When my agent first told me about Karen Kosztolnyik, the executive editor at Gallery that had acquired my book, she said: “You’re going to love her. She likes margaritas as much as you do.” And she was right, that did make me love her. But Karen also has a million other qualities that make her the perfect editor for me and BEFORE I GO. Namely, that she not only loved my book, but that she got it. When talking about Jack and Daisy, it felt like she knew who they were just as much as I did. We were figuratively — and literally — on the same page, during the editing process. So much so, that sometimes I felt like she could read my mind. I’m still not convinced that she can’t, because the first time I went to New York to meet her, we were wearing the exact same outfit. From head to toe. Eerie stuff, right?
Anyway, I don’t know what else you could want from an editor (good fashion taste, good liquor taste, and whip smart). So, without further ado, here is my editor extraordinaire Karen Kosztolnyik, to chat about the publishing business, and — of course— margaritas.
How many pages into a manuscript do you know it’s something you want to acquire? Sometimes I know I want to acquire a project after reading the first few pages if the voice and concept immediately draw me in. However, I do need to finish reading the whole manuscript before making an offer, just to make sure it doesn’t irrevocably fall apart.
When you’re looking to work with an author, what are the three things that are most important to you?
I always like to talk to the author before acquiring the project, and generally I look for three things: having a great attitude; being amenable to doing revisions; realizing the author is entering into a partnership with an editor, so knowing we will be on the same team working hard for each other.
What was it about my book that made you say, “YES!”?
I was immediately captured by your winning voice! It felt like I was getting to know a friend. You had a wonderful ability at being able to create relatable characters, to end each chapter with a punch to the gut, and you were able to handle difficult subject matter with a down-to-earth quality and humor that made the read enjoyable and not maudlin in the slightest. Your book had a lot of heart to it, which is exactly the type of book I love to acquire. These qualities made the ending to your novel hit me extra hard!
If you were a drink, what drink would you be and why?
I would definitely be a margarita. Being a gal from Texas, it’s the unofficial state drink—and it also happens to be my favorite! (I think it might be your favorite drink, too, Colleen??)
Which recent book do you wish you had acquired?
I really loved WHERE DID YOU GO, BERNADETTE. It quickly became one of my favorite books, and I dearly wished I had acquired it. I love how smart the writing it is. It’s full of humor regarding all-too-human foibles, but there is also a lot of heart to it.