Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Guest post by Alexandra Sellers + Giveaway

Today I am happy to welcome Alexandra Sellers to Ex Libris, who has had her romance novels published for more than 30 years now! Alexandra has recently decided to reissue her very first published novel, Captive of Desire, in ebook format and for the occasion she agreed to tell us more about her experience. Please give her the warmest welcome and scroll down for a fantastic giveaway! ;-) 

Editors—and Captive of Desire
by Alexandra Sellers

A good editor is essential to almost any writer, any book. Editors smooth the path of literature. Over the course of my writing career, I have worked with well over twenty different editors. Among them, I've had the wonderful good fortune to work with three of the best editors in romance. These women were possessed of very different and individual skills, but all contributed hugely to the books they worked on. I remember them with gratitude and affection and, like any lost love, wish they were still mine.

Then there are the middling editors, who do their job largely without causing grief, but also without making those inspired judgement calls that can lift a moment, a scene, a whole plot—editors who might be someone else's ideal editor, but with whom perhaps I simply didn't click.

And then, sadly, there are those who range between barely adequate, mediocre, and simply awful. They are the English Lit grads who have a tin ear, or the dictators who think that your book should be something they would have written if they could write. I'm-More-Than-Just-An-Editor thinks your book is only a blueprint and she is entitled to strip away what makes it your own and build her preferred edifice onto it. Editor Mustn't Offend Anyone is determined to cut any paragraph that makes her a little uncomfortable and simplify any word she fears no one but herself will understand. Editor Plod is diligent in inserting every deliberately omitted 'had' in a flashback, but misses the moon phase mistake you made. She gets uncomfortable with flights of fancy, too (“he's not really a lion, though, Alexandra!”). Editor DumbDown has a belief that no reader should ever have to stop and think over a book. And the Science-Today-Editor-Manqué is made anxious by descriptions that aren't sufficiently scientifically detailed (see canoe below).

I once had a character at a masquerade party dressed as Julius Caesar, who took a brave bold step which I described as Caesar 'crossing the Rubicon'. My (otherwise pretty good) editor took exception to this. “There's actually no river in the room, Alexandra,” she informed me helpfully. “So I think we should change it to 'Caesar meanwhile crossed the imaginary Rubicon...'” One very sporty editor would not allow me to say that my heroine “slid into a canoe”. Oh, no, no! The editor was a canoeist and no one, but no one, dear reader, ever slides into a canoe! Did you know that? A canoe is a difficult thing to get into, it's awkward! So my heroine had to “clamber” into the canoe—for although I myself am not unsporty, and I feel I have several times managed to slide into a canoe, this editor was intractable. She also took exception to the little patch of blue sky my heroine observed on a cloudy day, because there's no such thing as a patch of sky, right? A patch on a pair of jeans, now, she could see that! A patch of sky—what's that? She wanted to take out all the “sad bits”, too, (including the entire prologue and epilogue) and objected to anything that was ”so strong, Alexandra!” or “so heavy!” And every mild expletive was deleted and replaced with “Cripes!” She had about fifty of such edits on every single page, or so my traumatised memory tells me! She couldn't seem to see the difference between a scientific treatise and a love story, either, and in the end—well, in the beginning!—we agreed to part, and I got a new editor.

These are the editors who simply do not get metaphor, imagination, style, voice. They are actively destructive, because the writer spends all her time wrestling with the bad edits rather than her own mistakes. Worse, she is not getting the advantage of a fresh outside look at her work to see where the real problems are. These are the editors one hopes and prays to be spared from.

And then there was the editor who worked over Captive of Desire.

Captive of Desire is, of all the 40 or so books I've written, the one that was and remains closest to my heart. It was part of me in a totally indescribable way, and still is. But it was only my second published book, and I really didn't understand how to thwart an editor who was bent on the destruction of my author voice. For, on re-reading while I prepared the book for eBook reissue, I could see that that was the intent. Changes that perhaps no one but myself might notice—small, insignificant, but endlessly eroding changes, cumulatively took the book out of my voice, and blanded it. The fact was, the editor just didn't like my style, and she had the power and she used it. Later, as I've said above, I learned. If I didn't like what an editor was doing, I got up on my hind legs and fought. But then, I didn't know how to stop her. I thought that was what editors did.

