#ThrowItForwardThursday: Meet Tessa Shapcott, Editor Extraordinaire

Tessa ShapcottWoot! It’s the final #ThrowItForward Thursday of 2015! (But don’t worry – 2016 will be chock full of other editors, bloggers, fellow authors, designers, and anyone else who helps promote authors, so stay tuned…)

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been a year since I first hired the marvelous Tessa Shapcott to help me whip A Man of Character into shape. It seems like yesterday, and yet so long ago, as well!

I can’t imagine my writing life without her, and am so very grateful not only for Tessa’s outstanding editing instincts, but to Katy Regnery for first recommending her to me (and to Tessa for agreeing to take me on!). My books would not be half of what they are without Tessa’s keen eye for plot and character development issues, y’all. So it’s only fitting that I take time to honor her, and get her to share a little bit about herself (surprise! She’s also an author!) with you on this Throw It Forward Thursday.

How long have you been working as an editor?

HarlequinI’ve got over thirty years’ experience as an editor. After leaving university, I started my working life as a secretary in a London literary agency, then became a children’s books editor for a while, specializing in teenage fiction. Later, I spent many years working for Harlequin Enterprises in their British office, looking after the Mills & Boon romance series, including Harlequin Presents. I left Harlequin in 2013 to freelance and write, and have been working with a growing list of clients from different genres ever since.

What drew you to editing? 

I come from a family of journalists, so words are in my DNA. I did toy with the idea of becoming a newspaper reporter but realized that I wasn’t tough enough for some of the assignments! Then it struck me that I had been a voracious reader and watcher of movies from an early age, and working with writers and the craft of storytelling, and dealing with amazing fictional characters, would be just perfect.

What kinds of editing do you do, and of them, is any one type your favorite?

I’m a fiction editor, specializing in genre and women’s fiction. I particularly love romance, being fascinated as I am by human relationships and I’m also an eternal optimist.

About how many clients do you work with regularly? Are you open to new clients?

I have a regular client list of approximately 25 authors. I am open to new clients if I can accommodate their timelines with my availability.

TVTVFinalEbookCoverDo you have any big name clients you’d like to brag about? Any romance writers in general you’d suggest we try (whether you edit them or not!)?

I love working with all my regulars; they’re all wonderful people and fantastic storytellers. But Katy Regnery, Kylie Gilmore, Jennifer Faye and Mimi Barbour, who are all NYT/USA Today best-sellers, deserve special mentions. Also Kristine Mason, who writes wonderfully chilling thrillers. All are self-published, and I would thoroughly recommend their books.

What’s your take on traditional versus indie publishing for a new author? Can an indie author produce a book comparable in quality to what comes from the professional houses? 

I would say that, for sure, there some indie authors who are absolutely competing head-to-head with traditionally-published writers.

What has interested me since I started my business working with indie authors is the quality of most of the self-published work I see. I think what happens is that traditional publishers—like any branded business—are obliged to build niches within the market and so they set boundaries for what they will and won’t take. Many self-published authors just don’t fit in a particular box, but it doesn’t mean to say that they are not worthy of publication. And what’s more, I am blown away about how intuitive and savvy indies can be about marketing themselves to readers and achieving sales.

I think the book market is currently the most exciting it’s been for a hundred and fifty years, with the two streams of traditional and indie.

What do you wish authors understood about editors?

writingThat an editor’s criticism is a gift! No-one writes the perfect novel straight off. So try not to be too precious or crushed if you get developmental tasks or revisions; put your ego aside and embrace what your editor is trying to tell you—she’s just wanting to help you get the best out of your book. She’s there to act as a professional reader, to show you the strengths and weaknesses of your work. There’s a well-known maximum amongst editors: the more revisions we give you, the more likely it is that we feel you’ve got something worth publishing!

What advice would you give a newbie author when it comes to editing?

