Despite how much I love my job of helping crime, suspense and thriller authors’ manuscripts to ooze tension and grip readers, spending all day staring at words on the page can take its toll – I think my glasses prescription has got even stronger in lockdown! – so sometimes there is nothing better than curling up on the sofa and watching a good drama of an evening.
And at the moment, J and I are obsessed with Netflix’s Lupin. J is trying to learn French as one of his lockdown hobbies, but I’m just loving the fantastic writing. If I had to describe it in one sentence, it’s a bit like a French Hustle (another brilliant TV show), but even better. So, do yourselves a favour, watch it this evening – you won’t regret it.
The truth can always be found in libraries. – Lupin (2020)
However, tonight Netflix premieres its new drama: The One. I read the book that the series is based on by John Marrs a couple of years back, and it was utterly compelling, so I have high hopes for the televisions series. I’d always recommend you read the book first, but in lieu of that, check out my review here.
However, if you don’t have Netflix, fear not, as I’ve got you covered, because I’ve compiled a list some binge-worthy series to get you through these final weeks of being stuck at home. Starting with the new TV adaptation of Peter James’s Roy Grace series, GRACE, which starts this Sunday!
Check out the other suggestions below, but I can’t be held responsible if you don’t leave your sofa all weekend.
Across the Pond: Translating English into, well, English.
One of my first jobs of 2021 was a little different to my normal fare but one that also got me thinking. Not only because it was a speculative novel that transported the to the not-so-distant future and questioned the role of AI and also what it means to be human, but also because I was tasked with translating the novel from English, into… English!
Now you may well be scratching your head, but to clarify, I was translating the text from American English to British English. Why do that, you ask? They’re the same language, right? Well, yes, but also no. And depending on your aims when you’re publishing your manuscript, which you choose could be very important.
One of the best parts of working in book publishing is that some of the most gifted, talented, fun and just generally great people form the majority of the workforce. We are all united by the love of the written word, but each person has such a wide variety of skills and knowledge that even if you’ve worked with someone for years, they’ll still surprise you with a little nugget of wisdom when you least expect it.
However, now that I’m freelance, my nearest physical college is Sammy the Editorial Assistant cat (who is currently snoring away by my desk). And now that the whole word has effectively moved to working from home – look at you all, jumping on the bandwagon! – I thought it would be lovely to reach out to the publishing community and get to know some of my colleagues in the industry a little more – albeit over a Zoom chat, rather than the lunches and coffees that publishing professionals are known for.
Interview with Isobelle Lans from Inspired Lines Editing
Isobelle Lans is a UK-based author and freelance fiction editor at Inspired Lines Editing. In 2019, she left her in-house editing job to start her freelance business, and since then has been helping fiction writers to refine their manuscripts and hone their writing skills. Isobelle works on a range of fiction, including fantasy, crime, romance, and historical fiction. If you’ve got a manuscript or story idea you think would benefit from a professional eye, get in touch to ask her how she can help you or what advice she can offer! You can connect with her on Instagram, where she shares insights, tips and encouragement for other writers.
Hi, Isobelle. So tell me a little about yourself and your journey to becoming a book editor?
Hi! Thanks so much for having me on your blog! I’m Isobelle Lans, a fiction editor from Australia who now lives in England. My favourite genres to edit are fantasy, romance, crime, and historical fiction.
I suppose like many editors, my assent into going freelance was quite slow. Editing was a skill I realised I had (and something I realised I enjoyed doing), so I decided to look into it as a career. I did an online training course in Australia and, from there, reached out to a few freelance editors to see if they had any mentorship programmes available. I got lucky and worked on a few projects under the guidance of an experienced fiction editor. That really sold it to me. I knew this was what I wanted to do. I then managed to get a few more freelance projects by simply cold calling other editors, or small businesses that I thought would benefit from a proofread.
After I moved to England I completed training with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and became a member. I got a few freelance jobs through them in the beginning. I then also took a course on developmental editing and the skills required for this in-depth edit. That was an amazing course, and I fell in love with developmental editing. During all my training I kept working on freelance projects. I then got a job at an indie publisher in London. My boss there was so incredibly knowledgeable and working alongside her definitely taught me a lot about what it takes to work with writers. I originally planned to stay working in-house in London, but I realised it just wasn’t for me. I went to interview at one of the big publishing houses down there and thought ‘I don’t actually want to work a 9-5 job and commute in London!’ So, I decided to go freelance instead, and Inspired Lines Editing was born!
It’s safe to say that to new writers and authors, once you leave the seclusion of your writing desk, the world of PUBLISHING is a little daunting? There is so much jargon, so many processes, ways to do things, ways not to do things, that it can all be a bit much! When I first joined the industry, I was a little flummoxed too. I loved books more than anything, but I didn’t understand a think about how a book was actually made.
Yesterday, I read a fascinating article by American novelist Ben Winters. I had the pleasure of working with Winters briefly whilst I was at Penguin Random House and found his unique predicament intriguing.
The article, published on Slate.com, is discussing how the global pandemic of coronavirus and COVID-19 has basically screwed the plot of his new book, The Quiet Boy. It begins in January 2020 and hurtles towards a finale in July 2020 – in a music festival. Well, that’s not happening any more . . .
So it got me wondering how writers and namely the plots of fiction novels have been affected by the pandemic. It must be soul-destroying to have worked so hard, giving up months if not years of your life to curate the perfect plot line, create the characters that you need and finesse the timeline just so until you have a novel that you’re truly happy with . . . for a global pandemic to make it no longer relevant.
