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KxBurns
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Questions for the Editor

Josh Kendall, editor of Songs for the Missing, will be joining us next week.
 
Please post your questions for him here!
 
Karen
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Everyman
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Re: Questions for the Editor

Will you be printing the final copy in a somewhat larger typeface? Several people commented that the typeface in the ARC is a bit small for some older readers.
_______________
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Re: Questions for the Editor

Hi--------Have you ever edited any true missing person stories? Do you feel Stewart O'Nan's novel is a realistic portrayal of how people might act in a missing person situation?  I do, but I don't have vour editorial experience! Thank you. The book was very gripping to read and drew me in immediately.
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Peppermill
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Re: Questions for the Editor

Josh -- thanks for joining us!

Will you be including a table of contents with chapter headings for Songs for the Missing?

(I hope so. In fact, readers here of earlier advanced copies have expressed the view that we prefer chapter headings rather than the book name in the header area of the pages. For some reason I haven't quite identified, I don't such is as necessary for SFTM as it was for that earlier book, but I do hope as an editor you will be aware of those possible reader predilections.)

Pepper
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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ABH47
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Re: Page 263

Please correct your error on page 263.
The correct terminology is
SAFE deposit box, not "safety" deposit box!
Feel free to call and ask any bank. You have a box which is put into their SAFE, not into their 'safety'.
This is a pet peeve of mine, and I really hope you will correct this before publication.
Thank you!

Sentence where this occurs:
"This morning they'd opened two safety(sic) deposit boxes Wade kept under an alias in Michigan."
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HannibalCat
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Re: Questions for the Editor

How many rewrites have occurred (in an average book) before it reaches - 1) the ARC version, and 2) is the finished version usually only one more?
CAG
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CAG
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Re: Questions for the Editor

 Thank you for joining us. I would like to know if you have edited any other books written by Mr. O'Nan? What appealed to you, as an editor, when you read Songs from the Missing?
CAG
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bentley
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Re: Questions for the Editor "SPOILER IF YOU HAVE NOT GOTTEN THROUGH SECOND THIRD OF BOOK"

Thank you for joining us.

I have enjoyed this book very much and actually learned a lot. One chapter which was a pivotal and important chapter was the one titled The Killer Next Door. For me, there was not enough transition made for this chapter and for its revelations. It left me with a lot of questions. Had Kim run out of gas after she left her home on her way to her job? We know that she was running low because Fran had made her feel guilty about taking her sister out to practice driving. Did she think she had enough, ran out and sought help from a random wrong older man? At first, I thought you were referring to someone in Kim's neighborhood where she lived which made me think that she had come home to change and someone waylaid her while she was inside. Lindsay saw Kim's bathing suit hanging up so I assumed she got home. I found the chapter a bolt out of the blue, for such an important chapter lacking in details with the chapter title being a little misleading. I am wondering if you have heard any other comments about this chapter etc.

All in all though I have thoroughly enjoyed this First Look and O'Nan's writing.

Will there be a table of contents with chapter headings, numbers, etc. This makes it a little easier for the reader. Someone else mentioned the font size of the print. I found it a little small myself and hope that in the publication that the font and size will be easier to read.

Many thanks for sharing your time with us.

Bentley
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paula_02912
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Re: Questions for the Editor

This might be a question for the author, so forgive me if that is the case...
 
Was adding a title for each chapter expressly for the purpose of giving the reader and indication of what was going on in that particular section? If so, why choose titles instead of numbers? Another question, when a book gets to the ARC stage is their much revision that goes into them based on reader's observations? Has any book's publication date been delayed because the ARC found glaring errors that needed to be corrected?
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vivico1
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Re: Questions for the Editor

You know, as for the title thing, I would rather have chapter titles any day over numbers because then if you want to go back to something, you have an idea where it was by the title. Its hard to tell a friend you may be discussing a book with, oh, I think it is back in hmm chapter 25 or was it chapter 18. Having said that, my biggest preference is for both, chapter number and title. Also at the top of each page, its nice to have the title of the chapter instead of the title of the book. You know what book you are reading, but you if you are trying to make a mental note of something, then you have to skim back to find the chapter start if its not at the top of the page, or worse, if you drop your book, then you really have to search to see where you were.

