When I asked Jennifer Hassani, the Acquisitions Editor at Liquid Silver Books, for an interview I thought it would be fun to take her somewhere a little more exciting than the usual purple couch. The weather in Australia has been stifling, so what could be nicer than a cool bar and an even cooler drink.
I invited Jennifer to join me for an afternoon at Male Review, the male strip club part owned by Michael Monaghan, the hero of my book Hot Male, Reigning Men Volume 3. He has promised not to interfere, but he’s not a man to be trusted. There isn’t a woman alive he won’t flirt with, and he has a soft spot for Jennifer, even though they have never actually met. Without her intervention, his story would be stuck in a drawer somewhere. As a hero he drove me to distraction, and only copious amounts of hand holding by Jennifer got me through to the end of the book.
Now, as I glance at my watch, I begin to wonder if it was such a good idea. Music plays softly in the background and the place looks almost classy in daylight. Other than a few scantily clad male strippers practicing their moves, the bar is empty this time of the day.
Chad, who has agreed to play barman for me, smiles and nods toward the door. “I think your guest is here.”
I cross the room and break my very English no touching rule to give Jennifer a hug.
Hey lady! You better give me a hug, Lillian. You know us Southern gals need our hugs. *big grin* It is so good to be here.
Once we’re perched on stools at the bar sipping some exotic pink girly cocktail Chad has mixed for us, I begin to relax. Maybe Michael will stay away and things will go smoothly.
Lillian: Hi Jennifer. Thank you for agreeing to meet me here. I’ll try to keep this as painless as possible.
Jennifer: Are you kidding me? Seriously, thank you for inviting me not only to talk with you today, but to do it here in eye candy heaven.
Lillian: They are pretty aren’t they? Anyway down to work. How did you get into the publishing industry? And did you start as a writer or work more on the editing side?
Jennifer: It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I love to read, always have, and will do it whenever I have at least five minutes free to do so. While recovering from an illness, I was able to read a lot more than usual – a book a day. I saw a reading challenge on a book review blog one day while looking for more books to read by a new author. As part of the challenge, to be eligible to win monthly prizes, the entrants had to provide short book reviews for each book read. The blog owner liked my reviews and asked me to be a reviewer for her site. I was provided with a lot of ARCs (advance review copies) to review. I would often find continuity issues, story line issues, major grammar problems, etc., and I would email the author to let them know about the problems in hopes they could fix the issues before the story was published. This led to beta reading for several authors, editing for several more authors, and then three of the authors recommended me to their publishers for editing jobs. And the rest is history.
Lillian: What exactly does an Acquisitions Editor do?
Jennifer: Hmmm…ahhhh…I’m sorry what was the question? Did you see what he just did? Oh my. That young man is certainly limber. Sorry. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, Acquisitions Editors. LOL! We read stories submitted by new and experienced authors to see if they fit within the genres we publish, determine what, if any, issues or problems exit, and if the story is solid, suggest ways it can be fixed, if necessary, so we can offer a contract for it. A story is more than the sum of its parts, and we take this into consideration when making the decision to contract the story, ask for revisions, or gently reject it. At Liquid Silver Books, we try to do most major revisions during the acquisitions process, so by the time the manuscript gets contracted and handed off to the editorial department, there are usually only small things to take care of during regular edits.
Lillian: Writing for Liquid Silver Books, I know that your job doesn’t stop when you say yes to a manuscript. It doesn’t even stop when you say maybe. What are some of the ways you support and help writers as they go through the rewriting and editing process?
Jennifer: I like to tell our current and potential authors I will hold their hands as much or as little as they need me to. When we ask for revisions, I try to provide enough detailed information for authors to not only make the changes but to understand why the change is needed. When possible, I try to give specific suggestions as well. I am here for the authors to bounce ideas off of, to brainstorm with, to read over sections of changes to see if the author is on the right track, or to point the author to resources and tools to help them learn and improve their writing craft. Once the manuscript is contracted, the authors are provided with a list of remaining issues their content editor and/or final line editor will ask them to fix. And I am always here for questions; no matter where the story is in the production process.
