Two years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Andrew Harwell at the annual SCWBI Conference in Minnesota. His energy was infectious, and he brought a fresh perspective to the table as an editor. Now I’m excited to include him on the Red Sofa Chats! This is a great interview. And I learned a new term, which I should have known some time ago, “mannerpunk.”
Thanks so much Andrew!
Andrew Harwell is an Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, focusing on middle grade and young adult fiction. He has the privilege of working with such authors as Dan Gutman, author of the internationally bestselling My Weird School series; J. Scott Savage, author of the Whitney Award finalist, Case File 13: Zombie Kid; Noelle Stevenson, creator of the on-going web comic and winner of the Slate Cartoonist Studio Prize, Nimona; Madeleine Roux, author of the New York Times bestselling photo novel, Asylum; and many more. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Andrew is a piano player, a gamer, and a film fanatic. He can be found on Twitter at @Andrewasalways.
1. Why did you choose to become an editor?
I’ve always been a reader, and books have given me a great many things: comfort, truth, perspective, escapism. I went to college in Chicago not entirely sure what I would do, but I hoped it would involve reading and writing, and I had a feeling it might involve New York. Meanwhile, though I was reading a lot of “the great books” for class, I was spending much of my free time in the kids and YA section of 57th Street Books, falling in love with books by Francesca Lia Block, David Levithan, Ursula K. Le Guin, Diana Wynne Jones…the list goes on. So when I reached my junior year and started applying for internships, I decided I’d test out the old “do what you love” advice. I interned at Penguin Young Readers and loved it even more than I thought I would. Six years later, I am still loving it.
2. Are there any projects you wish you could have edited?
Oh, sure, and not because I think they could have used another round of edits, either, but because I wish I had letters and voicemails and emails from these authors walking me through the side-stories and creative journeys of these books. Just this year, I felt this longing for Why We Broke Up, Fangirl, The Dust of 100 Dogs, The Summer Prince…well, that list goes on, too.
3. What are you reading right now (for personal reading, for fun)?
I recently finished Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, a fantasy novel considered to be the epitome of “mannerpunk,” a term I hadn’t known before but which describes a number of books I like. I’m always in the middle of a few books at once, though. Currently, I’m reading Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy, Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, and Leila Sales’ This Song Will Save Your Life.
4. How do you utilize Twitter? How do you believe it has changed the way we go about publishing books?
I use Twitter in a number of ways. I follow writers, editors, agents, librarians, etc., which means that I’m always getting news pertinent to the industry as soon as it happens. I’m also getting a sense of who everyone is, because authors and agents share things on Twitter they might not think to tell you over lunch. I use Twitter to spread the word on what my authors are doing, and to reach out to creators whose work I’m loving. As a human and a fan, I always get a jolt of endorphins when a writer, actor, or musician says “Thanks!” And meanwhile, authors and agents are getting a sense of who I am, which helps them to send me new projects I’ll love. I don’t know that Twitter has changed the way we do business, honestly, but I know that as an editor who has been in the business for less than a decade, I’ve found it an invaluable tool for connecting with the industry.
5. If you had a crystal ball, where do you think (or hope) publishing will be in 5 years?
In five years, young readers will need books that speak to them where they are, in all their diversity — books that are engaging, uplifting, comforting, daring. That is to say, I think publishing will face much the same questions it faces today. Formats and price-points and publishing platforms will still give people cause for debate, and we should be debating — it keeps things vital. But publishers bring so much to books, above and beyond the paper and binding. We bring authors the ability to focus on their ideas instead of their numbers, and I foresee our doing that for many years to come.
Do you have any questions for Andrew? Please post them here. And of course, let’s talk about “mannerpunk” – what are your favorite titles, inquiring minds want to know!