Keith Hawk (KH) John Granger (JG) Cheryl Klein (CK) Kimmy Saylor (KS)
[Show music begins]
Eric: Hey! Josée! Wait up!
Josée: Oh hi, Eric! I'm sorry, I really can't talk right now. I'm running late.
Eric: Late? Late for what?
Josée: Oh, it's because I have to go meet Keith and John Granger. I'm actually going to listen to a Harry Potter literature lesson at MuggleNet Academia.
Eric: Oh cool, that sounds awesome. Can I come with?
Josée: Yes, of course you can. Just come with me.
Eric: Okay. Let's go!
[Show music continues]
KH: Okay, welcome to MuggleNet Academia. This is Lesson 8, and we are privileged to have a very special guest on this show. We have Cheryl Klein, who is the continuity editor for Scholastic, the United States publisher of the Harry Potter books. And I can't wait to hear this show, John. This is going to be exciting, to actually have somebody who touched the books before they were in print...
KH: ...read the books, and did all the editing. This is going to be a fun show.
JG: It is, it is. Cheryl Klein is a bit of a legend in the Harry Potter fandom, as the lady who was in charge of making sure the details were set. Though she can't tell us any security questions or whatever, I'm sure she's got some stuff to tell us about life behind the doors in the Department of the Ministry... Department of Mysteries or whatever. Anyway, yeah, this is a very exciting show.
KH: Yeah, I can't wait. But before we get into Cheryl and our guest student Kimmy Saylor, who just graduated from Millersville University, let's discuss the last show. Last show we had Joel on the show, Joel Hunter from Arizona State University, and we talked about folktale structures and how that is the key to success in the Harry Potter series. Let me just touch on this feedback that we got on MuggleNet Academia, John. This is from Lauren.
"I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this week's podcast and I can't wait to read Professor Hunter's paper on 'Potter', the Propp scaffold, and folktales. Please do let us know on the site here..."
I guess MuggleNet Academia.
"...when that paper comes out because it's really peaked my interest. Professor Hunter and Rita were both great guests this week and I'm sort of hoping you invite them back again sometime."
She went on in her comments to ask if Snape could be considered one of the heroes. We didn't discuss Snape as being one of the heroes. We did discuss Dumbledore and we did discuss Harry, of course, and then we also discussed some other books like The Hunger Games and all that. But I did send this over to Professor Hunter and asked him, and he gave me a response. And that response is on the MuggleNet Academia site, for people who are interested. I also included his full tablet of the 31 steps to creating a folktale thing, so he did send that to us.
JG: Vladimir Propp's 31 Elements of a Folktale. Yeah, that's really helpful in understanding what he's after.
KH: Yeah, it was interesting. So, if people are interested to find out if Snape would be a hero, considered in the book, it is on the MuggleNet Academia site, so you can head on over there and check that out. What'd you think of the show last week, John?
JG: I was delighted. As I said during the show, and was confirmed - I hope people will go and read Professor Hunter's response to Lauren's letter, which was a great letter with some neat questions in it - is that he's after the big target. He's looking for the answer to the big question, which is, "Why do we love these books?" And he's taken a very different tactic than I have, and of course we went back and forth [laughs] about this in that show, but Professor Hunter, I think - I'm hoping - is really the new wave of academic interest in the series which has largely been borderline patronizing about, "It's a kids' book and she's sort of gotten lucky," and this and that. He takes very seriously that this is a writer of intention and that her work has had the effect and the resonance with readers' hearts, the way it does, is because of her design and her artistry that these books have these folktale elements in them that caused the resonance with the readers. So, it was a fun conversation but it was also, I think, a good sign of what direction academics are going in. They're dealing with the big question: why do people love... whence Pottermania, why do we love these books the way we do?
KH: Yeah, absolutely. I thought it was a fun show. So, anyway we're going to get on to this show and... but before we do, let me just give you a recap of how this show works. Basically, we are going to dive into different alchemy, law, translations... all kinds of different subjects on this show, and this one is going to be on editing books in general but more importantly: What was it like to edit the Harry Potter books and some of the things that have come up from that, with Cheryl. So, without any ado, hello Cheryl. How are you?
CK: Hello, Keith! It's a pleasure to be here!
KH: It's a pleasure for us to have you! So, what have you been up to lately since 2007?
CK: I have been [laughs] where nobody has heard of me ever since. I just went into a hole! No, I've been editing a lot of other great books and doing some writing of my own and just generally keep living the literary life.
KH: So, tell us about what you wrote.
CK: I wrote a book called Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults which I...
CK: ...self-published last year. It includes, actually, a talk I gave at the Terminus fan convention in 2008, which is called "A Few Things Writers Can Learn From Harry Potter". And so, I've definitely continued to think about Harry Potter and why the series works and why it has affected so many people.
KH: Well, I know you've been to a bunch of the conventions...
KH: ...and I was just wondering why you weren't at LeakyCon last week!
CK: That was my stupid decision because I had... in the previous seven months, I had flown someplace every single month. Like I was either speaking or for weddings or family events or something like that. I had just done so much travelling in the first half of this year, I decided that LeakyCon didn't need me this year. And then I saw the line-up and I was like, "I am such a fool!"
[CK and KH laugh]
CK: So, I definitely am looking forward to future ones.
JG: LeakyCon, as Keith has brought it up here, was spectacular. 3,800 people...
JG: ...in the Chicago Hilton, which turned into something like a Hogwarts [laughs] with its intricate set of rooms and such, and people in different stages of Hogwarts dress and paraphernalia and T-shirts and 175 different events over four days.
KH: Well, John, did you see what I was dressed as?
JG:[laughs] Go ahead, Keith. Tell us what you were dressed as. Believe me, I was such a head case. I was on the eighth floor, I gave four talks, I gave more than ten hours of talks.
KH: Yeah, I guess you didn't see me then because it was during the costume contest on Friday afternoon and then the ball. My friend, Josée - who, as you know, did our third show with us...
JG: That's right.