But my question is, does it matter? The role of fiction isn’t about facts. As the dictionary defines it, fiction is ‘the type of book or story that is written about imaginary characters and events and not based on real people and facts’. Of course, the best inspiration comes from the world around us – and no doubt the market will be flooded with coronavirus diaries, novels, etc. (Although I question whether there will be a market for them after we emerge blinking in the sunlight post-lockdown – we don’t want to go through that again *shudders*.) But, what better excuse than the world going a bit bananas around us to make use of this fantastic tool that we have hidden deep in our brains: the imagination. There is no better time to let our minds wonder and think of what-if and how-about.
Winters has a point when he says that ‘Right now, we are in the middle of total and utter upheaval. What reader will accept that my characters blithely go about their business in Los Angeles in the spring and summer of this year we’re in?’ Perhaps we should have more faith in our readers. Every day, fiction asks us to suspend our disbelief and fall headlong into a world that isn’t real, not based on fact, the product of the workings of someone’s mind. Yes, it looks a little like the world we live in, but the fiction form is prism not a mirror, twisting the light of the real world into a kaleidoscope of colour – otherwise the sci-fi and fantasy genres would already be in deep water!
With this in mind, over the weekend, I had the delightful experience of kicking my heels up and devouring Rebecca Serle’s smash-hit novel In Five Years. The whole concept of the novel taking a classic interview question – ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ – and twisting it on its head. The novel is all about how no matter how much we try to plan our ideal lives and how we see ourselves in five, ten, even twenty years time, life has a funny habit of getting in the way. Serle’s characters begin in 2020 and happily work, live, love their way through to 2025 (when it starts getting a little pear-shaped), no mention of pandemic in sight. Of course, when Serle wrote her manuscript, COVID-19 hadn’t reared its ugly head, but the novel is no worse off for it. In fact, it might even be an added strength as it reminds us that although the world looks less than peachy at the moment, we’ll get through it, whatever happens.
Admittedly, there might be a new couple of new courses on the syllabus for future literature students – Pre, Post and COVID Literature – but I’m excited to see what new writing this situation brings us, and whether authors choose to engage or not – some already having voiced their claims of not touching the topic with a barge pole, Anne Tyler and Harlan Coben being among their number. I feel for Winters, who has decided to push the events of his novel back to 2019, but whether you choose to set your next writing project in a world affected by COVID or not, I think the readers are willing to welcome you with open arms. To be honest, we’re just thankful for something to read!
We’re in the middle of some turbulent times. There is lots of uncertainty and anxiety around, and we’re having to adapt our daily lives. Many more of us are being asked to stay at home, practise social distancing and or being quarantined for fourteen days. In a world where most of us are on our feet go-go-go all the time, being cooped up at home is a pill proving hard to swallow.
However, amongst all this mayhem, there could be a silver lining. As we are encouraged to stay at home where we can to help protect not just ourselves but others we have a little more time on our hands. Not only that but feeling stuck in one place can lead to feelings of being both physically and psychologically. So rather than getting ourselves down, we should embrace this extra time for ourselves. It’s the perfect time to indulge in some self-care, dust off that yoga mat or pick up new hobbies or old!
It’s that time of year again when we bring out the new diary, the new diets, the new lifestyles and say to ourselves, ‘This is going to be my year!’ And although there is a lot of fluff surrounding new year’s resolutions, this year, mine is simple. To have a go.
2019 was a year of much adjustment for me. I left the job that I had dreamed of since I was young. I packed up my bags and travelled thousands of miles across the world to live in a country I’d never set foot in before. Oh, and I started a business.
2020, on the other hand, doesn’t look like it’s going to be any more stable. I have only two weeks left before our Australian adventure comes to an end and we begin our journey back home via New Zealand, where we’ll be holidays for over a month, exploring the gorgeous vistas and just taking some time out. However, when we get back to the UK after the excitement of seeing all our friends and family again, what remains is a bit of a question mark. (We don’t even really know where we’re going to live!)
I started my business a little out of necessity. The other half was offered an amazing opportunity in Australia, and I wasn’t going to let this opportunity to live abroad go. However, he happened to choose one of the few cities in the country that doesn’t have a publishing hub. So rather than hunting for a job myself, I decided to take up the scary mantle of ‘Self-employed’.
So, the question is, do I keep going? My plan so far is yes. I love what I do, and why shouldn’t I have a go at seeing whether I can make it work long term? It’ll be different being back in the UK, working with my previous colleagues but in a different capacity. And oh, boy am I looking forward to being on the same time zone as everyone for once! However, there is a nagging feeling at the back of my head. Can I actually do this?
It’s a question that many people ask themselves when they are starting out or about to embark on something risky. This includes a number of my authors, not just indie first-timers but also those who have a few books under their belts, wondering if this is all just a dream. (I personally think it’ll be a question I’ll ask myself every year).
My answer to this? You’ll never know unless you try. Sometimes you’ve got to take that gamble and just go with it. Be brave. Whatever you set out to do may not be perfect to begin with, but you’ve just got to work at it. Work hard, and it’ll pay off. Whether that’s starting your own business, aiming for a personal best at the gym (this year, I’m aiming to tackle the handstand!), or finally putting pen to paper and writing that novel. All you have to do is begin, the rest will take care of itself.
So, say it loud. ‘This year, 2020, is going to be my year.’ Go on, you can do it!