Interview with the Editor: Julie Tibbott of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

It may shock you to learn this, but I am not in fact sitting in a warehouse somewhere, painstakingly writing each and every copy of Croak by hand. There is a whole team of people who have got my back, and they are the reason I am even allowed to call it a “book” in the first place. People like Julie Tibbott, my fabulous editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I knew Julie was the one for me the minute she jumped right on board with all of my silly death-related store names in Croak and suggested one of her own: the gym, Dead Weight. And then she asked if I might be interested in putting a map in the book, and I think I wrote back a (probably quite scary) gigantic email that essentially boiled down to ABSOLUTELY YES I LOVE YOU YES.

So drum roll…cymbal crash…triangle ding…here she is!

Other than taking the time to patiently explain simple publishing concepts to me, what’s a typical day like for you?

Well, I wake up and am immediately attacked by hungry felines. I eat my granola while listening to NPR like a typical elite New Yorker. Then I take the subway to work, which is my main time for pleasure reading, of which I do too little. Right now I’m reading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin, a book so chunky it’s like carrying an extra backpack. One of my other recent subway reads was Inside Scientology,which is a critical expose by Janet Reitman, but I think my fellow riders thought it was recruitment material or some kind of Scientologist bible, so it got me a lot of strange looks. (I’m sure that will continue when you post this on your blog and the actual Scientologists start following me.)

I get to work at our office in Union Square and proceed with the editing. And by that I mean answering emails, commenting on materials routing to me, handling negotiations with agents, strategizing future projects, writing flap and catalog copy, going to meetings, and sometimes having a few hours to actually do some editing! It’s best when I can take whatever manuscript I’m working on to the table in my office away from the computer and go to town with my purple pencil. Sometimes people ask me if I listen to music while I’m reading submissions or editing, and the answer is no because it’s too distracting when I’m trying to weigh every word.

When I finally leave work I like to stroll home through the East Village. Sometimes I do fun things after work, but sometimes I do Bikram yoga. Then it’s back home to the hungry felines, and maybe some Law & Order to soothe me to sleep.

I cannot fathom how much work you editors have to do. So much goes into just my one little book, plus you’re doing that for several other books at the same time, plus you’re working on books for the upcoming seasons, PLUS you still have submissions to read to acquire more things for even more seasons! So tell me – and you can be honest, I won’t tell anyone – do you have a time machine? And if not, how on earth do you do it all?

I wish I had a time machine! Well, actually I don’t—we all know those things are more trouble than they’re worth. But quite simply, I don’t do as much as I’d like to, at least not every day. Submissions often take a backseat to the books I’m working on now, and deadlines I have to meet. But generally, we editors are good at multi-tasking.

You’re very tall, and I am very short. When we get together, does it feel as though you are spending time with a child?

Not really. But I do admit that I sometimes discriminate against short people. It’s just because they walk slow with their short little legs and I can’t hear what they’re saying because they are so far below me. Maybe that sounds kind of mean, but if you’ve asked a tall person if they played basketball or “How’s the weather up there,” then you can’t get mad.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in New York City?

Hmm, that’s a toss-up between a reasonably priced avocado, and pretty much everything that went down on 9/11.

What other amazing stuff are you working on right now?

Some things (besides CROAK) coming out this spring that I’m really excited about are ILLUMINATE by Aimee Agresti, which is about a girl who starts working at a posh hotel, only to find out the staff is buying the souls of the guests; LOSS, the powerful third installment Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Kessler; DEAD IS A BATTLEFIELD, a fun addition to the Dead Is paranormal mystery series by Marlene Perez; THE SPRINGSWEET by Saundra Mitchell, a historical paranormal romance in which a young pioneer finds she possesses a magical power that can help her survive on the frontier; and WAKING STORMS, a captivating mermaid tale that is the follow-up to LOST VOICES.

In the fall, look out for THE HALLOWED ONES, which is an Amish thriller I’m very psyched about. And I just acquired a great new project by Carolyn Meyer called BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER, about the daughter of Helen of Troy, which should be out in 2013. That’s all I’ll gush about for now!

And on the flip side of that question, who is your favorite Muppet?

Janice!

Fer sure.

I also love Oscar the Grouch and begged my parents to name my youngest sister Oscar after him.

Actually, back to one of your earlier questions: One of the weirder and more memorable things I’ve seen in NYC in the last few months was at the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image. There was a very intoxicated young woman rolling around on the floor vomiting in a room full of people watching Muppets clips. Luckily, no actual Muppets were harmed.

That is, um, surreal. Also surreal: CROAK comes out next week! Anything you want to say about it, besides how eye-catching and shiny it is?

CROAK is hilarious. It’s the kind of book that will have you laughing out loud on practically every page. It’s a wild ride through the Adirondacks, the Afterlife, and beyond, and you’ll want to go back as soon as you’re done . . . which you can, when the sequel, SCORCH, comes out in September!

Thanks so much Julie! I’ll do my best to fend off the Scientologists!

**Even though Julie is super nice, she does not accept unsolicited submissions, because, as previously mentioned, she is insanely busy and does not (yet) own a time machine.**

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Want more Reaper Madness? Check out these previous posts:

Day 1 – Free Badges
Day 2 – Event Schedule
Day 3 – Blurbs
Day 4 – Adirondacks Facks
Day 5 – Croak trailer
Day 6 – Sample chapter
Day 7 – Goodreads Giveaway
Day 8 – Pinterest Day
Day 9 – Dear Teen Me
Day 10 – Jellyfish
Day 11 – Black Widow Spiders
Day 12 – Final Last Words – Apocalypsies Edition

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