Good freelance editors tend to get booked up well in advance, so do plan and approach your editor with plenty of time to spare to avoid disappointment. I am usually booked out 3-4 months ahead. However, I find myself having to turn away at least one new writer a week who decided a couple of days before they needed to get their manuscript edited, and who expects that I can begin work the next day. I should add that good freelance editors will also be juggling a number of projects/authors at any given time.

wifeineverysenseYou’ve told me you write as well as edit! Tell us about your own work!

I write romance under the pseudonym Joanne Walsh, and publish with Entangled Indulgence and Tule Publishing. I am loving doing it! My heroes are alpha males and I love to pit them against determined heroines in intense, passionate relationships. I write about international backgrounds (Italy and Greece are favourites), and like my characters to go through journeys of self-transformation emotionally.

How does your editing experience impact you as a writer?

That’s a very good question! I’d say that, having started writing, I am now a better editor because I understand now exactly how it feels to be edited, to struggle with deadlines, characters that won’t behave and words that don’t come. And there’s nothing like the exhilaration of getting your novel published. It’s definitely humbled me a little!

You live in England. Is there a big difference in the romance markets, from what you know, between the US and the UK?

Not a great deal actually. Authors can be best-sellers on both sides of the Atlantic if they have accessible voices and write about engaging characters and universal emotional truths and themes.

Thank you so much, Tessa! I feel unbelievably privileged to be one of your regular clients, and am so grateful for everyone you’ve done for me in whipping A Man of Character and A Matter of Time into publication-worthy shape.
Here’s to a fruitful 2016 for both of us, and for all of the authors with whom you work! 

Writer Wednesday: Margaret Locke, Part Two

Margaret LockeIt’s Writer Wednesday, and this week we’ve got … me, Margaret Locke? Well, sure – that’s one of the benefits of hosting your own weekly shindig: you can, uh, take over that hot seat whenever you, er, want to. Hopefully y’all will stick with me, and we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled roster of awesome writers next week (in fact, next Wednesday the amazing Tamara Shoemaker will be here, so don’t miss it!)

I thought it’d be fun to answer not only some of the questions I didn’t address the first time around, but also to tell y’all a bit about A Matter of Time, my new time-travel Regency romance. So without further ado…

What inspires you to write?

A Man of Character Cover Margaret LockeAs a teenager addicted to historical romance novels, I often had to defend my reading material of choice. I even wrote an essay for my tenth grade English class explaining my love for the genre: I read romance, because no matter what happens (and some pretty crazy things happen), you know those two people are going to end up together, and achieve that coveted Happy Ever After. For this anxiety-prone child of divorce, that was the ultimate comfort. Two flawed people could encounter all sorts of bizarre obstacles, and still stay together, still find everlasting love? Yes, please.

As to why I write it? Because I still seek that hope, that comfort, that security every day. Also, I’m a bit of a control freak. So an encouraging, reassuring story (with funny/witty parts, or so I hope) dictated entirely by me? Sign me up!

Writing allows me to explore my own thoughts and beliefs through watching/learning what my characters do. In A Man of Character, I examined the ideas of fantasy versus reality, perhaps in part because people have long challenged romance as presenting impossible ideals. In A Matter of Time, I delved into whether feminism is compatible with wanting to prioritize love and marriage (for the record, I am an ardent feminist who happens to be madly in love with my husband and who finds my identity in that relationship, and I’m good with that. So my answer to that question is a resounding yes.)

Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book.

I spent a lot of time looking up various details about the Regency period, fervently attempting to get everything historically accurate. I’m sure I didn’t, but any errors are my own (still positive I don’t have the title thing down pat, in spite of marvelous help from The Beau Monde).

In addition to history books, I read numerous fascinating blog posts (there are tons of historical bloggers out there – my praise and thanks to them!). One post, from the UK’s Jane Austen website, discussed the making of hot chocolate in the Regency era, a tidbit I found so fascinating I had to stick it in the book. Definitely much more complicated than nuking milk in the microwave and adding powdered mix!

Name two things people don’t know about you.