Lillian: What sells a story to you? I know a book needs a good plot and good writing but which is the one that matters most when you are reading a submission?
Jennifer: The most important thing is how the story makes me feel when I’m reading it. Does it make me laugh or cry? Am I so immersed in the world the author has created, the real world disappears, and I am unaware of the passage of time? Do the characters feel real to me? If I have to put the book down for some reason, am I thinking about the story and hurrying to get back to the book as soon as I can? Do the phone sex scenes have me squirming? Do the shower sex scenes have me reaching for B.O.B.? Am I blown away by the ending? Am I speechless or softly exclaim, “Wow,” when I reach the end? Am I disappointed at the end because I want to spend more time with the characters? Am I still thinking about the story two days later? Even if the writing is not great, but the story makes me feel these things, that is a story I am going to work with the author on to get into contracting shape. I can teach someone writing craft, but I can’t teach talent. And speaking of talent… Would you just look at the yummy body up on stage? *sigh* I’m not sure I can concentrate.
I offer up a silent prayer that Michael stays away. If she is distracted by the support act, I would lose her completely to the flirty Irish git.
Lillian: Can you tell us some of the things that you can do to polish your manuscript to avoid that dreaded rejection letter.
Jennifer: Read your story out loud, preferably to someone else, slowly so you can actually see what is written, and not what you meant to write. You’ll find those pesky missing words, extra words, wrong words…ya know…‘there’ instead of ‘their’, ‘too’ instead of ‘two’, ‘her’ instead of ‘he’, ‘she’ instead of ‘he’. Spell check, spell check, spell check, and then spell check again. While these alone will not earn a rejection, it can tip the scales from a ‘revise and resubmit’ to a rejection. Ask someone you trust to read your story, but not someone who loves you and will tell you it is wonderful just because they love you. You need someone who will be almost brutally honest with you. Also be on the lookout for lazy writing habits such as overusing adverbs ending in ‘ly’ and beginning too many sentences with present participles – verbs ending with ‘ing’. Use your find feature to search for how many of these you have. You might be surprised at how many there are. Make sure your character names, ages, and descriptions are consistent throughout the story. Resist the urge to give the reader a lot of information about the characters or your world all at one time – sprinkle it throughout the beginning quarter of the story. Avoid telling the reader the story – show the story as it happens instead. Most importantly, before you submit a story to any publisher, read their submission guidelines and make sure you are submitting a genre they accept, your manuscript is in the correct format, and you provide all the information they request. Don’t earn a rejection because you don’t appear to be able to follow instructions.
Lillian: What is it about Liquid Silver Books that makes it special?
Jennifer: We have added a lot of new personnel this past year, and we have been changing the way we do things with the ultimate goal of helping to make the authors’ books the best they can be – from the editing to the cover art to adding distribution to many national and international retailers to providing a vehicle for the house authors to help each other with ideas and promo – and to sell more copies of their books. We in acquisitions are not just interested in the authors’ stories but in their careers as well.
Lillian: What is Liquid Silver Books looking for right now?
Jennifer: We are always looking for good romance stories in all of the subgenres. Some of my favorites are paranormal romance, M/M romance, romantic comedy, Western romance, and romantic suspense. However, we have some specific sub calls out for stories featuring heroes we refer to as ‘I need a hero’, and one called Summer Sparklers–relationships that burn hot and bright. Authors can find our current subs calls at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/67294-lsb-submission-calls
Lillian: What plans do you have for the future? Where is Jennifer Hassani headed?
Jennifer: Oh wow! That man can move. *fanning myself* Is it getting hot in here? It’s a good thing he’s way over there. We Southern belles are very touchy feely, and if he was closer, I’m afraid my hands might get away from me. *wicked grin* Sorry, got distracted again. My plans for the future? Professionally? I love my job. I get paid to read books and help people start, jump-start, restart, and/or continue their career as a writer. I get to peruse stock art photos to see which ones will make great romance cover models. I get to sit in male strip clubs while the guys practice, drinking fruity umbrella drinks, and hang out with an author talking shop while enjoying the view. I think I like it where I am professionally right now. *chuckling* Personally? I really need to move somewhere it is cold, and there are cowboys. I want to find me my own Michael…and maybe a Sam too. *winking*
Chad removes our empty glasses and replaces them with fresh cocktails. I can’t take the goofy grin off my face, compliments of the generous slug of rum in the heady mix of booze and fruit juice I have consumed. The interview is almost over and I might just make it through unscathed.
