If you're like me and love writing, you'll understand where is blog is coming from. I've submitted work to a number of editors at Harlequin/Silhouette. I've met several at conferences, and even become friendly with some. As an unpublished author, we all have this image of the "Editors" as God's or Goddesses. I'm no different, but today I decided to put my fear aside and try to show myself and other's these "Editors, God's, and Goddesses" are human just like you and me.

Here's the interview I just completed with Patience Smith. I met her at National, submitted to her, and have admired her. After this interview, seeing her personality coming out, I can see she's someone I could easily claim as a friend. She's playful, upfront, and honest. I love her responses, many of which had me laughing out loud.

About the Editor and Editing:

DJ: You are the acquisition editor for Silhouette Romantic Suspense. From your perspective, how does Silhouette Romantic Suspense differ from Harlequin Intrigue, so people who are interested in submitting will clearly know which division to send to?

PS: As with many lines there is minor overlap between SRS and Intrigue. But to most of our authors and readers, the differences are clear. SRS is character and romance focused with some suspense. Intrigue has more suspense than SRS. In Intrigue, the romance and the suspense work in tandem. In SRS, the romance and characters take precedence.

DJ: When you first started editing for H/S did you have any idea where you'd be today?

PS: I didn’t have the first clue, though I certainly enjoyed my work. Time has flown by.

DJ: That said, what was your training, and how did it prepare you for the job you do today? (This is for anyone who might want to consider becoming an editor some day.)

PS: Like many in my profession, I started out doing nothing related to publishing. I majored in French and Latin, taught high school French and got my master’s in French Literature. I came this close to going for a Ph.D in French but then realized I would die a slow death as an academic. Publishing seemed like more fun. Before I started temping, I read a lot of books on editing and interviewed editors in New York, who gave me great feedback and advice. I am indebted to Tracy Farrell who took a chance on someone with no practical experience.

DJ: What do you wish you'd done before taking this job?

PS: I would have loved to have been an actress but I can't take the rejection or the commitment to anorexia.

DJ: What experience do you wish you'd had before taking this job? After this much time, what do you wish you'd done to prepare for where your job is going?

PS: I wish I had taken a copyediting class. I guess it’s not too late! I’m lucky in that Harlequin encourages us to get training in certain areas, such as management skills, editing, critiquing. I feel as if I’m getting the preparation now for wherever my job may lead me.

DJ: Has any slush pile offering ever just knocked your socks off?

PS: Several have. I'd say at least a dozen where I was desperate to work on them. A few worked out and another few went to other houses.

DJ: What does a typical day entail for you?

PS: Morning: I sit and read, enjoying how the sun hits my neck. As the office becomes more populated, I’ll start doing administrative stuff such as writing endless memos, sending emails, checking my To Do list for the day. Then I’ll line-edit part of a book. My editorial assistant, the incomparable Shana, stops by around 10 am to get work.

I eat lunch at 11:30 and do the New York Times Crossword and New York Post Sudoku.

More work in the afternoon, some meetings, and I return phone calls. By 3pm, I start to get squirrelly from sitting all day. I’ll either go on a rampage to find chocolate or torture myself with mindless left-brain activities such as emptying my file folders. I’ll make myself a list of at least three things to accomplish for the next day. This list only serve one purpose: I enjoy crossing things out, which is how I get so much done.

By 5 pm, I’m out the door and off to the gym to perk myself up.

DJ: How much do you have to take home at the end of the day/week?

PS: These days, I take a lot home – at least three proposal to evaluate and sometimes a manuscript to edit. Whatever I can carry without breaking my back, I bring home. It’s been monsoon submission season. This is fine for me since I'm a workaholic.

DJ: What does networking mean to an editor?

PS: It means going to publishing events and talking to friends. Several former colleagues have gone elsewhere but I love seeing them at conferences. I'm not a gifted networker but I love meeting new people in the biz and hearing what they're excited about.

DJ: Where would you like to see yourself go from here? Is there any line you'd like to acquire for specifically?

PS: I'm happy with what I'm doing. I get lost in work to the point where I forgot to dream about world domination. It doesn't mean I'm not ambitious, just a huge nerd and bookworm. A side wish would be to work on a nonfiction book since I devour all sorts of How To's and celebrity memoirs.