KH: She custom-made her own Fawkes dress.
KH: So, she cut and burned every feather, and glued it and sewed it, and it was this really awesome dress and a headset with real feathers on it. So, when she said she was going to do this, I was like, "All right, I have to be Dumbledore."
KH: So, I had Dumbledore costumes on and she was Fawkes on top of my shoulder, walking through the convention.
JG: Oh my goodness.
KH: There are pictures all over the web on it. It was so much fun. We had a blast.
JG: Make sure you post one of those with this show so we can all have our grinning giggle of Keith with Josée on your shoulder, which is... I don't know if I want to see the picture because the mental picture I have is so funny, I can't imagine that the real picture can top it.
KH: It was incredible, she looked incredible. Everybody was like, "Wow, this is neat." But we won the costume contest for Best Craftsmanship and obviously, with what she did, it was a no brainer there.
JG: I bet.
JG: Cheryl, all of this - Cheryl and Kimmy, to say - Leaky 4 is already planned for Portland next summer - Portland, Oregon, not Portland, Maine - and I hope that all of fandom will come because it was a real statement. Here was the first fan convention that was not associated with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and not associated with a movie release or a book release, and close to 4,000 people travelling from all over the United States and from around the world - a man from Sydney, Australia sat in my classes. It was a testimony that the fandom that is very much alive and has a real vitality well beyond the sort of "tween girl" cliche, or whatever. The fandom is alive and well, and God willing we'll all be together again in Portland for the fourth LeakyCon next summer.
KH: LeakyCon convention that is going to be held in Portland next year - they're doing it in an actual convention centre so it's going to be roughly 5,500 people, is what they're estimating on getting. And then on top of that, not even a month and a half later, in August we're going to be having Alohomora - which just joined forces with LeakyCon - in London, so there's actually two LeakyCons next year. That's going to be awesome because you're going to have the home of Harry Potter and I think there's going to be a lot of special guests going to that one.
JG: Is there any hint that the presence herself might join us?
KH: I don't know. She's good friends with Melissa, so who knows, maybe she'll make a guest appearance. I think it would be absolutely incredible if she does, but also the security that she would need to have...
KH: ...would be astronomical. So, I don't know. We'll see.
KH: Kimmy, have you gone... let me introduce Kim. Kimmy is from... a recent graduate of Millersville University in Pennsylvania. Say hello, Kimmy, and tell us a little bit about yourself.
KS: Hi! As Keith said, I recently graduated. I have a degree in English and Secondary Education, and I currently work at Random House Publishing.
KH: That's awesome. Congratulations on getting that gig right away.
KS: Thank you!
KH: That's not easy to do. But...
KS: No, it's not. [laughs]
KH: ...I was going to ask you, have you been to any of these conventions at all?
KS: I have not. I've never had the opportunity to travel to one. They're usually far away from me, so...
JG: Well, this is great, Kimmy, because most of our audience probably hasn't either and I'm sorry if we sound like the glorified [unintelligible] that go to these kind of things or whatever. But yeah, most people haven't gone to these conventions but the great news is that Leaky is now going to different places so that a lot of the people that were in my classroom and I saw in the hotel were obviously from the Mid-west that didn't have the resources to go all the way to New York or to Toronto or [laughs] Las Vegas or all the places where the conventions have been. So, they took one to Chicago and now we're going to the West Coast next year - I say "we" - Leaky is going there and God willing, this will travel around so that fans all over the country can get to one of these cons because it really is a spectacular experience.
KS: Yes, I'd like to go someday.
KH: Well, the next convention for us is going to be MISTI-Con, up in New Hampshire, and that's going to be next May.
JG: That's right. Laconia.
KH: Yes. And I'll tell you what, that is a beautiful resort. It's a completely different atmosphere than LeakyCon is. I mean, LeakyCon is sheer madness.
KH: You have 4,000 people and I see a lot of people doing what I do here at MuggleNet - and I'm sure you do too, John - but when you see 4,000 people and you don't know half of them it's a little intimidating.
JG:[laughs] Yeah, yeah.
KH: But MISTI-Con is going to be completely different. It's a hotel called the Margate Hotel and we had Aeternitas up there in 2011, and it's a max of 500 people - attendees - and we own the entire hotel. There is no Muggles allowed in the hotel for that weekend.
KH: So, the decor of the hotel is all ours. They have this huge tent, and I mean when you see the Weasleys' wedding in Deathly Hallows, I think this tent is as big, if not bigger, than that one.
KH: It is really magical what we do out there and it's going to be a lot of fun. So, I'm really anxious for that one because it's more of an intimate setting. The classrooms are a little bit more fun and entertaining. It's just... it's different, that's really what it is. So, Kimmy, if you get the chance that's the convention to go to.
KS: That would be exciting, very exciting.
JG: Yeah, it's relatively close by. It's a short trip from Boston. And The Group That Shall Not Be Named, the big New York City Harry Potter group is... shows up in force for that and they're always a great bunch.
KH: Yeah, they are.
JG:[laughs] Yeah, everybody agrees that they are a fun group. All right, Keith, are we ready to go? We've put off talking to Cheryl all this time! I'm dying with all my questions here. Let's... can we roll...
KH: Let's get it going!
[Show music begins]
KH: From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
CK: I'm Cheryl Klein, US continuity editor of the Harry Potter books.
KS: I'm Kimmy Saylor, a recent graduate of Millersville University and currently employed at Random House.
[Show music continues]
KH: All right, so we want to start off discussing Cheryl and how she got involved in the Harry Potter books and Scholastic. So, Cheryl, were you employed with Scholastic before you entered as continuity editor for the Harry Potter books?
CK: Yes, I was... I started out in 2000, shortly after Goblet of Fire was published. I joined the company as Arthur's editorial assistant, which is the usual first step for somebody who wants to be an editor. And I was already a Harry Potter fan at the time, I started reading the books right before my senior year at Carleton College in Minnesota. And I'd become a huge fan pretty much instantly, and I'd gone to my own midnight release party in Leawood, Kansas in July 8th, 2000, I think it was. So then, after I graduated from college, I went to something called the Denver Publishing Institute.