What goes into decided which to use, title vs number, or who makes that decision? I think the set up of the book is a really important element to the enjoyment of the book. In recent years I have seen so many books with just chapter numbers and they do present these problems and also for book club discussion. As mentioned, a table of contents is great too, even in fiction. How do you make the decisions on how to set up the book? Thank you for your time.
Vivian
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dhaupt
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Re: Questions for the Editor

Hi Josh, thanks for taking the time to participate with us in First Look.
I know that editing involves more than just spell checking, but how involved in the actual story does the editor get? And do you treat the editing of an established author differently than a newbie?
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Josh_Kendall
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Re: Questions for the Editor



Everyman wrote:
Will you be printing the final copy in a somewhat larger typeface? Several people commented that the typeface in the ARC is a bit small for some older readers.


I'm afraid not, Everyman. Publishers often judge the "acceptability" of a typeface size based on a curve -- easier to read than so-and-so's book, maybe hard to read than this other novel... I'll say that there was a focus, on our part, to keep the book a smaller trim size (there are two standard trade book sizes, and this is the smaller) and a lower page count, and the thinking behind that was we wanted the book to be the sort of welcoming, engrossing read that a reader could move through readily. I think that Stewart's writing, descriptive, character based, and generous with dialogue, made us feel as though we could tighten the print size, so to speak. That there were enough immediately rewarding things here as to justify our design on those pages, at the same time giving us the package (the kind of book you hold with one hand, pass to others with one hand...) we felt would reach the most people.
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Josh_Kendall
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Re: Questions for the Editor



Librarian wrote:
Hi--------Have you ever edited any true missing person stories? Do you feel Stewart O'Nan's novel is a realistic portrayal of how people might act in a missing person situation?  I do, but I don't have vour editorial experience! Thank you. The book was very gripping to read and drew me in immediately.
Librarian
 



Oddly enough I haven't edited true crime/true missing person stories before, but going into Stewart's novel for the first time, and having been a fan of his earlier work, I thought this: we know this story, and yet, essentially, we don't. We're bombarded with stories of children gone missing every week, whether in thriller novels or film or on weekly police procedural dramas on tv, and yet these stories always play the plight of the family for a sort of queasy theatrical effect. It's about the heroism of the search, or the terrible lengths of the remaining families go to in the wake of that tragedy. And yet, Stewart's book was something new to me: a story about the genuine weight of that event. Stewart's always been a writer who gave great care to his characters, or the truth of those characters lives. And so it was still a kind of revelation to see this world -- something we think we're familiar with -- become so fraught, palpable, even recognizable in a truly frightening and gripping way.
Someone earlier spoke here about the shifting points of view, and what that affords the reader. To me, it was amazing to see Stewart give this book the pacing of, for lack of a better term, real life, while allowing that pacing to play out "through" each of the characters' reactions and actions, day to day.
I'm also, I'll briefly mention, a child of the 80s, a time of what seemed a national hysteria about child abductions, and it was personally something special to see that exploited subject treated with such grace and respect and, in the appropriate ways, beauty.
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Josh_Kendall
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Re: Questions for the Editor

I don't think we putting a table of contents, Peppermill, or chapter titles on those running heads (next to the page numbers). Stewart can speak to this, if he likes, since he has a say in this decision making as well, but as the editor I wanted to simplify the experience of the book, of just entering it without thinking, without the distraction of titles and where they came from, and why they were chosen. That's the risk of putting that TOC at the front, as well as the titles at the top of the pages: this is a book where things are revealed for a purpose, when they're revealed. I didn't want to corrupt that natural experience. The book and story do genuinely feel very natural to me, and I want the entry to that story to be equally uncluttered. If that caused confusion, as I see from a few posts below, I'm sorry for that. It may be the price to be paid for that initial moment of starting the book, but perhaps that price is a little high... I'll say it's wonderful to see so many of you going back through the pages, seeking out the moments when things subtly shifted or turned. Sometimes there are revelations in this book that happen almost in a blink, without you knowing it, and it's wonderful to see there are so many of you out there finding moments in this family's life that matter and change things.
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Josh_Kendall
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Re: Page 263



ABH47 wrote:
Please correct your error on page 263.
The correct terminology is
SAFE deposit box, not "safety" deposit box!
Feel free to call and ask any bank. You have a box which is put into their SAFE, not into their 'safety'.
This is a pet peeve of mine, and I really hope you will correct this before publication.
Thank you!