The music drifting across the room changes. The volume rises until you can hear nothing else. I let out a groan as the first notes of Parisienne Walkways fills the air and Michael steps on stage. The scheming bastard must have been planning to sabotage my interview from the start. One glance at Jennifer, and I know I’ve lost her.
No one can resist watching Michael. I grudgingly have to admit he has a certain presence and knows how to strut his stuff. No matter how many times I’ve seen the act nothing ever prepares you for the full Monty. As the last notes of the song end, he lifts his head and winks at Jennifer before sauntering off stage butt naked.
Jennifer: *whispering to myself* Oh my heavens! Reading about his act is really something, but seeing him dance in person is simply beyond words. Maggie is a lucky, lucky gal.
I take a deep breath and grab a handful of ice-cubes from just behind the bar, shoving them down my cleavage in an attempt to cool off. Just when I think I have my blood pressure under control two hands come to rest on my shoulder, soft hair tickles my face, and warm lips kiss my cheek.
I don’t need to turn around to see who’s behind me. I just hope to God he stopped in the dressing room long enough to put some clothes on. He moves to stand next to me, and I note he has at least tugged on a pair of jeans, but they’re hung to low on his hips; he must be going commando. His purple silk shirt hangs open.
Lillian: Sam said you’d be tied up all afternoon.
Michael: Once we were done, Maggie untied me. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your lovely guest? Or maybe I should do it myself?
He steps between our bar stools and kisses Jennifer on the cheek. “Hello darlin’ lovely to meet you at last.”
Jennifer: Oh no… *opening my arms wide* You don’t get away with just a kiss on the cheek, Michael. C’mere and give me a big hug. I deserve one after the show you just put on.
Now that I’ve actually heard your accent, I don’t know how Maggie can keep from melting every time you open your mouth. I could watch you dance and listen to you talk all day. *turns back to Lillian* Okay, I’m done stroking his…ego…for now.
Michael: Never mind Lillian. You can stroke me anytime you like, beautiful.
Jennifer: Mercy me. *struggling to keep from rubbing myself up against him and purring* Chad, may I have another one of these? *holding my empty drink in the air*
He leans a hip against the bar and snags my drink. “If you’ve finished, I’ve some questions of my own.” His smile is slow and seductive. “So Jennifer, sex or chocolate?”
Jennifer: Why deny myself? Sex and milk chocolate fondue. You can have so much fun with fondue and foreplay.
Michael: A woman after my own heart. I love to play with my food. Fire or Ice?
Jennifer: I’m greedy… For those hot sultry summer nights, ice to cool me off. In the dark frozen winter nights, fire to keep me warm.
Michael: Hard or soft?
Jennifer: Anything that starts off soft and ends up hard can be a wonderful thing. Ya know, like chocolate chip cookie dough turns into sinfully delicious cookies. Or, come to think of it, chocolate fondue when it cools off. Or…well never mind. *wicked grin*
Michael takes Jennifer’s hand and drops a kiss on her knuckles. “Why don’t you come with me, and I’ll take you for a ride on my Hard on.”
The drink Jennifer has just been sipping comes flying out of her mouth to land all over the bar in front of her as she sputters.
I shake my head. “Breathe Jennifer, breathe. He’s talking about his new Harley.”
Jennifer: Well…ahem…I was going to talk with Lillian a bit about the story she’s just started, but if you’re sure Maggie won’t mind? Let’s save a horse and ride a…hard…uh…Harley. *turning to Lillian* Thanks again for inviting me today. Any time you want to get together again…here…please let me know. Sorry to run, but I can’t pass up the chance to be pressed up against Michael and hug him tight, even if it is from behind. Email me…