Today Spring Fling attending editor, Christa Soule of Samhain Publishing was kind enough to do an interview for us. Here’s what she’s got to say:
Q: Why romance?
A: Well, this is complicated, but the short answer is that I spend quite a bit of time in my life advocating for rape survivors and working on behalf of those who have suffered sexual violence. So, for me, romance has always been a safe place, a place to escape, a place to fall in love over and over again. When hard things have happened in my life, I have always gone back to romance because it makes me really happy.
Q: What was the first romance novel you ever read?
A: When I was in fifth grade, I read every Danielle Steele book on my mom’s bookshelf. Then Sidney Sheldon, then Jackie Collins, then I discovered historical romances. It all sort of rolled out from there.
Q: What was the first romance novel you ever loved?
A: Tricky, I love them all for different reasons, but the first romance novel that had an impact on me was Story of O. Which I’m not even sure I would consider a romance novel now, but I vividly remember devouring that book and being sort of fascinated by this world that was very foreign to me.
Q: What do you read when you’re not reading romance?
A: Lots of different things. I write YA so I read a lot of that. I also read lots of non-fiction, anything that interests me or that I want to learn more about. I like literary fiction a lot (faves: Nabokov’s Laugter in the Dark, Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin). Sometimes my dad insists I read political and econ books so I have “more balance” in my life. But those sort of bore me.
Q: What is your favorite trope in a romance novel?
A: I like psychological mindfuckery as a result of messed up pasts. One of my most favorite recent acquisitions was Jackie Ashenden’s TAKING HIM which dealt with a deeply troubled virgin hero and some serious head games.
Q: What are you looking to publish?
A: I like all sorts of different things and can be drawn into almost anything if the story is really good. There’s no romance subgenre that I haven’t edited so I’m comfortable with almost anything. What I’d like more of on my roster: gay fantasy, historicals, multicultural books, high heat/high adrenaline contemp books, books with strong female friendships as a prominent subplot, BDSM with a femme dom.
Q: What do you love about Samhain? What do you love about e-publishing?
A: I love that Samhain has always been so supportive of the books I choose to acquire. That the company’s philosophy is “it’s all about the story” so I can take on projects I love that might not be category top sellers but are really fantastic books. I love the support I’ve gotten from my managing editor and the flexibility of the company in working with authors and editors to make the most positive experience possible. Samhain does both e-publishing and print publishing and I’m quite glad about that. I love the quickness that a book can pop up onto my e-reader at any time of the day or night, but I still have a ton of heart for print books.
Q: What kind of relationship do you typically have with your authors?
A: I love my authors and work hard to push them toward putting out the best product they can, something they can be really proud of. I’m so pleased when my authors try new and different things. And I love seeing them succeed and learn. I’m a tough and thorough editor, but I always make sure my authors know how much I love their books. I’m deeply invested in all of them and overall have been really lucky with the authors on my roster. I’m super proud of their work.
Q: What are you looking for at this conference?
A: Well, I hope to meet some of my authors face to face for the first time, of course. But I’m also hoping for the chance to find new talent. Samhain is always looking for fresh new voices in romance. Since I’ve been working there for the past two years, I’ve pulled almost fifteen authors from slush. A few of them I met at conferences. I’d like to continue this streak.
Q: What are you looking for in a pitch? What should someone know about pitching with you?
A: In pitches, I’m mostly looking for a good and interesting hook. I’m easy going. No one needs to be anxious. I can be really awkward in person and do this nervous talking thing so I don’t ever judge books by their authors’ nerves because I have TOTALLY been there.
Q: What will make you want to snatch a book up and never put it down?
A: Really well-rounded fully developed characters with a great voice. I feel like you can fix plot holes in editing, but you can’t really fix flat, cliched characters or a weak voice.
Q: What will make you want to throw a book across the room?
A: Slut-shaming, women who tear each other down, rape fantasies, kidnapping/abduction scenarios, terrible grammar/spelling, obscene amounts of adjectives and adverbs.
Q: What’s the most significant thing you’ve learned about real love from reading romance novels?
A: My favorite thing about modern romance novels is how multi-layered they are. It’s not as simple as hero meets heroine and all the pieces come together. Love is an essential part of the equation, but it’s not the only part. And I love what romance has been doing in terms of pushing people to account for all the other things that make being in a relationship difficult. Because relationships are difficult sometimes.