Interview with editor Frances Foster, The Best Last Days of SummerMay 7, 2010
Today, I’m welcoming Frances Foster to DayByDayWriter. Frances is publisher of Frances Foster Books, with Farrar Strauss Giroux Books for Young Readers and editor of The Best Last Days of Summer, by Valerie Hobbs. This is the 10th book of Valerie’s that Frances has edited.
A little about The Best Last Days of Summer, and then we’ll get to the questions. The middle grade novel is about 12-year-old Lucy Crandall, who’s spending her usual summer week with her grandmother in a cabin on a lake. While Lucy worries about being popular in her next school year and her neighborhood kid with Downs syndrome, she discovers that she has bigger things to worry about. Her grandmother isn’t well, and this will be their last summer at the lake.
By the way, this is just one stop on Valeries Hobbs’ book tour. Click over to her blog to see the others and make sure you leave comments. Everyone who leaves a comment has a chance of winning a T-shirt or signed copy of the book.
Now onto the interview with Frances Foster.
What attracted you to The Last Best Days of Summer?
First it was Lucy, then her wonderful grandmother.
The voice of Lucy in the book is so strong right from the first sentence. How much of that voice was in the book before you acquired it?
Lucy’s voice was strong from the beginning and kept getting stronger and truer as the story developed. More and more of her kept being revealed as she got to know herself better, and when Eddie’s role grew larger, Lucy became an even more complex and interesting character.
Valerie has great descriptions and uses beautiful language. How much of that was brought out through your partnership with Valerie?
Storytelling comes so naturally to Valerie that, much as I’d like to, I can’t claim any credit for her graceful descriptions or beautiful language — unless it’s that editing helps eliminate distracting and/or extraneous detail, allowing Valerie’s storytelling gifts to shine clearly and unimpeded. But Valerie Hobbs almost never overwrites, so gives me no opportunity to cut and slash.
What do you look for in a manuscript you’re going to buy?
Voice, story, and writing (content, substance, and meaning), and whatever I buy has to resonnate with me in some way. I have to believe in it.
Generally, how much editing do you do on your books?
Only what I think is absolutely needed, meaning it can be minimal on some books and extensive on others. In general, I think of myself as a light editor, but I question anything that doesn’t sound right to me. I ask lots of questions.
What is the worst thing you see writers doing that you’d love them to do differently?
I can’t answer this question but instead let me say something more about Valerie. I can think of no writer who equals her ability to bring together really unlikely characters and make us want to spend time with them. In THE LAST BEST DAYS OF SUMMER there is Lucy, who is losing her childhood; her grandmother, losing her memory; and Eddie, a special needs boy who most of the time is innocently clueless. In DEFIANCE, her main characters are a boy who is fighting cancer, and a poet and a cow who are fighting old age. These are people with serious problems that Valerie treats with respect and humor and without the slightest trace of sentimentality, though the emotions she evokes are deep and heartfelt. She makes us cry.
What other books have you edited recently?
THIS GORGEOUS GAME by Donna Freitas; STUCK ON EARTH by David Klass; THE SMALL ADVENTURES OF POPEYE & ELVIS by Barbara O’Connor and her new book THE FANTASTIC SECRET OF OWEN JESTER; UNDER A RED SKY, a memoir by Haya Molnar; CROSSING STONES, a novel in poems by Helen Frost; a new book about Madlenka, MADLENKA SOCCER STAR by Peter Sis; Monika Schroder’s second novel, SARASWATI’S WAY; and in non-fiction DINOSAUR MOUNTAIN by Deborah Kogan Ray.
Are there any books you wish you could have edited? And if so, what are they?
I often wish I had edited a book I love, not because I would have done it differently, but because I would have liked to have that connection to the book and author. It’s probably a pleasure-seeking thing. I felt that way after reading MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork.
Thanks for the great answers, Frances.