Sunday, January 17, 2010

Q&A with Editor Heather Osborn

A longtime lover of the written word, Heather Osborn is the editor for the Tor Romance line. A former bookseller, Heather relocated from sunny Southern California to New York City (by way of Ohio) several years ago. Despite this strange thing called snow, she loves the East Coast.

When she isn't editing, Heather can be found baking, reading, playing RPG video games obsessively, and watching entirely too much Ninja Warrior.

Heather plans to continue publishing great paranormal romances for Tor, while at the same time acquiring her other loves—Urban Fantasy and Paranormal YA.

DRose: Welcome Heather and thank you so much for joining us. Let’s start with something easy. When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

Heather: Well, I never had a firm idea of what I wanted to be – I just knew I didn’t want to be a teacher. I come from a long line of teachers; my grandmother, mother, aunt, and now my sister are all teachers. So I know exactly how hard a job it is. And probably the #1 question I got as a kid was “are you going to be a teacher like your mom?” And I always very quickly answered NO!

That being said, I always knew I wanted to work with books. I have always been a crazy bookworm, and I can think of no better job than one where I am paid to read all day. Too bad editing is much more than that! My absolute perfect job would be to own and operate my own indie book store. HEAVEN.

DRose: Is there someone who influenced you to become an editor?

Heather: Well, no one person actually influenced me. I think it was more a gradual realization that there was a magical job out there that involved picking manuscripts to be made into books. It seemed like a sweet deal to me! There was just one problem with my plan. I grew up in Southern California – a long way from the publishing hub of the United States – New York City.

DRose: I imagine that move was quite a culture shock. Was there anything you found surprising about New York as compared to California?

Heather: Well, I don’t know if I found much surprising. I am a pretty pragmatic person, so I knew to expect different weather, culture, etc. I suppose the biggest change for me is the amount of people out and about at any given time. California is such a car culture. You can drive around town all day and rarely see a person on the street. In NYC, cars are the minority and people walk everywhere. In fact, when I go back to SoCal to visit family, it is always a bit of culture shock to see the empty streets! Oh, and I jay-walk against traffic all the time now. Just like a true New Yorker!

DRose: As an editor your bookshelf must be crammed with novels. Are there any particular books you read for pleasure?

Heather: The same things I edit. Honestly! My favorite fiction genre is romance. And my favorite sub-genre of romance is paranormal romance. So I really am working my dream job. In addition to romance, I read urban fantasy, and regular science fiction and fantasy.

DRose: If you could attempt another profession aside from Editor, what profession would it be?

Heather: Well, as I mentioned above, I would love to own and operate my own bookstore. I was actually a bookseller for close to 10 years, starting at Waldenbooks and moving to Barnes & Noble. I can’t see myself ever doing something that isn’t related to books in some way.

DRose: What one word would you use to describe yourself?

Heather: Man, this is hard! One word, huh? Okay. GREGARIOUS.

DRose: A person’s surroundings can be very telling. What does your workspace look like?

Heather: Indescribably messy. I manage to keep the area directly in front of my monitor and keyboard clear, but to either side is nothing but clutter. I do eventually get sick of it and do an epic cleanse, but that happens about once every 4 months or so. For some pictures of my workspace the way it looks right this second, please check out these links:,, and

DRose: When you’re not working do you have any hobbies?

Heather: Well, I read. Yes, even in my free time! I also play RPG video games – Final Fantasy is a fave, watch lots of questionable reality TV – catch my recaps of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Toddlers & Tiaras on Twitter! – and I love to travel, although I haven’t done much non-business related travel in the last few years.

DRose: You will likely be inundated with questions this week so how about a few you won’t be asked? Like, If you were stranded on an island… what four things would you want with you?

Heather: An e-reader with internet, a portable battery charger, sunscreen, and a satellite phone!

DRose: What was the most dangerous or scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Heather: Hmmm. I haven’t done many daredevil-y things, actually. I guess the scariest thing I have ever done is picking up and moving across country to a place where I knew no-one for a job. Scary!

DRose: If you could have lunch with anyone living or dead… who would it be?

Heather: That is a tough one! I guess it would be Jane Austen. Love her books.

DRose: If you could live in another time period… when would it be and why?

Heather: I would live in the future. Maybe 100 years from now? And why? Because I want a hovercar and a jetpack! Oh, and I really want to live in an age of teleportation. I haaate flying. Not because of a phobia, but because of how much time it wastes.

DRose: What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word?

Heather: Well, growing up in Southern California, I have what you would call a … creative vocabulary. About half the words I use on a regular basis are slang. So for my favorite not really a word word, I would have to go with ridonkulous. It has such a nice ring to it.

For my favorite actual word, it would have to be tintinnabulation. It means “a ringing in the ears” and was an extra credit spelling word in 4th grade. I never forgot it. As for my least favorite word? Hmm. Oh! That’s easy – their! I always misspell that damn word. For some reason, I really want it to be t-h-i-e-r. So frustrating!

DRose: What was your most embarrassing moment (that you are comfortable sharing).

Heather: Oh heck. I am always good for some embarrassing moments. The trouble is, when you have so many of them they tend to all run together. I guess one of my most embarrassing moments was inadvertently arriving a day early to a conference, having no hotel room, and having to find one in a fully booked city at @2:30 a.m. That was definitely a shining moment.

DRose: Tell us something about you no one else knows.