CK: Which is like a four-week summer camp for people who want to be in publishing. And while I was there I met a woman named Susan Hershman, who was a children's book editor. And I had known pretty much since I was in high school that I wanted to be a book editor, but meeting Susan really solidified... reminded me that I love children's books more than anything else. And Susan put me in touch with Arthur, who happened to be looking for an assistant the week that I was in New York interviewing, and...
CK: Yeah! There's kind of a funny story around how I got hired, which is that I had a really terrible interview because it was a case where I loved the Harry Potter books so much... I knew... I actually loved a lot of the other books Arthur had done. He'd done some books with Philip Pullman, who is another one of my favorite authors. And so I really, really wanted the job, and because I really wanted the job, I got very shy and very nervous. And I'd gone to a bunch of interviews that week and that was by far my worst interview, and Arthur told me later that because my eyes were so red and bloodshot, he thought maybe I was a very shy and very sweet pothead.
JG: Oh, wow!
CK: Yeah, my... because it was my contact lenses, which I don't wear a great deal. Anyway, but he gave me the opportunity to write some analyses of manuscripts, which is a lot of your work when you are an editorial assistant, is reading manuscripts and analyzing them and saying whether they should be published, doing what is called reader's reports. And based on the strength of my reader's reports, he decided to take a chance on me and my pothead ways. [laughs]
CK: And I got the job.
KH: Now, as soon as you got the job, what was it like on Order of the Phoenix? How exciting was that for you as a fan?
CK: Oh, it was... well, the first Harry Potter thing I worked on were the charity books, Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
KH: Oh, okay.
CK: And that was super exciting, [laughs] just being part of... I should clarify right up front that Arthur is the real editor of the books. He's the one who makes the decisions about what he talks about with Jo Rowling. And so my job is basically helping Arthur keep track of everything and definitely supplying... sometimes I supply him with questions: Do we want to go to both Jo and our partners at Bloomsbury when we were working on the books? It was very much a team effort when we were all considering what needed to be done together.
CK: So, I was sort of Arthur's support and backup on this. But it was huge fun just being part of those conversations. I remember specifically when we were doing, I think, Fantastic Beasts and we were debating whether you say... should the book box or the book cover say "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" or is it "The Hogwarts School"?
CK: Because people refer to it as "The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," but that's not an official part of its name.
[CK and JG laugh]
CK: And so, it's being part of those conversations and keeping track of those details is really where my... has been both huge fun for me and has been where my main job lies.
KH: I want to ask about those books, the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them books, because there's a lot of writings in there from Ron and Harry themselves in the print of those books. Now, is that something that somebody there prints up afterwards, or was that done by JK Rowling herself?
CK:[laughs] I am casting my mind back because this is ten years ago now.
KH: If you remember...
CK: Yeah, I know what you're talking about.
KH: They had the hangman game...
KH: ...and they had... on Acromantulas, Ron would add...
KH: ...a bunch more X's into the Ministry of Magic coding system.
CK: I'm pretty sure that was mostly done by JK Rowling herself.
KH: Okay. So, she takes a final piece - a final print piece - and then adds on her flavors to it before it goes to mass publishing. Is that how it works?
CK: I don't remember the exact process, I have to say. [laughs]
CK: But... of where the files came from and so on, and I probably couldn't talk about it if I did.
JG: Maybe an easier question - maybe a harder question: If I'm getting the continuity - [laughs] for your joining as continuity editor here, right Cheryl. You come into Arthur Levine's imprint in the three-year summer. You basically join up with the team in between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix.
JG: Was there something in Goblet of Fire that prompted Arthur Levine to say, "You know, I want somebody working here full-time to make sure we haven't got any gas, any giant mistakes or whatever." The first three books are pretty clean. There are a few flints or whatever, like Quirrell-demort doesn't use a wand to wrap Harry up in ropes in the first book, whatever, at the end. But Book 4, Rowling said, was really rushed and that she came in late with it. There's the famous sequence of specters out of Voldemort's wand. Is that what prompted Arthur Levine to say, "Hey, let's bring somebody in here who really knows these books to watch over this."
CK: Actually, no. [laughs] I was hired to be his editorial assistant, which is a job where I was dealing with Harry Potter later on, but certainly at the beginning I was mostly just acting as his assistant, like answering phones and opening mail...
JG: Right, right.
CK: ...and reading and responding to manuscripts and things. My job as a continuity editor sort of evolved as the series went along, and as we got into... I was doing some of these functions of Book 5, but it didn't really become my official title until Book 6, where basically... I have a strong background in copyediting, which I had when I was in high school and college, and because there were so many facts to keep track of...
CK: ...and so many style facts to keep track of, which is a lot of what copy editors do - like whether Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans... whether you have a hyphen between "Every" and "Flavor"...
[CK and JG laugh]
CK: ...whether there is an apostrophe in "Bott's", all of these sort of things. Because my brain runs naturally toward those detail-oriented things, that's how I became the continuity editor. It had much less to do with any specific sort of... anything in response to Goblet of Fire or anything like that.
JG: I get it. I get it.
CK: And I should say generally with editing, I think the job is both keeping track of all the feeling that the book brings up, sort of, and helping the author manage the flow of the emotion, if that makes sense, from the story and the characters. And then there's also a lot of keeping track of facts. If he picks up a... "His Remembrall in the first scene, when does he put it down?" that sort of thing because you can't have him just start juggling a bunch of pears.
KS: Especially in a series as complicated as this.
KS: I can understand why they decided to... especially Book 6...
KS: and things started... not winding down but they needed to keep everything straight.
CK: Both winding down and ramping up, kind of, yeah. There was just some... the way Arthur and I talked about it was quite often he would keep track of the feelings and I would keep track of the facts.
