I started at Bantam Spectra in 1994–just shy of our tenth anniversary. After leaving a developmental biology PhD program with a masters in 1992, I started working as an editorial assistant over at Avon Books, for their then SF/F imprint, AvoNova, before moving to Bantam as an Associate Editor, under my then-boss, Spectra’s Executive Editor, Jennifer Hershey.
Working in this field, for me, has always been a dream job. I had been reading SF and fantasy since I was a kid. I got started on Heinlein, Asimov and Silverberg, then discovered Anne McCaffrey. (In fact, in seventh grade, an argument between me and two friends about a plot point in Dragonflight ended up with me getting whapped over the head with someone’s notebook.) That, in turn, led me to Katherine Kurtz, Robin McKinley, and Tanith Lee. (Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover got me through my teenage years; I read it about once a month for several years. I think I’ve read it upwards of fifty times by now. And coming in at a close second is Robin McKinley’s Beauty.)
For me, the concept of getting paid to read is still staggering. I’ve been honored to have worked with some truly fabulous authors over the years–and I’ve been able to introduce a few new ones to the scene who I hope might have had as much influence on others as the above-listed had on me. A sampling of authors I have worked on over the years? Connie Willis, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robin Hobb, Paula Volsky, Michael A. Stackpole–all delightfully inherited. Previously published authors that I brought to Bantam: Kelley Armstrong; Keri Arthur; Sarah Ash; Ellen Kushner; Robert Masello; Linnea Sinclair; Jenna Black; Christopher Golden; Tim Lebbon; Mark Anthony. Debut authors whose first novel I published: Lynn Flewelling; Elizabeth Bear; Chris Moriarty; Scott Lynch; Diana Rowland; Kelly Meding; Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett; Carolyn Crane. And this is but a sampling.
And, of course, who could forget George R.R. Martin? As I mentioned earlier, I did not buy him for the Spectra list; that was Jennifer Hershey. I was merely the underbidder over at Avon, desperate for a chance to work on what looked to be one of the best fantasies I had ever read from an outline and a few chapters. Then I moved to Bantam. And then Jennifer left for Avon. (Strange reversals of fortune.) And I became George’s editor. When the full manuscript for A Game of Thrones came in, there I was, poised and waiting. I have worked with him on every book in the series so far–and, in fact, I tend to use his manuscripts to mark milestones in my own life. While he was late with A Feast for Crows, I met and married my husband. While he remains late with A Dance with Dragons, I gave birth to my daughter. (For a while there, George was trying to race me to delivery, but I’ve got him beat by 18 months so far!)
Do I sound boastful? I’m not. In truth, I feel awed and humbled to be a part of this august crowd. In many ways, it is the best job in the universe, getting to read some of my favorite authors’ books before almost anyone else in the world. But it can also be a job full of heartbreak, filled with books you adore that no one else seems to notice. So many of the books I loved are now out of print, vanished into the mists of history. And then there are those that, while still in print, are not the bestsellers they deserve to be. (Jennifer Fallon’s Lion of Senet, Eye of the Labyrinth, and Lord of the Shadows remains one of the best fantasy trilogies I have ever read. Read them; please! And Tim Scott’s Outrageous Fortune is one of the funniest books in the world, in my opinion. Read it; love it.)
On the flip side, however, there are the transcendent moments. Republishing The Silver Metal Lover–the book that got me though my teenage years–with the perfect package and the perfect cover. Getting to talk to Tanith Lee and tell her how much the book meant to me, and having her admit that she’d always wanted to write a sequel, and could she use my story as the frame story? (That’s Metallic Love.) Forgetting I was editing Lynn Flewelling’s second novel for a while as I was reading, until I came to the point where Alec and Seregil first got together. It was something I’d been waiting eagerly for, but it didn’t quite work–until I remembered I was the editor, and could fix it. (Hooray!) Turning Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s Baltimore: or the Steadfast tin Solder and the Vampire into a requiem mass. (And getting to walk home with a piece of the original artwork afterwards.)
And, of course, finding that new novel in the submission pile–the one you simply can’t put down, but have to keep reading until you are finished, and that you then obsess about until you can buy it and publish it. (I found one of those last month, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it soon.) It is a job that remains perpetually fresh, with new books and new surprises every day. And it is a job that also encompasses a lot of change. When I started in publishing in 1992, no one had individual computers, fax machines needed strange paper, and I certainly had never encountered e-mail before. Now I’m living in a bold electronic age where I read all my submissions on an e-reader, communicate mostly by e-mail, and can access said mail anytime and anyplace through my Droid–a science fiction concept in and of itself.
While remaining in the same job for 15 years, I have been a part of Bantam Doubleday Dell, Random House, Bantam Dell, and Ballantine Bantam Dell. I have seen colleagues come, and go–and come back again. Jennifer Hershey, my first boss at Bantam, is now once more my Editor-in-Chief. But then, that seems to be the theme of the day. Some things change, but some remain the same. The world has changed immeasurably around us, but Spectra is still here, still trying to hold true to Lou Aronica’s original directives: to produce books of both scope and substance.
It has been an amazing 25 years for Spectra, and an incredible 15 years for me, and I look forward to embarking on Spectra’s journey into its next quarter century. Who knows what the world will look like in 25 years–what new advances and technologies will reign–but I can only hope that Spectra will still be there, still publishing great books as it has always done.
Which leaves only one thing remaining, and that is to thank you, the fans, for your loyalty and support over the years. We wouldn’t be here without you, so keep reading, and keep talking, and keep giving us feedback–be it on the web, or via Twitter, or just with the power of your pocketbook–and we’ll keep trying to bring you the books you love. Thank you, so much, from all of us.
And happy 25th, Spectra!
–Anne Groell, Senior Editor, Spectra
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