WHAT IS BEHIND THE DESK?
Behind the Desk is a new series in which I interview amazing published authors, librarians, teachers, book designers, etc. so that we can learn more about the intricacies, struggles, and excitement that goes on in the world of books and literature. Feel free to contact me with suggestions for future interviewees!
Behind the Desk: Kass Morgan
Kass Morgan has that special ability to make a splash wherever she goes, be it Brown and Oxford for college, the New York publishing scene where she is an incredible editor at one of the top publishing houses, or the New York Times Best Seller List, which is where her first book, The 100, ended up whilst being turned into a hugely popular TV show by the same name. But Kass is more than just her accolades. She has a sharp wit, a passion for culture and coffee, and a fashion sense that makes you want to go out and buy a closet full of dresses. The fourth installment of The 100 series will be out in December, so catch up on the previous books if you haven't already!
You've run the gamut of publishing roles, from starting out reading the slush pile to becoming an incredibly popular author. How have these experiences shaped and altered your editing process and relationship with your authors?
Going from editor to writer gave me a MUCH deeper appreciation for how hard my authors work. To me, editing is sort of like building furniture—you take pieces apart, put them back together, polish it up when the structure is right, and then help sell it. But writing is like growing a tree—a process that takes more patience, passion, care, and faith than I ever realized.
Roald Dahl once said, "Good writing is essentially rewriting." As someone who lives in the professional spheres of both editor and author, how do you approach your own rewriting process?
Great question! It's incredibly difficult for me to turn off my editor brain, and if I don't take drastic measures, I'll end up re-writing the same 500 words over and over again for weeks. The only way I know how to finish a full manuscript is to force myself to write the entire thing first, which is really hard for my perfectionist, neurotic, editor brain. I've come up with hacks, though, like writing in longhand. It's certainly tedious to transcribe later, but it keeps me from fussing with the language too early in the process. And since I love writing in cafes, it's easier to use a notebook. That way, I don’t spend my weekends glaring at the outlet hogs and venting my anger by bumping into them on my way to the bathroom.
I recently read a book in which I distinctly preferred the story and ideas over the characters and the language (yet it's still a book I would recommend to the right person). Whether you're reading for work or at home, do you find yourself gravitating more towards story or characters? Do you think one is more important than the other or should writers be equally strong in all areas?
I'm naturally MUCH more character based as a reader and a writer. I love to spend time with people I find interesting, and prefer to see them going about their day instead of saving the world from the zombie apocalypse. That's why I’m so grateful to work with such imaginative, talented editors who help me come up with exciting plots! If left to my own devices, The 100 would probably be 300 pages of Bellamy and Clarke walking in the woods, picking flowers and ruminating on the meaning of life. It'd be torturous.
As an editor, what's your ultimate goal when putting out a book into the world?
The books I read over and over as a kid fundamentally shaped the person I became. Stories are so powerful, and my goal as an editor is to publish books that work their way into kids' hearts, helping them look at the world with wonder.
Your tongue-in-cheek description of publishing is remarkably accurate. What 'insider's knowledge' would you want to share with unpublished writers so that they're better informed about the industry they desperately want to break into?
My “insider's knowledge” is a little cheesy, but true. Yes, publishing is a business and we spend a ton of time talking about sales figures and budgets, but, ultimately, everyone I work with is a huge book worm who got into this industry because they love reading and stories. When a publishing house falls in love with a book, the excitement is palpable—you can see the passion in people's eyes! And that's when real publishing magic happens.
Being the talented shining star that you are, do you think you'll ever be able to write a book that isn't immediately made into a television show that's watched by Stephen King? What future goals do you have for your own writing?
Haha. It's been a crazy ride! The circumstances surrounding The 100 were pretty exceptional, and I certainly don't expect anything like it to happen again. And that's okay! I just want to have conversations with the crazy voices in my head and take readers on fun adventures. If there's another TV show down the road, that would be unbelievably exciting, but it's not necessarily the goal for me.
If you could be transported into the pages of one particular book, which one would it be and how do you think you'd act once you got there?
What a great question! I'd be transported to Prince Edward Island, the setting for the Anne of Green Gables books. Not sure what I’d do there, besides frolic in the ocean and maybe go blueberry picking or something, but I know I’d be happy. It’s my fictional spiritual homeland!