[CK and JG laugh]
CK: But of course the facts support the feelings, and so we had to do our best to be sure everything was running smoothly. But yeah, definitely by Books 5, 6 and 7, the magical world was just bursting at the seams and we had all sorts of facts all over the place.
KH: Well, Half-Blood Prince - Kimmy was alluding to it on Half-Blood Prince. There were so many facts and figures going around to keep track of, especially with all of the memories in the Pensieve and everything. What was the hardest book to get all the facts straight on - that you had your experiences on - between "5", "6", and "7"?
CK: I would say probably "7" because it was absolutely crucial that we keep all the wands straight. [laughs]
CK: Who owned what wand when, and whose intelligence was controlling the wand. And so, that requires both some... I mean, it's all genius [laughs] that she was able to work all this out. And then we had to be sure that her genius was being communicated clearly to readers, you know? Because often what... as an editor, I think of my job as being the reader's advocate. I'm the person who is talking to the author and saying, "You know, this part isn't quite clear to me," or, "I think you want me to be feeling this here but you have too many words [laughs] and that's sort of clogging that feeling." So, we were sort of acting as the reader's advocate, and Arthur and I - especially Arthur - and talking to Jo and saying, "Okay, this is what you mean by this," and so on. And then we just had to be sure that we saw Draco holding the wand at the right time and Harry holding the wand at the right time, so that when they have that final battle it would all come together...
CK: ...completely. Yeah.
JG: And the book that was the most criticized, Cheryl, was Order of the Phoenix, and Jo Rowling has responded to this several times in interviews, that she was criticized for being too long. And it was said - I think I was one of the people who said it - that she had "Famous Author's Syndrome," that nobody would touch her books, that there was no editing being done, that's why Order of the Phoenix was longer than the Old and New Testament and the Qur'an combined or something. Forgive me. It's considered, by some, to be too long a book. Rowling has become... she said that, "Yeah, she wish she could prune it back, but she couldn't find any place that she could find to cut it, where the details wouldn't show." Was that part of your job after Order of the Phoenix, was to come on and say, "A little too many words here, Jo. It's clogging the feelings," or did you... you guys have the same procedure with Scholastic, Bloomsbury throughout the set that you worked on, the last three.
CK: The last four books - "4", "5", "6" and "7" - were all jointly edited by Arthur in New York and Emma Matthewson in the UK who was acting as Jo's editor over there at Bloomsbury. We definitely applied the same procedure to those books that we applied to any project we edit, which is that we looked at the book, we said, "Where can we cut? What can go?" [laughs] Books are always a "Your mileage may vary" sort of thing.
CK: Clearly some people thought it was too long. Ms. Rowling has said herself that she would cut it back. But I think I also agree with what you said earlier, that I wouldn't necessarily... I kind of find it a little bit hard to cut it back without knowing exactly how everything was going to play out. You need to...
JG: Oh, absolutely! I criticized Order of the Phoenix as being too long, and then five years after or four years after Deathly Hallows came out... Keith and I have talked about this at length on this show and other places about the ring composition. Once you understand how all the chapters line up, you cut anything out, all of a sudden you have a hole in the ring and it's not a ring anymore if it's got a hole in it - [laughs] other than the hole in the center of it, but the ring has to be complete all the way around. So, I can see your frustration in saying, "Yeah, I've got to have that chapter there, dummy. You don't understand the scaffolding of the story." That's a remarkable burden for her. But what's curious to me is the books seem to get shorter. Half-Blood Prince is significantly shorter than Order of the Phoenix, and Deathly Hallows is about the same range. So, you're saying that the editorial procedurals were the same from Goblet on. There wasn't any pressure to bring Jo Rowling back into line or something, and she's gone too long or to just let it go and whatever she wanted to say.
CK: She's always been somebody who has listened to her editors and who has made changes. I'm a little bit hesitant to get too much into this, just because it's sort of like lawyer-client confidentiality, or editor-author confidentiality.
CK: It's more the author's prerogative to talk about it than it is mine. But she always has taken editorial feedback, and been very open to it, and adjusted as she deemed necessary. And I think certainly... if you want to talk about cutting things out, then I think you have to go through and be like, "Okay, I don't like knowing so much about the Ministry of Magic, [laughs] so I think you should cut these five pages," or something like that. And I think for a lot of Harry Potter fans, what we want most is more information and not the other.
CK: Yeah. So...
KH: Yeah, I'm one who wants more information all the time. Let me ask you this: How long does it normally take to edit a children's book? Just say general children's book.
KH: Is it a lengthy procedure?
CK: Generally if I sign a book up, it will get published two years later.
KH: But I mean the whole editing process from the time that the author sends you the final manuscript to the time that the editing is done.
CK: Well, when you say final manuscript... the first draft of the manuscript I get... generally the way it works is that I get a manuscript and then I write the author a... I read it, I write the author a letter saying, "I think you should work on these aspects of your characterization, of your plot..."
CK: All these sort of things. And the author goes away and does another draft, and then comes back with those big things addressed.
KH: All right. Well, the reason I ask that is because here we have the number one best-selling book series ever.
KH: Okay? And we're entering 2007 and we know Jo is writing this book. She finishes it in I think the Balmoral Hotel or something like that, in January, and we get the announcement that this thing is going to be released in July. So, you as an editor and Bloomsbury and all the people have to work their magic in six months from the time she finished writing this, to have the entire manuscript flown to New York - she brought it over herself, if I remember correctly - handed it to Arthur, and then the editing process begins, and the printing process, and getting this all out in mass quantities - I mean, we're talking millions and millions of copies of this thing - all in that six-month period. What was that like? How hectic were you working during those six months?
CK: It was a pretty intense time.
[CK and JG laugh]
CK: Yeah. I mean, she never delivered a manuscript until she felt it was in great shape, and I think that everybody would agree that the story that she wanted to tell was there on the page. And she had planned all of these out so well that the stories didn't need a great deal, in my opinion, of the more substantive editing that I was talking about earlier, with the "You need to think about your characters in this way or your plot or whatever," because they were all so complete right there. So, it was certainly a hectic time, but that didn't mean we didn't need to keep track of all the details that I was talking about, and all the style questions, and to be sure that everything hung together for the reader, like I said. It was a busy, busy, busy period of months, for sure.
