KATHY SWAILES

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world.  Welcome to KATHY SWAILES.

Kathy, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?

As a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) I was approached by Rob for editing and proofreading on behalf of client authors of Betterwrite. Subsequently, I’ve been invited to write some guest blogs, which has been a new experience for me, but I’m finding that I enjoy sharing my knowledge in this way.

Tell us about your work. 

When I first qualified and started editing, I expected to use my biochemical and pharmacological background to take on work in medical editing, but I kept being drawn to fiction editing. Now I’ve discovered that’s where my heart is, and I’ve immersed myself in all aspects of fiction editing including developmental, line- and copy-editing, and some proofreading. My preferred genres include fantasy, romance and science fiction – especially where these genres overlap – but I work in many other areas too.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m just finishing a line-edit of Book 3 in an epic fantasy series, but I’m due to start a developmental edit on a thriller, in which the author recognises they have a problem with perspective (POV, or point-of-view) in the middle, but they’re not quite sure how to resolve the problem.

 What do you like about your work? 

I love trying to help authors with the craft of writing, identifying what’s working well and checking other features that perhaps aren’t as snappy.

What don’t you like? 

I don’t like having to rush through a job because of unreasonable deadlines. I’m scared that by rushing I won’t be giving my best to the author, and that simply goes against my personal work ethic. But I realise that sometimes a balance has to be found between giving my best efforts and the cost of prolonged work hours.

Have you got a personal bugbear? 

I find in my work that I’m coaching an author in aspects of writing craft or simply in correct grammar (and where you can break the rules once you’re aware of them). But sometimes I find that after lengthy discussions on a subject, and the author saying they really understand, the same error is repeated over and over again. That annoys me, and I’d much rather the author ask me to explain in a different way.

What has pleased you in your work? 

I love coming across a new author whose work excites me, and then watching as the book is published in all its glory. If the resulting reviews are positive, that’s just the icing on the cake.

What didn’t please you? 

I’ve had a couple of interactions with authors who told me how long it should take me to do a certain job. In both cases the authors were fairly novice, so they had nothing to base their assumptions on. The gist of which is that it should only take as long to edit a book as it takes to read it – not allowing for time to take notes, make annotations, corrections, do a second read-through, or write an editorial letter. Whilst I’m not comparing myself with a doctor or lawyer in terms of their knowledge, we would never tell such a professional how long they should take to do their job, so it surprises me that a small handful of authors believe they know better than the professional editor they want to hire how to do the job.

 What amused you? 

I’ve not been amused by a particular event during my time as an editor, but I have had a number of authors whose writing is quirky, whose novels include lines and scenes that have made me laugh. I do adore those moments when I come across those funny lines in an otherwise straight book, as they come out of the blue and are such a surprise.

Whose writing do you enjoy? 

Jodi Taylor is one modern author who springs to mind when considering whose writing I enjoy. She writes straight fiction, but with an abundance of British humour including some gentle ribbing of the British way of life. But sometimes her books include pathos under the humour, and sometimes raise philosophical questions, all under the guise of a light-hearted story. In a completely different style I also enjoy authors such as Christine Feehan, Nora Roberts, Margaret Atwood, Janet Evanovich, and Neal Stephenson – an eclectic mix.

Favourite title? 

My favourite title is often the one I’m reading at the time. I read prolifically, often two or three books a week, so if I’m not enjoying something I’ll soon put it aside (unless it’s work, of course). But perhaps some of the fantasy and science-fiction books I read thirty years ago and more remain in my mind, such as Dune by Frank Herbert and Magician by Raymond Feist. More recent titles that I’ve recommended to others include the Frogmorton Farm series by Jodi Taylor, Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and Artemis by Andy Weir.

What do you like about these authors’ writing?

For each of these titles, what’s important to me is that they grip my interest from the outset, have believable characters and plots, and provide satisfactory closure. I say satisfactory, as sometimes a book may frustrate me at the end, but if the story works that way, or if it’s part of a series, then frustration is acceptable!

Give us a quote. 

“Do not fear making mistakes in life, fear only not correcting them” – Master Chen Yen.

And in a similar vein:

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” – Helen Keller.

What’s your favourite word in English? 

Quixotic: it always brings to mind the formidable Don Quixote of La Mancha, jousting with windmills.
I think today’s authors must be quixotic, believing in themselves, their writing and their stories.

Any other quotes that are special for you? 

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the Human Face” – Victor Hugo.

Favourite saying? 

Really?! (That one word, spoken with the right intonation, says so much.)

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got? 

To continue enjoying a wonderfully fulfilling life!

How will you do that? 

Continue living as I do with my two best friends, my husband and my dog, in my adopted country of New Zealand.

What have you learned about life? 

People matter. Always consider others’ feelings.

What have you learned about people? 

That they often see things in a completely different light than you do, despite looking out from the same place.

Tell us something quirky about yourself. 

I adore logic and number puzzles, rarely finish a cup of tea or coffee, and like dogs and elephants more than most humans.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words. 

All was quiet in the house following the chaotic rampaging of children’s feet and the parents’ frenetic efforts to herd the family off for the day. The kitchen door swung open silently, and in glided the newcomer on padded feet.

“Come over here,” purred the tall, dark stranger.

“Why should I?” squeaked the defiant response.

“I mean you no harm. I’m new here and only want to get to know the locals.” She held up one elegant, black paw and said, “See, no claws.”

So the little mouse, thinking there was no danger, crept out of the hole in the wainscot. And the cat pounced, snagging the little mouse with claws no longer retracted. Silly little mouse was no more. (120)

Posted in EDITOR'S Q & A.

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