, ordinary) first-hand experience of quitting my career, moving abroad, and becoming an expat trailing spouse

But my true-life experience, on its own, wasn’t enough to sustain a novel, so I decided to make it less ordinary: I added the CIA and the FBI, and a huge sum of stolen money, and a cast of characters who are all lying to one another about, roughly, everything important.

The Expats was published a couple of years ago, and I started working on my second novel. Again I wanted to use my own experiences, but turned into something extraordinary.  The Accident is populated mostly by people in the book-publishing business—a damaged literary agent and a slightly-over-the-hill editor, an over-eager assistant and a conflicted publisher. But here again some less ordinary characters: a career intelligence operative, a ruthless media mogul, and his erstwhile right-hand man, who has decided to betray his boss to save his soul.

The plot begins in the same ordinary way that any book publication begins: with one person—an author—sending a manuscript to one other person—an agent—who then submits it to an editor. But then what happens next never happens in the real book-publishing world: people start dying.

The Accident ---

As dawn approaches in New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of a mysterious, anonymous manuscript, racing through explosive revelations about powerful people. In Copenhagen, veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray, determined that this sweeping story be buried, is suddenly staring down the barrel of an unexpected gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life, trying to atone for a lifetime’s worth of lies and betrayals while always looking over his shoulder.

Over the course of one long, desperate day, these lives will collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, toward saving or ruining careers and companies, placing everything at risk—and everyone in mortal peril . . .

The Accident by Chris Pavone is out now in hardback, £12.99 (Faber & Faber)

You can find more information about Chris Pavone and his work on his website. You can also find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @CWPavone.

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