Hello Mixed-Up Filers!
Are we in for a treat! Today, I’m pleased to have with us, Karen Chaplin, Executive Editor at Quill Tree Books / Harper Children’s/Teen!
JR: Hi Karen, thanks for joining us today!
KC: Thanks so much for having me!
KR: To start with, could you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming an editor at Harper?
KC: Sure! I had a bit of an unconventional path to becoming an editor. I started out on the children’s managing editorial side of the process—copy editing, scheduling, proofreading. I did that for a few years until I made my way to editorial, first in academic publishing, then back to children’s, where my heart always was. I look at all my different jobs as huge learning opportunities, and even though I didn’t go the traditional route, I still use all the knowledge I gained from my time in managing editorial and academic publishing. They were extremely valuable experiences.
JR: You’re right, that is unconventional. But thankfully, you wound up in children’s books! And speaking of which, what was the first book you worked on?
KC: When I was at Puffin/Penguin Young Readers Group, my very first acquisition was a four-book YA series call The Specialists by Shannon Greenland. They were such fun books! About a girl who was recruited into a secret spy group, which eventually became her family. Sort of a version of X-Men meets Spy Kids.
JR: X-Men meets Spy Kids? I’m in! What do you enjoy the most about your job?
KC: I love working with my authors. Collaboration, exchanging ideas, being creative—it’s exciting to bring an author’s vision to life and have a small hand in it.
JR: When I read the books you’re involved with, it is some eclectic list. Is there anything that you look for in particular?
KC: I’ll say that one of the things that unites my fiction list is a strong narrative/character voice that takes me back to being a kid. It’s so hard to do, but when it is done well, these characters feel like they could’ve been me, or one of my friends, back in the day. And as for nonfiction, I love learning new things, so the stories I like to bring to readers are ones that are little-known or a different perspective or experience on a familiar time period.
JR: Are you very hands-on with your authors?
KC: I try to take cues from my author. I’m happy to be a very hands-on editor if my author needs me to be. At the same time, I never want to be too hands-on that I crush the creative spirit. But I tell my authors I’m here if they need me.
JR: That sounds like a good policy. What advice can you give to authors?
KC: What I tell my authors is to read in the category you want to write in—learn everything you can from other authors. Writing is a craft, and you can always get better and learn new things. I would also say don’t get caught up in trends or word counts. Write until the story feels finished. You can always go back and revise—that is probably the biggest part of the writing process.
JR: Great advice! Now, I have to know, what was your favorite book as a child?
KC: Wow, that is a tough one. There were so many! I was obsessed with From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Harriet the Spy. I also devoured Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Beezus and Ramona.
JR: From the Mixed-Up Files? Well, you certainly came to the right place for that! I read that you also liked the Encyclopedia Brown, which I loved as well, but if you had been friends with him, do you think he might’ve gotten on your nerves for being a know-it-all?
KC: Ha! I did love Encyclopedia Brown—and really mysteries in general. I was a huge fan of all thing mystery—Agatha Christie for one. And yes, I do think I would’ve gotten a little annoyed with Encyclopedia Brown, but he was clever and always right….
JR: I LOVE Agatha Christie! And Then There Were None is one of my all-time faves! I know that you’re also a fan of The Great British Bake Off. You posted a challah that you baked, which looked delicious. Do you enjoy baking in general? If so, what’s your specialty, and follow-up, did you make enough for everyone?
KC: You’ve done your homework! Yes, I got into GBBO, probably a bit late, and it inspired me to make a challah, which looked great but turned out dreadful. (I will conquer bread one of these days!) I do really like to bake in general. I make a lot of banana bread, which my family devours within a few hours of it coming out of the oven, usually not even leaving me a slice.
JR: Well, they do look great, so when you conquer bread, save me a slice! How can people follow you on social media?
KC: I’m on Twitter @capchapreads
JR: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us today!
KC: Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to chat!
Well, that’s it for this month, my mixed-up friends! I’d like to once again thank Karen Chaplin for joining us, and until next month, Happy Reading!