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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Editor Interview : Himanjali Sankar, Editor, Bloomsbury India


Editing takes on a whole new meaning when it is done by a writer. Especially, a children’s writer! For writers like us, understanding and having it explained is a step towards knowing, how much work is actually done, to make our book so much better.

Telling us, that what we need, as an ideal writer, and what we require as a children’s writer, is this editor. With the ability to empathise and loving the literature is this author cum editor, Himanjali Sankar. 

She has written two books, ‘The Magical Adventures of Skinny Scribblesand ‘The Stupendous Timetelling Superdog’, as well. She told us of all the amazing new books that we could read in the new year. So, let’s read on…
What are you looking for in a book, when it first comes to you?

The writing. It has to be competently written. Otherwise I would not read more than a couple of pages.

What, according to you are the qualities of an ideal writer?

For me, an ideal writer is one who has ideas that make me wonder, words that can take me to a different place and an imagination that is sensitive and unusual.

Could you explain the process, from writing, to editing, and finally, printing and marketing?

The answer to this is long and tedious but will make it as short as possible. As an editor, I read a manuscript, if I love it, I communicate that to my colleagues and they read it too.

Once we are all excited about the book, we send a contract to the author. After the signing of the contract comes, the editing, a lot of back and forth with the author, then the proof reading and finally typesetting and getting the manuscript ready for press.

The cover design is important too and is outsourced to a designer. The marketing team comes in at this point and plans the posters, promotional material, tries to get interviews and coverage for the author.

The production team is in charge of printing and getting the book ready for the shelves.

What is the one thing, you would you tell an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many tips as you would like)

I don’t know. Tastes vary, there is so much out there that I love and so much that I don’t that the answer to this is too amorphous and undefined.

The only thing I would say is, immerse yourself in the writing and live with your story and characters for as long as it takes.

Publication itself comes from a coming together of many factors that are often not in your hands or mine!

What do you think an editor can add to the writer’s work?

An editor can shape and direct a manuscript and make it the best it can be.
It is a pleasure to work with a good writer, to hear their thoughts and share yours.

What are you working on now?

Andaleeb Wajid’s Young Adult trilogy, a delicious combination of romance and time travel, is due for publication this year – on its last leg in the production process now!

I don’t know if I am supposed to be talking about the manuscripts in progress.
But there are some wonderful works that I do feel privileged to be associated with.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a book editor? 

From the time I was seven or eight years old I knew that my life would always revolve around English Literature in some way or the other. Book editor happened once I was in University.

What sorts of project(s) are most likely to get an okay from you?

It’s really difficult to say. Maybe, I will receive a manuscript tomorrow which will be written in a style that I have never come across or perhaps a clichĂ©d topic will be treated differently.

It is subjective, end of the day, and it is just instinct not rules that editors follow.

Could you tell us about some of your upcoming titles? 
There is a new voice from Bangladesh, Maria Chaudhuri. Her beautifully evocative book on family and relationships has just been launched, “Beloved Strangers”.

In the course of the next year we will be publishing a fabulous new novel by Raj Kamal Jha and another by Mira Jacob.

What are the main skills, an editor would need to do their job well?

Respect for grammar rules, an ability to empathise and a love for literature. This is particularly for book editors, of course.

What are the main differences you noticed when you were editing a children’s book?

Working with illustrations, using it in different ways, is an important part of children’s publishing.

The requirements from a children’s writer is different too – the writing style, the way the imagination is used, etc.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

To find writers that will make a definitive contribution to literature.

What are your top three favourite books?
There are too many. I can’t do favouritism here!  Some favourite authors though are Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Haruki Murakami and J.M.Coetzee.

What is your favourite thing about being an editor? And your least favourite thing?

The best parting is the editing itself. The worst is the drawing up of the contract.

You are also an author of children’s books. What did you need to consider when you were writing them?

I don’t think I take anything into consideration while writing. I just go where the writing takes me.


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