Sentence where this occurs:
"This morning they'd opened two safety(sic) deposit boxes Wade kept under an alias in Michigan."


I have to kick this question over to Stewart, who I know gives great attention to parlance, regional ticks and dialect, etc. I seem to recall this coming up, either in the editing or copyediting, but Stewart can clarify? This may have been a E. Ohio/W. Penn sort of thing, and in a way Stewart was careful enough with the phrasing of so much else that he earned my own trust, at the very least, that he saw this as a regional phrasing. Stewart?
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Josh_Kendall
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Re: Questions for the Editor



HannibalCat wrote:
How many rewrites have occurred (in an average book) before it reaches - 1) the ARC version, and 2) is the finished version usually only one more?


Good question, HannibalCat. It's always hard to name the average amount of times a book goes through redrafting or rewriting before ARCs or finished copies. An author often rewrites the book many times before even an editor like me sees it. I suppose the average for me is 3 times, though there were novels that only had one (Stewart's previous, LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, if I recall...) and others that had 5. There was an early version of this, which I gave Stewart notes on--larger, idea-notes about the passage of time and attention given to certain characters--and then two rounds of edits following that.
Your second question: there are two proofreaders to read through the novel after the ARC editing, catching any typos, etc., and questioning me and the author.
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Josh_Kendall
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Re: Questions for the Editor "SPOILER IF YOU HAVE NOT GOTTEN THROUGH SECOND THIRD OF BOOK"



bentley wrote:
Thank you for joining us.

I have enjoyed this book very much and actually learned a lot. One chapter which was a pivotal and important chapter was the one titled The Killer Next Door. For me, there was not enough transition made for this chapter and for its revelations. It left me with a lot of questions. Had Kim run out of gas after she left her home on her way to her job? We know that she was running low because Fran had made her feel guilty about taking her sister out to practice driving. Did she think she had enough, ran out and sought help from a random wrong older man? At first, I thought you were referring to someone in Kim's neighborhood where she lived which made me think that she had come home to change and someone waylaid her while she was inside. Lindsay saw Kim's bathing suit hanging up so I assumed she got home. I found the chapter a bolt out of the blue, for such an important chapter lacking in details with the chapter title being a little misleading. I am wondering if you have heard any other comments about this chapter etc.

All in all though I have thoroughly enjoyed this First Look and O'Nan's writing.

Will there be a table of contents with chapter headings, numbers, etc. This makes it a little easier for the reader. Someone else mentioned the font size of the print. I found it a little small myself and hope that in the publication that the font and size will be easier to read.

Many thanks for sharing your time with us.

Bentley


Excellent question, Bentley, and one that's very hard to answer. You're right to say that the chapter titled "The Killer Next Door" passes with a lot quick, brief, seemingly important details about Kim's disappearance. This is one of those "blink and you'll miss it" sections I alluded to earlier. Just to be clear: yes Kim had returned home to hang up her swimsuit before seemingly rushing off to her shift at the gas station, and indeed, she herself did in some way run out of gas. (An interesting side note that I don't think anyone's mentioned is that Kim works at a gas station while the lack of gas in her own car seems to play a key role in her abduction...) Again, Stewart can speak to his authorly intentions in this regard, but as his editor the section felt importantly, cleverly beside-the-point: I don't mean to say that Stewart's trying to cheat the reader of the satisfaction that comes from knowing "the truth" of her disappearance. Rather, Stewart forces you into the role of the characters and their experience of these revelations. They do race by Fran and Ed, so incredibly unsatisfying because, still, their daughter is gone. Still, her death is something that isn't and will never be "solved" because there is no such solution when someone's taken from us.