Mechanics and Rules:

DJ: I'm sure you've heard many of the "Rules" we hear in RWA and such....how do you feel about them...are any of them totally wrong?

PS: I haven’t heard these rules, but one rule would be not to follow an editor into the bathroom to pitch a book. The bathroom is sacred.

DJ: From an editor's point of view...which of the following is preferred and why, so we understand how/why to keep it straight, for the editor: Which is preferred: Underlining versus Italics to show internal thought?

PS: Either one is fine. I prefer underlining for no particular reason.

DJ: When changing POV's or scenes what is preferred: *** or double return?

PS: It really depends. I generally like the POV switch done without *** or double return.

DJ: Must you have the above *** or double return between POV's?

PS: No.

DJ: . # of POV changes per chapter...max?

PS: Depends on the chapter but I’d say two, otherwise, it’s a doubles tennis match (that reminds me, I’m missing Wimbledon right now!).

DJ: Is it okay to start out in the hero's point of view, even if it's "her" story?

PS: Yes.

DJ: At the end of a chapter, I've heard it's best to end the chapter with that character asking a question? Is this so your reader has to turn the page to get the answer? Or would you rather see action/reaction from the character?

PS: I tend to respond more to the character making some kind of supposition or realizing the problem was more complicated than she thought. Or you could go the Dan Brown route and have a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter (though this can be tiring and gimicky). Whatever feels natural. Last lines are harder than first lines, I think, since there are so many more cliches.

DJ: I've heard there are several words that should be used minimally or avoid completely: just, almost, tried, ever etc. Is this because it's an extraneous word or not descriptive enough?

PS: I'm a fan of being succinct, though the exceedingly long sentences of David Foster Wallace can be fun to read. Sometimes those extraneous words fit, sometimes they don't. If the sentence works without it, take it out. That can make the phrase more forceful. But, of course, everyone’s style is different.

DJ: I've heard starting a sentence with a word ending in "ing" is a no-no, yet at times it works...yes or no?

PS: I don't like sentences starting with an "ing" word. For me either it doesn't make sense or seems awkward: Giving him a smile, she opened the car door. Yuck! More like: Before she opened the car door, she gave him a smile...or whatever. It's just confusing to know what comes first. Then there's this sentence I see often: Setting down his keys, he opened his little black book. Does he open the book AS he's setting down the keys or after? I'm sure there are technical rules in favor of this usage but I don't like seeing it.

DJ: How do you feel at tags, after dialog? Are they always necessary?

PS: Not always necessary but considering my brain damage from excess reading, tags can be useful to avoid confusion. I don't like when a writer tries to find other ways to say "said" throughout a manuscript: avowed, asserted, extrapolated, supposed. That draws my attention to the tag, which is wrong.

DJ: Or would you rather see that character do an action following the dialog?

PS: That’s fine too.

About a submission:

DJ: When submitting, is it better to send to the senior most person or someone lower on the totem pole?

PS: It doesn’t really matter because if you send it to a senior person, it might still wind up with someone lower on the totem pole.

DJ: When reading a submission, and you're reading about the hero...is it his looks, strength of character, sense of humor or action that intrigues you first or perhaps the situation he's been put in?

PS: It’s usually the ‘tude that draws me. If the hero has a noteworthy attitude, it brings him to life for me. He could look like Shrek but if he’s charismatic, I’ll fall in love.

DJ: When reading a submission, and you're reading about the heroine...is it her appearance, strength of character, sense of humor or action that intrigues you first or perhaps the situation she's been put in?

PS: I would say also that her attitude should set her apart. I tend to like bad girls, neurotics, or princesses more because they have distinct attitudes—as long as they are loveable. The do-gooder Cinderella types, who never do anything wrong, don’t engage my sympathies as much. Now if Cinderella is working hard to quit smoking and keeps smacking a patch on her arm, she’s more human and I like her.

DJ: In an opening chapter we want to get straight to the story, but how much back story is too much? Is a paragraph here an there in the first chapter too much...of should you try to avoid any back story until chapter two?

PS: I often see the Information Dump in the first chapter. One paragraph is fine but weaving backstory throughout is ideal. The reader wants to get to know the characters as people first.