Her turgid interpolations make me cringe almost as much as the cuts to voice she made: as recognition flashed was one line she insisted on adding. As the truth dawned was another. And for minutes that seemed like eternity. My heroine said something to herself “violently” at one point, and this scrupulous editor took the word out because, “Alexandra, I'm sorry, I just don't like violence!” And she categorically insisted that we take out one line because “that's poetry, Alexandra, and I am a poet and you are writing prose and I just will not allow you to have a line that sounds like poetry in a novel!” She also said something that now would make me throw something: “Alexandra, I am the editor of this book and people will know that.” Yes, she said that.

Later I discovered that she fancied herself not just a poet, but a novelist. She wrote a romance novel herself and Yup! You guessed it! She put lines of poetry in: “Saturday morning Lizzie rose up singing.” Imagine how my heart hardened when I saw that!

Source: Zazzle
Well, and now it's thirty years on, and the book is mine again. I have now the chance to restore my prose and publish my book the way I wrote it. I've kept my original MS all these years, through moves between 9 homes, 5 cities, 3 countries and 2 continents, I suppose because I couldn't let it go. And so it was easy to find the editor's cuts and emendations. One or two, I found, were actually worthwhile, and those I retained. But the vast majority have gone. With the benefit of thirty years' distance, I've acted as my own editor and made some of the changes my editor should have been making then. And now, at last, I feel that my book is being published. Now my heart is at peace with this book. It's home. I can't tell you what a relief this is! As if I'd been prostituted then and now my purity is somehow restored. It's been a surprise to me, and impossible to describe.

Of course, after thirty years, I wanted to rewrite the book in parts. There was one scene especially that I think now should have gone differently. But I've resisted the temptation to make major revisions. I had to be true to the book I wrote then, not turn it into the one I would write now.

So: I've always been curious about how readers really respond to the kind of blandness that is sometimes imposed on romance novelists:

Does it offend you if, while reading a book, you come across a word that you haven't met before?
Do you resent it when a book says something uncomfortable about the world?
Should a romance novel never, ever disturb you or make you think?
Should characters in a novel be allowed to express opinions you might disagree with?
Does it bother you that in romance, unique author voice is so often sacrificed on the altar of uniformity of product?

A writer and editor for the past 30 years, Alexandra Sellers has written over two million words for print, both fiction and non-fiction, including articles, reviews, training material, brochures, websites, mini-series ‘bibles’, blurbs, obituaries, short stories, and over 35 books. Her novels have been translated into more than 15 languages. She has also written and produced murder mystery experiences, and for several years taught her own course in How to Write Romance.

Alexandra Sellers has been a full-time writer since the publication of her first novel in 1980, writing novels that are both spiritually and emotionally intense. In 1997, her novel A Nice Girl Like You was nominated by Romantic Times for a Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Silhouette Yours Truly. Three years later she received the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Fantasy.
The common theme that runs through her novels is the cosmic union of male and female: the reuniting, through deep romantic love manifested in the sex act, of that universal soul which was divided into male and female at the moment of physical creation, and which has been searching for its other half ever since. Her novels also express a fundamental belief that love conquers all. Sellers is a writer who uses the canvas of romantic novels to present her ideas not only about love, but also about the world.

For more on Alexandra and her books connect with her at


Captive of Desire by Alexandra Sellers

Laddy Penreith was seventeen the night she met Soviet writer Mischa Busnetsky. Surrounded by a watchful crowd, neither could reveal the searing passion that flared between them.

Eight years later -- years Mischa had spent in prison for his writing -- that flame still burned for Laddy. When Mischa was suddenly released and came to London, she flew to him, and his touch told her he had forgotten nothing.

But then an act of betrayal drove Mischa so far away that Laddy felt the brief golden hours of their lovemaking had been all in vain....


GIVEAWAY RULES:

Alexandra has generously offered the following great prizes:


A grand prize:

1 diary/planner with the Captive of Desire cover
1 bookbag with the Captive of Desire design
Captive of Desire mousemat 
1 ebook copy of Captive of Desire

And a runner up prize pack: 

1 bookbag with the Captive of Desire design 
1 ebook of Captive of Desire

To be entered just leave a comment, answering any (or all) of Alexandra's questions above in orange.

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 8 February 2013!

Good luck!

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