Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ellen Datlow Interview

The Horror Librarian: What's the most enjoyable part of your job? What's the least enjoyable?

Ellen Datlow: I'm a reader, have always loved reading, and feel privileged that much of my job is reading. But I also love working with writers on their stories to make them better. I feel that my job as an editor is to enable the writer communicate what she's trying to communicate in a story.

The least enjoyable part of my job is rejecting stories by writers whose work I usually love.

The Horror Librarian: What's your dream project? And what won't you ever work on?

Ellen Datlow: My dream projects are anthology ideas that I haven't gotten around to selling yet. And since I haven't, I'd rather not talk about them ;-).

I'll never work on projects that don't interest me. I've occasionally tried to edit just for the money but it's deadening. I'm extraordinarily lucky that throughout my professional life I've usually been able to acquire and edit the stories I want to. Once in awhile my agent has approached me with an idea she thought would be very commercial but in which I had no interest. I had to say no. If I'm going to be living with an anthology for two years or more (from the time I sign a contract to when the book comes out) I have to love it.

The Horror Librarian: You've won a sizable number of prestigious awards.  What do you do to celebrate?  Do you have any odd habits or traditions that contribute to your success?

Ellen Datlow: I put the newest award near my working space so I can admire it for awhile. Then it goes on the top of my armoire with other awards. Most awards are given at banquets so I celebrate with friends. The head of sent me a bottle of single malt scotch when I won the Hugo last year. And a couple of publishing friends had a gorgeous bouquet of roses delivered to me at the banquet where I was given the Life Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Convention this past year.

I love my job. I love short stories. I love working with writers. I think those are the major things that contribute to my success. When I'm lucky, my taste dovetails with readers' tastes. Then my anthologies sell ok and some of the stories I acquire are nominated for awards. But those aspects are a total crap-shoot.

The Horror Librarian: What's a day in the life of Ellen Datlow like?

Ellen Datlow: I work from home so wake up around eight hours after I go to sleep. I pretty much need eight hours. I read and respond to my email first thing and check twitter and facebook, the weather report, and the news (all online). Eat breakfast. Some of my day is taken up by errands and I go to my PO Box daily or every other day to pick up review copies and other business mail.

The rest of the time I switch between reading and editing. I'm always working on more than one anthology at a time - I may contact writers to ask if they'll contribute a story or how a story is coming along. I read submissions for (solicited only- I don't read the slush pile). I'll edit stories I've bought or work with writers on stories I think I might buy (only for original anthos and for

I mostly do my focused work in the evening/night.

There's also responding to interviews (like now). Setting up book signings for various forthcoming anthologies.

Attending conventions.

The Horror Librarian: Do you have any advice for budding authors and editors?

Ellen Datlow: For writers - get paid for your work. If it's worth writing, it's worth getting paid for it. Learn to self-edit. Don't ever send out a story without putting it aside for a few days, and going back and rereading it. But DO send it out. Don't wait for a response once it's out the door. Write another story. Writing needs to be an ongoing process.

Write what you care about not what you think will sell.

Read widely, not just in the field in which you want to write.

If you want to become an editor it helps to start by reading a lot of slush to see what's out there.
Learn the difference between substantive editing, line editing, and copy editing.

The Horror Librarian: List 5 things that are on your editing desk right now.

Ellen Datlow: My iMac sitting on two BIG books (because I use my cocktail table as a desk and it's a bit low.

Water bottle
jawbone of a horse or some other large critter (resting against said printer/fax/photocopier/scanner)
My favorite ballpoint pen

The Horror Librarian: Thanks, Ellen!

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