DJ: Regarding the above question....does your answer change if they've met before and this is a reunion of sorts?

PS: No.

DJ: How imperfect can your heroine be and still be a heroine? Here's my heroine in my romantic comedy Sex, Lies, and Beauty Aids (Innocent, sheltered heroine who stays innocent while falling in love only to find out it was all a lie. She could walk away and lick her wounds or go for payback...and her idea of payback is making the hero teach her to love; actions, physically and mentally?) Can she still be a heroine?

PS: A heroine can be imperfect as long as she's not a desperate, needy weenie. If the heroine is getting her payback by seducing the hero, it shows how needy and stuck on the hero she is. Using her powers of seduction to hurt the hero seems forced and makes her a bit of a stereotype. If she *really* wants payback, she could hit the hero where he lives--like destroy his company, reputation, ignore him or become more powerful than he is.

DJ: How imperfect can your hero be and still be a hero? Here's my hero from my romantic comedy Sex, Lies, and Beauty Aids (My hero did something not so heroically to the heroine when they were younger, and he never had a chance to apologize; he can't go back, but still feels compelled to find a way to make it up to her. Can't make it up to her while pretending to be his brother...but uses their time together to find a way to right the wrongs.) Can he still be a hero ?

PS: I enjoy imperfect heroes but I draw the line at violence against the heroine. That can't be redeemed. I always found the "Luke and Laura" romance totally outrageous and offensive. Romanticizing rape just can't happen. The hero can't cheat on the heroine while he's with her but maybe The Supposed Other Woman could make it look like he cheated. Other than that, I think the hero can lie, cheat non-sexually, and steal from her but always with the assurance that he'll make it up to her big-time in the end.

DJ: When you receive a submission and in their intro share that they have success in contests...does this weigh much with you?

PS: Sure. I like to see a writer's accomplishments, organizations, profession, and education. It shows me how committed she is to her work and that she takes the business seriously.

DJ: When submitting a partial/complete, what kind of time frame for a turnaround can one expect?

PS: Complete: I respond within three months. For a partial, a bit less than this. I would call if I've held onto a partial beyond two months.

DJ: Is there a topic or story line you're tired of?

PS: The second I give this answer, a writer will wow me with a new twist on the tired plot.

Patience the Person

DJ: What do you like reading about for a hero and heroine, but dislike in real life.

PS: In books, I love Alpha heroes, especially in a Harlequin Presents, but in real life, I want to smack them. In books, often a heroine needs a hero to swoop in and rescue her. In real life, this idea grates on me even though it’s supposed to be a fantasy.

DJ: What do you wish people in real life would learn/remember from reading and act on? By this I mean...in the news, you read such awful stories these days...I mean...how do people honesty believe doing these horrible things to others, in any way is okay? What happened to honor, self- control, responsibility.

PS: In romances, people tend to behave better toward each other. Even if the hero and heroine are not friendly at the beginning, they do wind up declaring their love and living happily ever after. Friends and family are mostly devoted to one another, see each other often, and express their feelings. In real life, this doesn’t happen so much and there’s an epidemic of neglect. Readers love to read about intimate communities because they don’t exist as much anymore beyond Facebook (though I admit to being an addict).

DJ: For your personal reading, what's your favorite genre? Romance, Suspense, Vampire, Historical, Time Travel....etc?

PS: Nonfiction! I read a lot of trashy celebrity biographies and self-help. I also love clever chick lit and the classics.

DJ: Can you name the hero of your favorite story, movie, book, television?

PS: Of course I love Mr. Darcy in theory…Right now I’m in love with heroes who run headlong into the most dangerous situations possible. I’ve been going through a Jack Bauer and Bruce Willis in Die Hard phase.

DJ: Why were you drawn to him?

PS: It’s not that I want to see them injured repeatedly, though I enjoy this—especially walking on glass and enduring two years of torture overseas. The cursing is a bonus. It inspires me when heroes run on fumes and will do anything to accomplish their missions. This kind of commitment helps me find the will to accomplish my own smaller scale missions.

DJ: Can you name the heroine of your favorite story, movie, book, television?

PS: I adore Clarissa (played by Meryl Streep) from The Hours.

DJ: What did you admire about her?

