Freelance Editor Interview - JENNIFER COLLINS
Today on the Witch Haunt, I’m excited to introduce to you…JENNIFER COLLINS! Jennifer works as a full-time freelance editor specializing in all things dark—especially horror, dark fantasy, and suspense/thrillers. She also works with paranormal romance and other genres of fantasy and sci-fi, but horror is what made her fall in love with reading and writing and editing to begin with. She offers developmental edits, line edits, and copy-edits, and also serves as a writing coach once in a while.
WH: Welcome to the blog, Jennifer! Besides your bio, please give us a brief introduction of your fabulous self:
My name is Jennifer Collins, and I started freelancing as an editor while I was still in graduate school; at that time, I thought I’d be a professor of literature. But, much as I loved teaching contemporary literature and creative writing—and I really, really did love it—academia got to be more stressful than enjoyable, and I never had time for my own writing. I quit work on a PhD and began editing full-time in 2014, and haven’t looked back since. Now, I live in SW Florida with my husband and our five rescues, and get to work with authors every day. My work meetings revolve around brainstorming fixes for plot holes, talking about werewolves and witches, how someone could get caught for a murder, and working through fight scenes, among other things, and every day is different—I love it. If I’m not editing, I’m reading or writing or enjoying the beach.
WH: Sounds you made the right choice! What other career would you have if not editing/publishing?
If I’d known it was an option when I was a kid, I think I might have ended up wanting to be a criminal profiler like you see in Criminal Minds, but I never realized jobs like that existed until I’d long been on the path of a writer/editor/teacher. If I hadn’t ended up here, I have a feeling I would have ended up working in television or movies, either as a writer or as someone dealing with sets and special effects, if not acting. I’ve had a lot of fun in drama classes and teaching acting at summer camps, but more often than not, I’d rather be behind the scenes.
WH: If I could’ve gotten over my shyness early on, I would’ve loved going into acting, but now that I’d like to do it, it’s a little too late. Jennifer, in your opinion, what makes a horror novel scary?
Even as I write this, I’ve got exceptions in mind, but most of the time I think it comes down to character and struggle. If I can understand and relate to a character who’s dropped into a horrific situation, then the whole thing becomes more tangible. Feeling them confront whatever horror is controlling a book, and being able to relate to that struggle for survival—however much blood, fighting, torture, or confusion may be involved—is what makes me stay up all night to finish reading something, long past when my eyes have stopped editing or wanting to read.
WH: Tell us about a few of your edited books or the authors you’re most proud of working with. Anybody you’d recommend to readers?
There are so many! But to name a few… I love the works I’ve edited for Zach Bohannon, JD Brink, J Thorn, Mike Sliter, and Bryce Bentley Summers—all of them have distinctive styles that I really enjoy, with great, character-driven works, and I’m always excited to have them on my calendar. I’ve been working with most of them for years, and never get tired of seeing what they come up with or send my way. Plus, they all care about writing and putting out great stories for readers, and they’re willing to put the work in to make sure that happens.
If I had to pick one favorite work I’ve had the opportunity to edit, hard a question as that is, it might be Zach’s Lines of the Devil. I first edited the short story he wrote around the premise, and told him I wished he’d grow it into a novel—it felt like it wanted to be a novel, and was certainly something I wanted to read with that level of depth. When he did write that full novel, and it showed up in my inbox, it sort of felt like Christmas.
(And by the way, if you want to check out those authors, you can’t go wrong with any of their works, but I’d push you toward Zach Bohannon’s Empty Bodiesseries, JD Brink’s Hungry Gods, J Thorn’s Portal Arcaneseries, Mike Sliter’s Solace Lost, and Bryce Summers’ Wehr Wolff Castle.)
WH: Even more greatness to add to my TBR list. Who are some of your dream authors you wish you could work with?
If hopping into a time machine is an option, then I’d have to say Shirley Jackson or William Hope Hodgson… Barring that, I’d love the opportunity to work with Christopher Buehlman, Dot Hutchison, Mo Hayder, or Richard Kadrey. I’d love to say Clive Barker, but I’m afraid I’d be too starstruck/authorstruck to do him much good as an editor.
WH: Do you have any writing pet peeves you wish authors would avoid?
I’d have to say that my big pet peeve is when a writer plays games with their reader instead of letting a story unfold naturally. Trying to hide a character’s gender or identity, talking about a plan or letter really vaguely for a long period of time… things like this. Suspense is one thing, but if a detail would naturally unfold in the course of a conversation or a character’s observation, then a reader can tell they’re being played with and that the author is stepping in to keep a story from unfolding naturally. This is one of the few things where, if I come across it in a book I’m reading for pleasure, it will likely put me off of an author for good.