JG: That's a really exciting point you make there, Cheryl. It's something like Lev Grossman said at Ascendio 2012 in Florida. He said that when he interviewed Jo Rowling, he was astonished that she spoke in complete paragraphs, and you could actually sense the punctuation [laughs] in her voice. He said, "No one but John Gardner gives interviews like that." He interviewed her for Time Magazine, of course.
JG: That... and you're saying here that she plans these books so carefully and has worked for so long that it's not like a normal author who has had a marvelous inspiration, put together the book, maybe plotted out how it works, and then delivered the manuscript. She's lived these books entirely so that when you received the manuscript, it was largely a finished thing that had to be surveyed and checked and such. But it wasn't your normal author's "Here's my exciting new idea about a book and here's my first draft."
CK: Right. It was... I mean, my Harry Potter claim to fame in the books themselves is that I wrote the author bio in the back of Book 7.
JG: That's great!
CK: And maybe Book 6, too.
JG: You're in there!
CK: And... but anyway I made a point of putting in there the... that she'd been working on these books since 1990, when most...
CK: When many of her readers hadn't even been born yet.
KS: Yeah, I was only being... that's the year I was born. [laughs]
CK: Yeah, there we go.
KS: That blows my mind, that she has been working on it that long.
CK: Yeah. And so... seventeen years.
JG: I have a daughter who is that age who has been a Harry Potter fan since she can remember. She doesn't really remember a time before Harry Potter.
KS: Yeah. I remember when I had to wait for the books to come out. [laughs]
CK: Right. So, she had a real completeness of vision, I'd say, about what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it and what this story was about, and so I didn't... we didn't need to work with her so much on developing that.
JG:[laughs] Yeah. That's a great... come on, Jo. Work on this idea of Harry as sort of a hero and sacrificial love. You want to develop, you want to blow that up a little bit more here. Yeah, I could... [laughs]
CK: For some authors you do that work, but she didn't need it. [laughs]
JG: You're confirming that she's a spectacular author who has, as you said, spent years and years planning these things out.
KH: But now, going back to the beginning again, before you were actually with Scholastic, there was a fairly major mistake that we've already addressed with Goblet of Fire, when James came out of the wand before Lily. Was that addressed when you were there at Scholastic? Because that book came out, like I said, before you were there but I think the whole issue blossomed after you arrived.
CK: Actually, no. I didn't arrive until September, and I think the... this was before my time because I think they had already addressed that shortly after the error was caught, which must have been in July.
KH: So, it was pretty quick, then.
CK: It was pretty quick, yeah.
KH: Now, was there any other issues that you or anybody else caught from before in the series? When you were doing Order of the Phoenix - as John said, it's a ring composition, so Order of the Phoenix ties in with Prisoner of Azkaban, Half-Blood Prince with Chamber of Secrets, et cetera. Do you guys go back to those books continuously and say, "Okay, these are in parallel with each other"?
CK: We were very aware of the themes that she was working with, and we wanted to keep all the details straight, between those various things. I don't think there was quite so much emphasis on the ring composition as you are talking about it because I think we were more... it's a little bit funny being an editor because you do try to have the big picture - and this applies to all books and not just Harry Potter. You do try to have the big picture of, what is this book about? What is it saying as a... it was a feminist statement, or a Marxist statement, or all the many ways in which people have...
JG: Right. [laughs]
CK: ...analyzed Harry Potter. But, really, as an editor, you are more concerned with, is this thought flowing into the next thought? [laughs] Are the periods where they are supposed to be? What does our design look like? Do we have all the correct chapter headings and everything?
JG: Which is really no small thing. It's almost like the air we breathe as Harry Potter readers, that there aren't those mistakes inside the books. I have read books where you're constantly distracted by indentation mistakes...
JG: ...these weird things that you don't notice except when there's a mistake there. You do the, "Oh my goodness, why is that flushed to the right side instead of the left? What's going on here?" And there aren't any of those type of errors that I've noticed in the Harry Potter books. I can't remember looking at a Harry Potter book, reading it and thinking, "Wow, that's a silly glitch. Why didn't they catch that?" Which is testimony to the fact of all that you've done, Cheryl. You and everybody on both sides of the Atlantic here. Harry Potter readers are never distracted by those things because of the work that you've done.
CK: Thank you. And, as I've added, we also had some great copy editors, who were backing me up and Arthur up on all of these style points and so on. So, we definitely kept an eye on the large themes, but we also trusted that Ms. Rowling knew what she was doing with those. And so, it was our job mostly to provide support in crafting the reader's experience, I'll say.
JG: We've talked about this before we started talking on the show here, about you meeting Harry Potter fandom actually at conventions, but you've also had contact... I've read your FAQ on your wonderful website or whatever. You've had contact with people in the fandom who write to you and say, "Hey, there's a mistake on page 387 or whatever," where people think they found a mistake inside the books and they want to talk to the continuity editor about that. What is your relationship with those kind of things? Has any fan really caught something that you didn't see, or are most of these just fan enthusiasm where they imagine there is an error? What's your relationship with fandom in that regard?
CK: Definitely we get a lot of letters. We especially get a lot of letters from kids. Often, they have seen earlier printings of... especially the first two or three books. I know there's one where Percy is spelled as "Perry", and in another book there's two R's on the end of "professor".
[CK and JG laugh]
CK: So, these are just typos, and kids write to us and they're like, "I found a typo!" [laughs] And so, I have a form letter I use to respond and I'm like, "Yes, you did! Congratulations! You have very sharp eyes!"