PS: At the beginning, she fills her life with meaningless gestures, helps everyone but neglects those who love her the most. I think we all do a little bit of this—flutter about and focus on appearances. At the end, Clarissa learns to care for and appreciate her loved ones. I admire how she faced difficult life events, tried to boost morale when it was impossible, but then fell apart and realized what was important in her own life.

DJ: In a fantasy, where would you like to be kidnapped and taken to while waiting for the ransom to be paid?

PS: Kidnapping is not a fantasy for me, but I could be someone’s slave in, say, a castle in France.

DJ: What bad boy, would be your ideal kidnapper?

PS: I’m in love with Gale Harold, who plays/played Jackson on Desperate Housewives this season. He’s better known as Brian Kinney on Queer As Folk. If he were on vacation the week of my slavery, I’d take Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Liev Schreiber, Gerard Butler, Javier Bardem, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig. But really, I want Gale!

DJ: What's your favorite television series character? Why?

PS: My favorite television series character of all time is Erica Kane from All My Children. That woman is just fabulous in every way. I’ve been obsessed with her since I’m ten.

DJ: Do you like all this reality television or would you rather see re-runs of the oldies?

PS: I try to avoid reality television, mostly because it’s like watching paint dry. I do enjoy The Real Housewives of New York, mostly to see people behaving badly. It perpetuates offensive stereotypes about how women interact, but I can’t help it. I also watch Tori & Dean.

Patience Smith is the Senior Editor for Silhouette Romantic Suspense. She has been with Harlequin/Silhouette Books since December 1997. Originally from the Northeast, she has lived in France, Connecticut, Ohio and New Mexico and now resides in New York City. She has her master’s degree in French literature, which hasn’t really helped with her work as an editor, and taught French at Sandia Preparatory School before moving into publishing.


  1. Nightingale // June 23, 2009 at 1:35 PM  

    Entertaining interview. Much insight! Can paranormal elements figure in romantic suspense that you acquire?

  2. Barbara Monajem // June 23, 2009 at 2:02 PM  

    Entertaining indeed. Thanks!

  3. Beth Trissel // June 23, 2009 at 2:48 PM  

    Thanks so much for joining us here on the Fuzzies. Entertaining and informative.

  4. Pamela Varnado // June 23, 2009 at 3:09 PM  

    Patience, thanks for sharing. I have a proposal I was about to send to Intimate Moments but after reading your comments I think it's a better better the RS line.

    How much "Alpha" is too much alpha in your heros? I love the alpha males in Presents.

  5. Scarlet Pumpernickel // June 23, 2009 at 3:10 PM  

    Wow! Great interview! Just in case Patience drops by, a quick question:
    Does H/S still send out acknowledgements of receiving a manuscript if the author doesn't enclose a card?


  6. Helen Hardt // June 23, 2009 at 3:54 PM  

    Wonderful information! Thanks so much for sharing. I majored in French, too, but then went onto law school. But I'm a romance writer at heart ;).


  7. Mona Risk // June 23, 2009 at 5:37 PM  

    Deb, thank you for a very informative interview of Patience Smith. I was interested in learning the difference between SRS and Intrigue. Is Patience accepting questions?

  8. Anonymous // June 23, 2009 at 7:10 PM  

    Lovely blog! I would love for you to be apart of our writing contest at http://scaredzz.webs.com

    The Fools for love writing contest

  9. Edie Ramer // June 23, 2009 at 7:53 PM  

    Terrific interview. I just looked at a page of my wip and saw I have two sentences starting with and "ing" word. I'll rework one, but leave the other.

  10. Joanne // June 23, 2009 at 8:10 PM  

    Patience, welcome to the Pink Fuzzies. I had the pleasure of hosting one of your sessions at Nationals in Atlanta a few years back.

    I, too, love Erica Kane! Thanks for an informative interview.

  11. Mary Marvella // June 23, 2009 at 8:44 PM  

    Tons of good information here!

  12. Anonymous // June 24, 2009 at 12:52 AM  

    Excellent interview. Great questions. Complete and helpful answers. Well done! Learned loads.

  13. Autumn Jordon // June 24, 2009 at 8:05 PM  

    Great insight! Thanks for asking all the right questions. I can't wait to meet Ms. Smith in DC. She loves Jack. I love Jack.

    2009 Golden Heart Finalist