This month’s Quick Questions guest is Liesa Abrams. Liesa is VP, Editorial Director, Simon Pulse/Associate Editorial Director, Aladdin, which are imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Books. At S&S, Liesa edits a variety of teen and middle grade projects including Rachel Renee Russell’s #1 bestselling DORK DIARIES series, Brandon Mull’s #1 bestselling BEYONDERS series, and Lisa McMann’s bestselling UNWANTEDS series. In addition, she edits bestselling authors Suzanne Young, James Riley, Christopher Pike, and many others. Liesa started in children’s publishing in 1997 at the company now known as Alloy Entertainment, editing classic YA series like SWEET VALLEY HIGH. She left Alloy in 2003 to become a founding editor of Penguin’s Razorbill imprint, where she edited YA titles including R.A. Nelson’s TEACH ME and Maureen Johnson’s DEVILISH.
And here are the questions…
1. What book have you read in the past year (that you didn’t edit yourself) that you want everyone to read? Why?
I rarely have time to read for pleasure since I read such a tremendous amount for work. I do fit in graphic novels occasionally, and I would recommend reading anything by Ed Brubaker (especially his CRIMINAL series) to learn a lot about great pacing and how to craft truly surprising (yet earned) twists. I’d also recommend Brian K. Vaughan for dialogue and character development—Y: THE LAST MAN is an older (great) series of his but his newest is SAGA.
2. What bit of editorial/writing advice would you like to give to writers?
“Make sure your characters step on the traps!” I’m currently playing a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with my husband and some friends (including a managing editor and designer from Simon Pulse)! Last time we played, we reached a room in the dungeon where our dungeon master intimated there was a trap on the floor. We spent an hour having our characters strategize ways around the trap—spells, acrobatics, etc. Finally, my husband got frustrated and bored and announced that his character was stepping on the trap! He wanted to shake up the story, see what a bold, crazy move would do for the action.
It’s exactly what good storytelling requires. Characters must make mistakes, must make choices that lead to consequences that will yield conflict and drama and interesting plot. If they never do anything wrong and the action happens to them rather than because of them, why should readers care?
3. If you could have a cocktail or a cup of tea with one person from history, what would you drink, who would it be, and why do you want to hang out with them?
The beverage would be coffee (dark roast, served black) because I pretty much only drink water, coffee, and the very rare root beer or lemonade.
I’m terrible at history so I’m probably forgetting all the people I should want to meet, but maybe I’d go with Bob Kane and Bill Finger, so I could tell them what Batman meant to me in my life?
4. If you won 50 million dollars, what would you do? Would you still work in publishing?
I would absolutely still work in publishing—editing is as much avocation for me as vocation. But I’d be an editor-at-large and offer my boss a deal where I work for no salary in exchange for living in Portland, OR, or San Francisco, CA. I’d leave the tri-state area in a second if I didn’t need to be here for my job.
Also, I’d use the money to supplement advances for my authors writing books that are passion projects (for them and for me), so that they could afford to write and promote full-time.
5. If you could wave a magic wand and have any kind of manuscript land on your desk what would it be about?
I’m hungry for a character-driven soap opera series with huge epic stakes and characters holding juicy secrets. I also hate to get specific with this question because falling in love with a book isn’t predictable or quantifiable. It’s magic every time it happens and there’s just no formula for that kind of magic.
You can follow Liesa on Twitter @batgirleditor to hear all you need to know about Batman, comics, and gluten-free treats.