[CK and JG laugh]
CK: And I'll send a picture of JK Rowling and things like that. Because the kids are... that's the sort of attention that we want to encourage in books, for sure. [laughs]
CK: People reading closely and catching things. When it comes to things like larger, logical questions, we... I sit down and I go through it and I look at all the logic or the continuity question that might be involved. There have been things the people have brought up that we then might go ahead and discuss, either... like I would discuss it with Arthur, and Arthur would discuss it with Jo, and we'd work out how we wanted to approach it, if it needed correction. Some of them turned out that they don't. But in some cases, we think, "Okay. Well, this is something that's worth addressing," and we might go back and make a text change in the next printing of the book.
KH: How many books a year are you reading - or manuscripts, I should say - that are just not there? People think they have the ability to write, and they send this stuff in, and you're like, "I've got to tell you: no, it's not going to work at all," or...
CK: It's... oh Lord. I read a lot. [laughs] I haven't really kept a count of how many manuscripts I read a year. It's probably in the multiple hundreds, I guess.
KH: But now, are you getting the full manuscript, or are you getting the first three chapters of the book?
CK: Generally, I'm getting the full manuscript. If I can tell fairly early on that a manuscript isn't right for me - that there's something about the writing, or the story, or the characterization that is not going to be something that I'll want to work on - I might not read the whole thing. But if it's... I do read complete manuscripts, probably two or three a week? I think that's the goal.
CK: And then I also have various interns and people who can help me read, also.
KH: Well, one of the things that comes from your book, Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults - one of the things you mentioned in there is terrific first lines, and just how important they are. Is that something that you really look for in each of the manuscripts that you look at, is how captivating is that very first line - am I into this book right away, or is it something that I've got to wait on? I mean, JK Rowling's first paragraph is something that almost everybody knows by heart.
KH: "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." I mean, every Harry Potter fan knows that line inside and out. Is first lines one of the keys that you look at right away?
CK: I think it's not so much first line, as it is the first chapter all together. I actually did a blog post on this this weekend, if readers would like to go and check out my blog, where I talk about Harry Potter among other things. And thinking about... the first line sort of sets a tone for the rest of the book, but the first paragraph, the first page, and the first chapter overall, what that really lets me do is get a sense of the control, perhaps, I want to say that the writer has over their story and their writing. Like, what sort of measure... how much are they giving away information, and how much are they retaining it? What are they... or how are they good at hooking me into these characters, you know? If by the end of the first chapter, I feel like I know these characters pretty well and I want to see what's going to happen with them... especially if by the end of the first chapter, something has happened - [laughs] the "inciting incident" is the term that's usually used for it, where there's been some sort of event that is bringing these characters together and putting the narrative into focus. If there's been a good inciting incident, if I feel like I know these characters and I'm curious to see that they have dimension to grow and that there's going to be more to know about them. And if I feel like the writing is strong and clean, then altogether that's something I'm going to want to keep reading more of, more so than just this specific first line. But a great first line can definitely set me up...
KH: Grab you right away. [laughs]
CK: Grab me right away and set me on that tone.
JG: Here's the question that maybe you'll ask Keith to edit out of the program: Does Scholastic take unsolicited manuscripts? If Jo Rowling was going to send a book to Arthur Levine to ask him to print it, to publish it, would her manuscript be accepted if it weren't represented by an agent or was unsolicited?
CK: Scholastic, as a whole, does not take unsolicited manuscripts. The Arthur A Levine imprint, which is what I work for, we do take unsolicited manuscripts. I generally don't take unsolicited manuscripts but I'm about to start a week where I am taking them. [laughs] We're trying to balance both our very large workloads with the chance that there are people who are having a harder time getting agents, you know?
CK: I do encourage writers to get agents generally because it's good to have somebody who knows the business and can represent you and protect your rights and everything, and it's just great to have a partner going through the publishing process altogether, somebody who can be your advocate and friend. Which is not to say that publishers are evil, [laughs] but just that it's good to have somebody standing by you.
KH: Well, let me ask you this. I want to ask both you and Kimmy a question. The theme that we seem to have on this show is "What makes the Harry Potter books so successful in the market today, and why is everybody so into these books?" Last week, for instance, we were looking at the Vladimir Propp tables and why folktale structure was the key to how Harry Potter was so successful. A couple of weeks ago, we had a mystery writer, Dolores Gordon-Smith, who wrote the Jack Haldean series. And obviously, the mystery writings are fantastic in JK Rowling's books, so would that may be a key is? Was everybody getting wrapped up in the mystery of the Harry Potter series? Let me ask Kimmy first, though. I want to get Kim's input on this. What is, in your opinion, the reason that the Harry Potter books are so successful today?
KS: I think part of it is that it is a series. I know personally as a reader, I love having a long-term investment in characters. It's very rare that I read a "once and done" book. Things like The Hunger Games, all of those - I love those longer series. There's also just a lot of heart, and the characters are just... it's impossible not to get invested in them. Even when Ron is being an idiot and doesn't realize that Hermione is a girl, [laughs] you still can't help but root for him and her. I think that there is something there that just inherently people can't help but be drawn to. I think it also helps that both boys and girls want to read them. It's not a gender bias thing, it's not something that's only going to draw in girls or boys. I think that that has helped make it have a longer longevity.
KH: That's a good answer. In fact, our very first show was discussing the fact of series readings. So, basically what she is saying is as a reader her favorites are series readings, like The Hunger Games, Twilight, everything else. So, as an author, if you are entering this market in today's world, do you feel that you have to come up with a series of books?
CK: No. I mean, there are some stories that are series length, and there are some stories that are one-book length, and there are some books that are trilogy length. I think what's important is the integrity of the story and how much the author has planned out, and then fitting the number of books to that amount of story. I think John Green's The Fault in Our Stars - which is a book that I read and loved earlier this year - I don't really want to see a sequel. [laughs] I feel like that book is perfect just as it is, and I feel like a sequel would in some ways undercut the perfection of what that book is because it would be extending the story beyond who the characters are there and I feel like that story is complete.
JG: That's a neat point. Scholastic has another series that came out contemporaneous with Harry Potter, called Gregor the Overlander...