In a lot of ways, I think it comes down to respect. Writers have to respect their readers. If they’re trying to play tricks on them, or assuming they won’t ‘notice’ a plot hole or care about it, then they’re not respecting their readers or being true to the stories they’re creating.
WH: I love that—it’s about respecting the readers. So, totally different topic for one minute, because I’m a food snob. How do you like your coffee? What’s your favorite libation? Do you have a favorite dessert?
I remember one of Neil Gaiman’s characters saying he liked his coffee ‘black as night, sweet as sin’—it’s always stayed with me because that’s exactly how I like it. As for dessert… anything with berries. Strawberry shortcake, blackberry cobbler… heck, you can even give me a bowl of blackberries and I’m happy! Libation-wise… that would be a Moscow Mule with crushed blackberries and cucumber, and the strongest ginger beer you can find.
WH: Ooo, berry desserts rock! Do you have any favorite Halloween traditions?
I actually really just love giving out candy to trick-or-treaters. And then, once they’re gone for the night, I just want to curl up with a glass of red wine and a great horror novel.
WH: Yes, yes, yes! What are you afraid of?
Sheep. I find sheep to be incredibly creepy. I’m also skittish around fire, and allergic to sulfur, so you can scare me into the shadows with bonfires or matches, as well.
WH: Isn’t that interesting about the sheep? I once knew a boy who was deathly afraid of birds, which, living in S. Florida, would cause him tons of anxiety. What is the most witchy thing about you (we’re all a little witchy)?
People tell me things, apparently for no reason. Twice, I’ve had a security guard randomly warn me there was about to be a fire alarm in a building, simply in passing or as I was getting into an elevator—with enough time that I could warn friends in my office to finish what they were doing, warn our floor’s admin assistant to get ready, etc. Chalk it up to me being a good listener or blending into the shadows, but things like this happen often enough that I’ll know something is coming because of being told or overhearing, offer a warning to someone, and later be asked, “Um, how did you know that was coming?” My only answer? People tell me things…
WH: Who are your favorite horror characters? A favorite horror book?
Jack Torrance and Danny Torrance from King’s Shining – and, yes, from Doctor Sleep, too. I might also be slightly in love with Barker’s Marty Strauss from The Damnation Game. Without a doubt, The Damnation Game is my favorite horror novel. And if we add in television characters, I have to mention Dean and Cas from Supernatural…
WH: OOF. YES. Are you currently acquiring? What types of stories are you looking for?
I am! I like to tell people I’m interested in anything dark because I really do have pretty eclectic tastes, but I’m always interested in taking on horror (supernatural or otherwise) or dark fantasy, as well as psychological suspense and dark crime books. I don’t do much romance, but I do venture into paranormal romance and dark romance. No matter what, I’m looking for authors who care about telling a good story and building characters who a reader can connect with on some level, or at least believe in, for better or worse… I’ve also had a lot of fun editing horror short stories over the last few years, and would love to work with more short story writers.
WH: How should a writer contact you if they’re interested in working with you?
I actually get pretty much all of my new clients from either word-of-mouth, or because they’ve come across my name in an interview/podcast or a book’s acknowledgements, so the best way to reach me is via email at JLCollinsEdits@gmail.com. Writers can also find me on facebook or twitter. I don’t keep a website going because I already stay busy, and I like having the freedom of just lurking in the shadows…
WH: What is the most awesome thing happening in your life right now that you’d like to share?
I’m at a point in my career where I stay fully booked with editing, but also have time for my own writing. Being a full-time freelancer, it feels pretty amazing to be in that position, and it’s humbling, as well. I’ve also built longstanding relationships with a lot of the authors I work with, and it’s great to be able to call them friends and see their writing (and their stories) progress with each book. I absolutely love getting an email from an author that warns me the ‘next book is coming’ and tells me when to expect it, or shares some recent sales success or praise.
Right now, I’m really looking forward to a sequel I’ve got coming to my inbox next month—I edited the first book in the series a while back, and just adored it, so I can’t wait to see what the author has done in book 2. I’m also expecting a haunted house book soon from an author who’s just contacted me, and I LOVE haunted house stories.
That’s good to know because I write haunted house stories. JI may be contacting you in the near future! Well, Jennifer, thanks so much for being here. It was great getting an editor’s viewpoint on this genre we all love. I look forward to checking out your edited projects in the near future. To contact Jennifer, email JLCollinsEdits@gmail.com.
* Twitter: twitter.com/wytwavedarling
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🔮 GABY TRIANA ☠️