Kobo Writing Life Podcast

In a KWL Podcast first, we checked in with an editor from a major publishing house, Tessa Woodward from HarperCollins. In her eleven years at Harper, specializing in editing romance, women’s fiction, and historical fiction, Tessa has seen the industry go through the parallel changes in the emergence of eBooks and self-publishing. Tune in to her Tessa and KWL US Manager Christine Munroe chat about:


  • The range of genres Tessa edits: women’s fiction, romance (historical and contemporary), some mystery and non-fiction. She is specifically always looking for great romance, especially historical
  • What the submission process is like at HarperCollins. Avon Impulse has an open submission policy – it’s one of the few remaining imprints that offers that opportunity for authors without literary agents. They receive 100-400 submissions a month
  • What Tessa looks for in a new submission: a great voice
  • She had no background in romance before she started at Avon. How she fell in love with the genre, and the “classic” romance authors she read first in her self-education when she first started: Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Rachel Gibson, Stephanie Laurens, Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Now, Tessa is a big-time romance book lover who rarely reads outside the genre
  • During a typical workday, Tessa doesn’t have time to do much reading or editing. She reviews covers, marketing and publicity, writes and approves copy, takes editorial calls with authors, and answers a lot of emails
  • Why Tessa doesn’t expect an unpublished author to have a social media platform established when they approach a publishing house
  • Her one big pet peeve when it comes to authors who do have social media already in place
  • When she’s looking at self-published authors interested in a traditional deal, she’s much more interested in the potential of this specific story than eBook sales track record for previous books. She still has to pitch the new book to bookstores, who won’t be very interested in hearing just about eBook sales or free download numbers
  • The main benefits, from Tessa’s point of view, of working with a publisher today. You get an experienced support team who share the publishing burden with you, so that you can focus on writing your next book.
  • Tessa joined HarperCollins 11 years ago, and has seen the industry undergo changes in digital publishing and self-publishing, particularly in romance. She thinks new digital opportunities have opened up the chance for publishers to experiment and publish a lot more books, and a wider range of voices
  • How she feels about hybrid authors – “As long as we’re working together, I think it’s great!” Hybrid authors bring new insights, and can create opportunities for new hybrid marketing models and more


Senior Editor Tessa Woodward edits a wide array of romance, women's fiction, and historical fiction. On the romance side, she edits authors across all genres, including the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers Tessa Dare, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Jennifer Bernard, and Maya Rodale. Her women’s fiction titles range from USA Today bestseller Shelley Noble’s beach-set novels, to Molly McAdams’ New York Times bestselling New Adult stories, to Lisa Turner’s psychological mysteries, and the darker, historical ORPHAN #8, a debut from Kim van Alkemade. She is the US editor for international bestseller Paullina Simons. On the nonfiction side, she is publishing THE WORLD OF MR. SELFRIDGE. She is looking for more women's fiction with strong characters, both historical and contemporary, as well as all genres of romance.


Direct download: Ep_62_Tessa_Woodward.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am PDT

Episode 61 features an interview with Peter James, an international best-selling British writer of crime fiction, which took place at Kobo in June 2016 in front of a live audience. Peter is interviewed by Kobo Writing Life director Mark Lefebvre.

In the interview, Mark and Peter discuss:

  • Peter’s work on the Canadian television program POLKA DOT DOOR in Toronto in the 1970s where he worked as a "gofer" and was asked by a producer, when a regular staff writer called in sick, to write an episode. After that he ended up writing for the show for a year.
  • The original “Agatha Christie” style crime fiction that Peter was weaned on which had very strict rules and conventions: A dead body in chapter one; preferably in a country house; a bit of culture; a bit of sex; a little bit of violence and the hilariously fitting opening line that he has come up with which inserts all those elements
  • How Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (one of two of the best crime novels ever written, in Peter’s eyes – the other one is Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs) is a book that changed Peter’s life, because it threw all of those rules out the window.
  • How Brighton Rock taught Peter 3 important things about novels: A great opening line. Where the central character is a villain that you can care about.
  • How some of the most enduring characters in all of literature have been villains.
  • How the villain in LOVE YOU DEAD was inspired by a woman Peter met on a prison visit
  • How having his house burgled let to Peter finding great friends from the police force who have invited him to learn directly from them for the past thirty years, inserting the authenticity that he so carves in his crime fiction
  • The dedicated police officer who, upon first meeting Peter, pointed to a mountainous stack of crates of manila folders and introduced them as his “dead friends” and how he eventually became the inspiration for Roy Grace
  • Two traits that really good detectives have: They are incredibly anal and capable of incredible out of the box thinking
  • Peter’s belief in the inseparable trinity of character, research and plot in creating writing
  • The great extremes that Peter has gone to in the name of research for his books, including being locked in a coffin for half an hour, held a live scorpion in his hand, been submerged in an overturned van
  • The book DEATH COMES KNOCKING: Policing Roy Grace’s Brighton that Peter is co-authoring based on long-running respect for the real police and the many years of research he has done with them
  • The haunted house that Peter lived in which partially inspired his novel THE HOUSE ON COLD HILL
  • The real character (Hayden Kelly) from Peter’s last three books who is a real guy and came up with forensic podiatry, the measurement of the unique gaits of different people

Mark then talks about the great ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) that he received from Peter’s Canadian distributor (see blog post here) as a great example of author branding and grabbing a reader or reviewer’s attention as well as another important resource that authors can rely on for digital branding:  PERSONALITY.  He uses the example of Peter’s YouTube channel and how it helped add a new layer a new dimension to Peter’s author brand, and how watching several videos of the author helped Mark, as a reader, feel connected to the author. Mark discusses the importance of that connection which can be achieved through digital mediums.


Direct download: KWL_Podcast_061_PeterJames.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:12pm PDT