When people find out what I do for a living, they’re fascinated by my role as an author, curious about the story editor title and intrigued that I call myself an entrepreneur. Most people think that authors write books while agents and publishers handle the business and editing sides of things.
I thought that too when I first started, and for some writers, it’s true.
My first book was warmly received by a US agent (she gushed, really) and I was offered representation. Then, I waited. And I waited. And I waited. After nine months of twiddling my thumbs I decided to start my own publishing company and suddenly I was both a writer and entrepreneur.
I called my company Fifth Hammer Books (from the myth of Pythagoras and the blacksmith’s shop) because I believe that the most beautiful art is made, and the most important work is done, when the rules aren’t followed. The fifth hammer reminds me that the best ideas, like the best stories, work precisely because there is tension.
In 2015, I published my first novel (a middle grade fantasy) and my goal was to sell 1,500 copies in year one. (I read somewhere that that’s what J.K. Rowling had done and it seemed like good company to keep.) I gave myself twelve months, but I did it in eight. It was an incredible learning curve, and I loved every minute of it.
These days, I write in two genres. The children’s books are under my own name, and for women’s fiction I use Robin St. Croix (www.robinstcroix.com). I like to say that I write for kids and their moms. Using a pseudonym is an easy way to keep the genres separate.
So that explains the author and creative entrepreneur monikers. But what’s a story editor?
Story editors focus on the overall craft of storytelling. We study the big picture things like why a novel does, or doesn’t work. Honestly, it’s fascinating stuff and I’m completely obsessed. I love talking shop with other writers and helping them develop their manuscripts. Most writers have an intuitive sense of when a scene or book is falling flat, but they’re at a loss as to what to do about it. My job is to figure out exactly where the problem areas are and provide concrete suggestions as to how they can be improved.
For me, studying and analyzing Story at this level of detail is akin to hitting the jackpot. I could do it all day. Every day.
I believe that Stories are an integral part of our world. We tell them to our children at bedtime, to ourselves when we set or avoid goals and to our employers during job interviews. From Icarus (the danger of flying too high, and the even greater danger of flying too low) to Charlie Brown (the importance of persistence), stories teach us about what it means to be human.
We need them, to learn and to grow.
Story is the through line of my career. As an author, it’s my bread and butter. As an editor, it’s my privilege. As an entrepreneur, it’s my guiding light.