JG: ...which is an Arthur A Levine imprint, but it went on for five books, and there are points when you think to yourself, "Gosh, did she really plan this as a five-book series, [laughs] or did Scholastic try to stretch this thing out?" It may have been better just as a one-off, or a two-part series. But back to Kimmy's point about series, are you seeing more books that are being offered as series rather than just as one-offs?
CK: We've always seen a mix of both series and one-offs, and generally we will see fantasy much more than anything else offered as a series. And we get trilogies, we get... seven-book series are a pretty long...
CK: ...commitment for a publishing house to make, but if you have the right author and the right concept, there you go. So, I think... we always look at every single project as its own thing, and figure out what it needs for its story and for its publishing life. You know, if I signed up a seven-book series right now, if it was one book a year, which is the usual publishing pattern, probably the first one... I mean, if we rushed the first one, it could come out next fall. And then I would be publishing one of those books every year until 2020. [laughs]
CK: And when you think about that...
JG: Yeah. [laughs]
CK: I mean, that's a huge commitment for the writer, too, because the writer is tying themselves to this world for seven years. So, it's something that we always judge on a case-by-case basis.
JG: Is that part of the explanation... that seems obvious now that you've pointed it out, I've never thought of it before. Is that one of the reasons why Jo Rowling's Philosopher's Stone was kicked back by so many publishers? Was just the idea of investing in this unknown for seven books was that daunting?
CK: I don't know about the situation at which it was acquired at Bloomsbury, but probably they just signed it up one book at a time. So... and if that were the case, then they maybe weren't commiting to the whole series quite just yet. And I think, definitely, the best series books each have a sort of standalone component to each one. I mean, one of the things, I think, that makes Harry Potter work so well is those long, over-arching mysteries over all seven books, like why was Harry able to survive Voldemort's curse - baby Harry. And then also the individual mysteries within each book, like who is the prisoner of Azkaban...
JG:[laughs] Right, right.
CK: ...and why is he coming after Harry?
JG: You're right. That's a brilliant part of her writing, is that each one of the books really can be read autonomously.
JG: All of us, I know, at least us four, and the thousands of people listening - all of us have gone back and picked up one book. We haven't felt like we had to go back to "The Boy Who Lived" and read our way up to Order of the Phoenix. We could pick Order of the Phoenix just to read the raid of the Department of Mysteries, or read that whole book.
JG: They do stand alone. That's a great point.
CK: So, I think... definitely series publishing is something we are always looking for. The next big thing, and so on. But we want to be sure the author has the chops and that the story needs the series.
KH: Just please make sure that 50 Shades of Grey does not have a second book. Please?
JG: There's three, four, five books. My goodness, it's going to be...
CK: I'm a little bit... the train has left the station on that one.
JG: Oh, yeah! We'll be living with that forever.
CK: Well, it's already a trilogy, so yeah.
KH:[sighs] Oh God.
[JG and KH laugh]
KH: Don't worry, I'll edit that part out.
KS: We actually published those. Random House published those. I am so tired of hearing... that's all we hear about. 50 Shades of Grey, left and right. It's insane. [laughs]
KH: Let me ask, Kim. What kind of work are you doing at Random House now? Are you hoping to get into the editing business?
KS: I would hope to some day. It's a long journey from here. I think it's funny what Cheryl said earlier, it's people you know. I've definitely gotten that feeling just in the brief time that I've been there. But that would be my goal some day, yes.
KH: All right. Well, Cheryl, for those people who are out there listening to the show and are in college right now looking to maybe look at a career in... somewhere in the publishing industry, what would you suggest that they do as far as their college courses? What would you recommend their approach be to getting into the field?
CK: Well, first I would say you have to love reading practically more than anything else. [laughs] If you are not choosing of your own accord to read most hours of the day, whether it's novels or picture books or adult non-fiction or whatever it is, then probably publishing isn't for you because this is a job where you need to be passionate about reading, because you're not going to be doing... well, you'll be doing a lot of other things, but it's going to take up a lot of your time, including nights and weekends. So, if you don't love reading so much that you're willing to give up your nights and weekends for it, you probably should not try going into editing. And I say that just sort of as a cautionary note.
If you are one of those people, then I would say keep reading widely. I think you want to have a good background in everything you possibly can almost, like you want to know a little bit about more or less everything. And then also start zooming in on what you love to read the most, like if you love reading romance novels, or if you really love reading books like Malcolm Gladwell's, or if you really love reading children's books or whatever it is. Try to figure out what you really like and try to know more about that. Because I think having a wide base of knowledge for the part of the industry that you want to get into is going to serve you well, both when you are talking to people about trying to get into the industry and when you are actually in the job. A lot of publishing rep will say, "Oh, this is a great new fantasy novel. What book is this like?" And I think for Harry Potter, Arthur compared it to... there's a very Roald Dahl-ish sense of humor. So, when he talked about the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, he... I know there was a great quote, "It dances in the footsteps of Pamela Travers and Roald Dahl," which sort of got the early book's sense of humor and such. And so if you can draw those sort of comparisons yourself, that's going to help make you a better publisher. So, know a lot... read a lot, basically.
KH: Coming out of high school, you knew pretty much right away that you wanted to get into the industry. So, what did you do for yourself in choosing your college, to go to Carleton? What made that college stand out above others to you, and what do you think other students should look at when they are choosing their college, to go into this industry?
CK: Carleton had a great English program, and I knew that I wanted to be an English major. I have a friend who is a Russian Studies major [laughs] who is an editor at Scholastic and she edits The 39 Clues series, for instance. People come from a lot of different backgrounds, but I think the main thing you need is the ability to read very critically, and write analytically and thoughtfully and well. So, those are skills that you can develop in almost any industry or almost any major, and at almost any school. But the better the school you can find that fits you and will challenge you to develop those skills, that's the right school for you. [laughs] When I got my job at Arthur A Levine books, Arthur had actually never heard of Carleton because even though it's one of the better regarded liberal art schools in the United States, because it wasn't so much an East Coast school. But a friend of his told him, "No, that's a really great school." So, I don't think you necessarily have to go to a name school. You definitely have to develop those writing skills and develop those analytic skills so that if you get the chance to do reader's reports like I did, or if you get the chance to go in and interview with somebody like in an informational interview, then you can make that impression that you know what you're talking about and you have the skills to write well and to do the work. That would be my advice. [laughs] And then after you graduate - definitely if you're interested in going into publishing, try to do an internship if you can. Almost every major publisher offers summer internship programs. If you go to a school that's in New York, some publishers offer during-the-year internships for class credit and so on.