  1. Hubby and I enjoyed some Bier in Hamburg!

    I’ve lived in Germany twice, and used to be quite fluent in the language (given it’s been fifteen years since I’ve regularly spoken auf Deutsch, I can’t claim that anymore). The first was in 1989, right after high school, in which I spent four months with a fantastic host family in Wülfrath (a small town near Düsseldorf and not all that far from Köln (or, as we say, Cologne)). The second was ten years later, when I’d won a DAAD grant for dissertation research, and I was to spend a year in Hamburg as I tackled the issues of gender and power and how they related to Ottonian queenship. I only stayed four months, but that’s a story for another blog post

  1. I met actor Wallace Shawn once in the Alderman Library on the University of Virginia’s campus. I and a bunch of fellow grad students were so star-struck that at first none of us would approach him. What if we were wrong, and it wasn’t him? (Inconceivable!) Finally I worked up the courage to ask – was he the Sicilian from The Princess Bride? He nodded his head and rather shyly said yes (or perhaps he was just irritated at the question and the crowd.) I was so giddy I just kind of hopped away. I didn’t compliment him on any other movies he’d done, nor did I ask for an autograph. I just ran, grinning like an idiot.

I’d like to think I did a bit better when I met Colin Morgan in 2013, but I probably didn’t – though at least I thought of something good enough to say that I earned a high-five from the man.

What fellow romance author do you recommend reading, and why?

TemptationOf course I have my big three (Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries), to which I now need to add Sarah MacLean, and then also Valerie Bowman, Tessa Dare, and Erin Knightley, plus oh-so-many more! But those are the very well-know Regency names, the writers most people could find on the shelf in a bookstore.

As I’ve ventured down this authorly path, I’ve been blessed to meet many a romance writer, some who are traditionally published but less well known, or perhaps traditionally published but in e-format only, or, like me, who are indie published.

I highly recommend contemporary romance author Kathryn Barrett’s Temptationgreat book with a premise I hadn’t yet encountered (Amish hero, but not an Amish romance per se). And Katy Regnery is another contemporary romance writer who’s shot up the charts in the last year (in part because I’m convinced she’s secretly super-human, given how quickly she can churn out well-written, emotionally intense novels!).

But there are so many more – check out my Writer Wednesday interview tab to find other great names.

What one piece of advice do you wish you’d had when first starting out?

editorGet an editor.

I didn’t understand at first that there were different types of editors. I didn’t think I needed one, since not only was I fairly decent at the whole grammar/punctuation thing, but I have several marvelous friends and critique group members whose eagle eyes catch all sorts of goofs.

I didn’t realize that what I was thinking of was copy-editing/proofreading, and that there were other levels of editing, including the most global one, the developmental edit (which it turns out my first book really needed!).

I wish I’d hired Tessa Shapcott before I sent A Man of Character out on the query market. My guess is I would have had more success, more requests. Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong, though the original, unedited manuscript did garner some interest and a publication offer. But the version I crafted after receiving Tessa’s developmental suggestions resulted in a much better book.

Having gone through this writing and editing process twice, I know for sure that my developmental editor’s advice is worth its weight in gold, as both of my books are far stronger because of her advice. Not perfect, I’m sure (that burden is mine alone), but stronger!

If you’re a newbie like me, sinking a lot of money into a book is the last thing you want to do if you have no clue whether or not you’re going to make that money back. But here’s the thing: if you’re indie-publishing and you don’t get your works professionally edited, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. If you’re aiming for traditional publishing, you might also be sunk if your work isn’t solid enough to catch an agent or publisher’s attention. Gone are the days when agents/publishers were willing to dig and dig and dig for the diamond amongst the coal. You’ve got to pressure that puppy into a mostly finished gem yourself. Make use of the tools around you – critique groups, beta readers, and mostly definitely an editor!

Front Cover of A Matter of Time by Margaret LockeAnd now … A Matter of Time, a time-travel Regency romance in which a modern-day Austenite’s dreams come true when she lands in the arms of a Regency duke – only to realize some fantasies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be when he proves less than a Prince Charming.

Here’s the official scoop:

Love comes when least expected.

Nobody would blame widowed doctoral student Eliza James for giving up on Happy Ever After; at twenty-nine, she’s suffered more loss than most people do in a lifetime. But Eliza’s convinced her own hero is still out there, waiting for her, just like in the beloved romance novels she devours. Every girl deserves a Darcy, right?