Heather: I second-guess myself. Every. Single. Day.

DRose: And now the Flash Round:

Favorite Ice Cream flavor? Chocolate-Peanut Butter Swirl

Favorite Food? A rib-eye steak.

Favorite flower? Gerber Daisy.

Guilty Pleasure? Trashy BBC documentaries. Have you seen “I Married the Eiffel Tower”?! SO CRAZY.

Thank you so much, Heather. It’s been a pleasure.

Heather will be stopping in regularly to answer your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask.


  1. Good Morning Heather. Thank you so much for being here. I really enjoyed reading your interview. I think I'm going to have to watch BBC documentaries now. ;-)

    I have a question. Do you feel it's in the best interest for a writer to invest in a copyeditor/book doctor? Does it make a difference to you at how you look at a work if it has been professionally copyedited?

    Thank you.

  2. Hi Terri,

    I don't think a copyeditor/book doctor is vital. I do think the manuscript should be as polished as you can make it. Whether that happens through beta readers, critique groups or partners, or a copyeditor/bookdoctor is up to you.

    That being said, make sure you get solid recommendations from people you trust before paying someone to edit your manuscript. There are a lot of scammers out there.

    From an editorial point of view, if a manuscript comes in in a very rough condition, it does affect the way I look at it. It is also an indication that the author did not do his/her homework. Career minded authors know that their manuscript needs to be in good condition before they submit it.

    That being said, a couple of typos are not grounds for instant manuscript rejection!

  3. Hi Heather. Thank you for taking the time to chat with writers today!

    I'm working on a romantic suspense novel right now. At least I think it's a romantic suspense novel, which brings me to my question:

    How blurred are the lines in romance sub-genres?

    My story contains ancient folklore, petroglyphs, mystical healing, vortex sites, and crystals (in a modern setting). Does any of that scooch my category towards paranormal or any other sub-genre? I want to make sure I'm able to pitch this project credibly, but my research has left me scratching my head.

  4. Hi Windy!

    Lots of books do blur the lines between genres and sub-genres. But in order to efficiently market the books, publishers usually have to make a choice between one genre or the other. I would suggest asking friends, critique partners, or beta readers to review your manuscript when you are finished and asking them what sub-genre they think it is.

    While publishers will occasionally place books in a different genre than an author intended, this is not the norm. And in order to target your book to the right editor and publishing house, you need to have a solid idea of where your book belongs in the bookstore.

    Hope this helps!

  5. Hi, Heather. We first met when I was on what my family called the Mickey Mouse Book Tour in Southern California. I did a signing in your store. I think you're a natural for what you're doing now, and the books you've aquired and edited prove that. Keep up the good work, as I not only write paranormal romance--I read them. :) All best, Deb Stover

  6. Hi Heather! Thanks so much for chatting with us. What great answers! I have to say, I have that same problem with 'their'.
    I have a question for you as well, if you don't mind. Can you offer any piece of advice on platform building for new and unpublished authors?
    Thanks so much!
    Amber Scott

  7. Hi Deb!

    Of course I remember you. I believe that was the first official signing I was put in charge of when I was working at Waldenbooks. I remember you were scared at the sheer number of books I ordered, but I assured you they would sell.

    And sure enough, a month later we had sold about 60 copies! Handselling is truly the best part of being a bookseller.

  8. Hi Amber,

    Wow, that's a good question. First off, I want to say that beyond anything else, an author should first and foremost devote their time to writing. The internet can be an enormous timesuck, and authors can get so wrapped up in their online presence that they forget to write the best book possible. And while an online presence is great, a great book is the best advertising of all. I mean, look at Linda Howard! She has absolutely no web presence and still manages to be a well-respected bestseller.

    That being said, I think the number one most important thing is to have a professional looking, easy to navigate website. No music, no sparkly glitter mouse trails, no blinking icons. Just a neat, clean, professional spot that has a printable book list, a new book section, and a spot to list upcoming releases. Provided you keep this up to date and well-maintained, there's no need to do much else. Now, should you want to, you can certainly blog, facebook, twitter, etc. But only if you want to, and are able to do it consistently.

    After all, there's nothing sadder than an orphaned blog last updated 6 months ago.

    Hope this helps!

  9. Hi Heather.

    I had a question for you. I'd like to submit to TOR, but on the website, the only way to query (unless I missed it) seems to be by way of regular mail. Is there a way to query/submit by email? And is it okay to address the submission to you, or should it go to Paranormal Romance Acquisitions Editor?

    I've always wondered if submissions are better addressed to a specific editor or just to general submissions. Does it matter?

    Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you at the Desert Rose Conference!


  10. Hi Heather,

    Not sure if this loop is still open, but as I just found the link figured I'd give it a go. Can you clarify the types of romance TOR is interested in?

    I'm struggling with defining what genre my MS fits in and it seems to touch on a little of several, but doesn't scream a particular one. Ie, it involves a fictional land, but no fairies, shapeshifters, vampires, werewolves, trolls, etc, but does have telekenisis, telepathey and mystic jou-jou with a little creative science thrown in. But I don't know if that quite qualifies it as paranormal. It's involves multiple time periods as well.

    Are creatures of a non-traditional ilk or futuristic sci-fi settings mandatory for TOR?

    Thank you for your time and we all look forward to meeting you at the conference.

    Shannon Fitzpatrick
    w/a Morgan McGuire
    Author of Swashbuckling Romance