JG: How can we become your apprentice, Cheryl?
JG: Is there a program that allows us to be your assistant?
CK: Not so much, I'm afraid. [laughs] But if you can't do an intern - I actually didn't do any internships when I was in college because I needed to work during the summers and make money, and I did not grow up in... I did not live in New York, so I couldn't come to here and just spend my summer working for intern pay. So, after I graduated I went to the Denver Publishing Institute, and there are three summer institutes actually that offer publishing courses. There's Denver, there's one at NYU, and there's one at Columbia. And all three of those offer really great opportunities to make connections with people who are currently working in publishing which in turn can help you get a job, which is indeed how I got my job. So, I do recommend those programs highly if you're interested and willing, and you can do it.
KH: Well now, Kimmy, you went to Millersville University and just recently graduated. Are you from the Pennsylvania area, or what attracted you to Millersville?
KS: Yeah, I grew up in Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half away from Millersville.
KH: So, that school attracted you because of its closeness or because of the education degree on it?
KS: The education degree, and there's also a good distance. It was close but not too close. I could go home if I needed to. Basic things like that.
KH: Okay. And do they offer internships for coming out of Millersville into Random House, or did you just happen to just get lucky with Random House?
KS: I just happened to get lucky and I happened to be... just the right time, right place. I mean, they have some internships but they are working on developing their internship program.
CK: I mean... if I can throw in two other things that you might do if you're interested in being an editor. One is to work on your college literary magazine because you have to help pick out what's good stuff that you want to put in your publication. And that's basically what an editor does, is looks at all these different manuscripts and says, "That one!" And the other thing is to work in your college writing center, or as a writing tutor, because then you're spending a lot of time explaining to somebody what isn't quite working in their manuscript, even if it's just their paper, and helping them figure out how to improve it. And that's also very much a description of my job.
JG: Boy, that's great advice. That's great advice.
KH: There we are. Serving the academic community for Harry Potter fans.
JG: Well seriously, there are... as we saw last week, Keith, at LeakyCon, there are thousands of people not only interested in great reading, but many of these people are writing their own fiction. They've been inspired by their experience inside Harry's world to want to write their own books. This conversation is not going to help them if they want to become professional editors, but how to relate to people like Cheryl when they meet them, God willing. Cheryl, this has been great. I... Keith, have you got any more questions?
KH: No, this is what I wanted to cover, was for people to learn how to get into the industry and also just what the basic experiences were like actually touching the Harry Potter books in raw manuscript form, which... I don't know what... I can't imagine what that feeling would be like, knowing that I have this manuscript that everybody in the world wants to read and nobody can touch it but me.
KH: You know, that's... I don't know. It's kind of a feeling of power, there.
CK: Well, I talked before about the fact that I... it was in a Time Magazine interview a while ago, that I flew to England once to get one of the... a copy of the manuscript and bring it back because we did everything by flight. [laughs] And I... so yeah, I would at some point be going through Heathrow with a manuscript in my backpack and thinking, "Wow, this is kind of cool [laughs] that nobody knows I have this incredibly valuable thing." But it was one of those things you just have to play it cool. So yeah, it was a very, very rare privilege.
JG: Cheryl, we talked about you've written a book, and we've talked about your website, but you also give seminars, right? On just this process. What you do and how to encourage writers. Can you tell us more about these seminars?
CK: I do a lot of speaking at writers' conferences. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest writers organizations in the world, actually. SCBWI.org, if anyone is curious. They have regional chapters all over the United States that hold conferences once or twice a year, and I am frequently invited to go to those conferences and I enjoy doing so. So, next year I'm speaking at SCBWI Hawaii, for instance...
CK: ...in February. Yeah!
JG: That's the place you want to go. I get this, this is good.
JG: I want to hear you talk in Hawaii, Cheryl. And Keith does, too.
CK: I'm looking forward to it. And then also in South Dakota, I think, so I do a lot of speaking. And I enjoy doing that.
KH: Great. All right. Well, Cheryl, thank you so much for coming on the show today. I really enjoyed having you. I was excited for this show to learn all about the editing and just get the sense of what this was like from your perspective. And I've heard you before on a bunch of podcasts, so thank you so much for coming on.
CK: I really enjoyed it, thank you.
KH: Good. John, our next show coming up is going to be I think with Dr. Sturgis in September.
JG: Amy Sturgis. Oh boy.
KH: Yes. Mythgard Institute. So, we're looking forward to that show. If you are a student who wants to get involved in these shows, send in your information, it's on the MuggleNet Academia website. There's a list of instructions for how to get involved in the show, and we will look through it, and try and match you up with an appropriate show, and get you on. Also, you can now download not only on iTunes and the direct RSS feeds that we get from Libsyn, but you can also get the MuggleNet Academia apps on your mobile devices. We have the iOS devices for your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. And to buy that, you go to Podcast Box and download that free app, and then search for MuggleNet Academia. It's a $1.99 one time charge. And then on Android devices, you go to Amazon.com and download the MuggleNet Academia app.
[Show music begins]
KH: We will be putting on some bonus content. I have been in touch with a few professors and we're going to be discussing some classes that people teach on Harry Potter. We're also going to do some other stuff on bonus features, so it's a good app to have and get a little more backend stories. So, from MuggleNet Academia and MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
CK: I'm Cheryl Klein, US continuity editor for the Harry Potter series.
KS: I'm Kimmy Saylor, a recent graduate of Millersville University and current employee of Random House.