Only Eliza doesn’t dream of a modern-day affair: she wants the whole Regency experience. When a magical manuscript thrusts her back two hundred years into the arms and life of one Deveric Mattersley, Duke of Claremont, however, Eliza soon realizes some fantasies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, especially when her duke proves himself less than a Prince Charming.

Deveric Mattersley has no interest in women, much less marriage. Determined to atone for his sins after convincing himself he’s at fault for the death of his first wife, he decrees himself content to focus on running his family’s estates, and on raising his son–until the mysterious Mrs. James appears. Who is she? What does she want? And why does she make Dev’s blood run hot in a way no woman ever has?

Can a man with a past and a woman from the future forge a love for all time?

“I fell in love with this book, just as I did with the Jane Austen classics. There’s a new Mr. Darcy in town.” – Annie, ARC reader, reviewer for The Write Review and ChickLitPlus.com.

You can pre-order A Matter of Time today on Amazon for only $2.99! Paperbacks available on official release day, November 30th, 2015.


Margaret LockeA lover of romance novels since the age of ten (shh, don’t tell mom!), Margaret Locke declared as a teen that she’d write romances when she grew up. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grown-up things (such as earning that master’s degree in medieval history), not penning steamy love stories. Yeah, whatever. Turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first love, this time as an author as well as a reader.

Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window; she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person).

Margaret loves to interact with fellow readers and authors! You may find her here:

Website/Blog: http://margaretlocke.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/AuthorMargaretLocke
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/Margaret_Locke
Twitter: @Margaret_Locke

Thanks for putting up with this self-centered Writer Wednesday!
We’ll see you next week when we turn the spotlight back to where it belongs – on all those marvelous writers out there! 

Writer Wednesday: Meet Katy Regnery

Welcome to Writer Wednesday, a new weekly feature in which I’ll be introducing you to one new author (mostly romance, occasionally other genres).

Photo of Katy Regnery
Katy Regnery

First up in the line-up is the fabulous Katy Regnery, who knocks me off my feet not only with her amazing prolificacy (12 books in 12 months?), but with the superb quality of her work.

You want emotionally mesmerizing reads? Try her books! I highly recommend the English Brothers series.

Here she shares with us her answers to three questions:

1. Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book.

The book I’m writing now – Never Let You Go (a modern fairytale #2) – has a character, Holden Croft, who fist fights other men for money. He’s in a pretty bad fight fairly early in the book, and to be realistic, I needed to choose injuries that were likely to happen between the combatants, then track the healing process over the ensuring weeks. If you go to the Wikipedia page that covers black eyes, they have a series of 10 pictures that shows the way a black eye heals over the course of 10 days. Using those pictures, I was able to describe Holden’s eyes in my book as a way of showing both healing and time lapse.

2. What fellow romance author do you recommend reading, and why?

Right now I am devoted to anything written by Mia Sheridan. Her book, Archer’s Voice, is a must-read, but I have to say that every book she writes – Stinger, Becoming Calder, Finding Eden, Kyland – are all phenomenal. She’s really committed to character development, her structure is solid and she always scares the crap out of me with a red herring. (ie: She leads you to think one thing, but clarifies it later in a way that isn’t a sell out.)

3. What one piece of advice do you wish you’d had when first starting out?

I was very swept away by my first offers (my first book, By Proxy, was offered publishing contracts by Harlequin, Astrea Press, Turquoise Morning Press and Boroughs Publishing) and I was so flattered, I didn’t take enough time to really think about what I wanted and what would be best for me as an author. I signed a contract, which quickly turned into eight contracts, and I was in way over my head before realizing that I wanted to be an indie author. It was a lot of work (655K words!) to complete those contracts, but I did it in 13 months and now I only publish indie.

Katy Regnery
Amazon Bestselling Author
Member, RWA PAN

Thanks so much for sharing, Katy! Check out Katy’s Amazon Page. 

he English Brothers Series by Katy Regnery