I felt immediately like Kim's father -- and I myself am a father to a girl, something that was not lost on me during my multiple readings of the book -- sort of frustrated and furious with the facts, only because my being furious at Kim's killer did me no good, and being furious at Kim's leaving did me no good, and being furious at the state of my life right then did me no good. And so the details, though they had to be mentioned, were rendered irrelevant. It's a brilliant little trick Stewart pulled, I think, and he does this sort of "ripping you into the moment of the book" in a few other key places.
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Peppermill
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Re: Questions for the Editor

Thanks, Josh, for your reply. I will grant that a typical read of a book like this is probably far different than what we indulge in doing here at First Look.

I just did a list-out of the chapter names for my own edification. Looking at the list, I think I understand about the timing of when things are revealed and that a TOC definitely could disturb that. (Are TOCs EVER placed at the end of a book, even as an index? Yes, you are hearing that this reader would have really liked to have one -- both to find sections and to take a look at the author's organization of his material.)

Josh_Kendall wrote:
I don't think we putting a table of contents, Peppermill, or chapter titles on those running heads (next to the page numbers). Stewart can speak to this, if he likes, since he has a say in this decision making as well, but as the editor I wanted to simplify the experience of the book, of just entering it without thinking, without the distraction of titles and where they came from, and why they were chosen. That's the risk of putting that TOC at the front, as well as the titles at the top of the pages: this is a book where things are revealed for a purpose, when they're revealed. I didn't want to corrupt that natural experience. The book and story do genuinely feel very natural to me, and I want the entry to that story to be equally uncluttered. If that caused confusion, as I see from a few posts below, I'm sorry for that. It may be the price to be paid for that initial moment of starting the book, but perhaps that price is a little high... I'll say it's wonderful to see so many of you going back through the pages, seeking out the moments when things subtly shifted or turned. Sometimes there are revelations in this book that happen almost in a blink, without you knowing it, and it's wonderful to see there are so many of you out there finding moments in this family's life that matter and change things.

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Josh_Kendall
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Re: Questions for the Editor



paula_02912 wrote:
This might be a question for the author, so forgive me if that is the case...
 
Was adding a title for each chapter expressly for the purpose of giving the reader and indication of what was going on in that particular section? If so, why choose titles instead of numbers? Another question, when a book gets to the ARC stage is their much revision that goes into them based on reader's observations? Has any book's publication date been delayed because the ARC found glaring errors that needed to be corrected?



I guess I would have to say this is more of a question for Stewart, Paula. Naming the chapters is something Stewart's done before, most memorably in my opinion in the novel THE NIGHT COUNTRY, where -- correct me if I'm wrong, Stewart! -- the chapter titles are all Dusty Springfield songs. Stewart's a big pop music buff like me.

The titles, I felt, never drew great attention to themselves, which was important to me, but at the same time kept me thinking about the need, in so much of this book, to name things, to pin them down. There was constantly this feeling that the characters here, especially Kim's friends JP and Nina, had to call things what they were in order to feel more steady, safer and more secure. Don't we do this when bad things happen? We quiz the doctor about exactly what sort of dosage they're giving to our ailing mother. We tell our friends that we broke our bone in 3 places instead of just saying we broke our arm. We recite how many people died in the World Trade Center bombings. All of this to have a grip, we hope, on what is wrong. The chapter titles were a way of holding on, of understanding, what happened in each stage of this story.

At least, this was how it was for me.
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Josh_Kendall
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Re: Questions for the Editor



vivico1 wrote:
You know, as for the title thing, I would rather have chapter titles any day over numbers because then if you want to go back to something, you have an idea where it was by the title. Its hard to tell a friend you may be discussing a book with, oh, I think it is back in hmm chapter 25 or was it chapter 18. Having said that, my biggest preference is for both, chapter number and title. Also at the top of each page, its nice to have the title of the chapter instead of the title of the book. You know what book you are reading, but you if you are trying to make a mental note of something, then you have to skim back to find the chapter start if its not at the top of the page, or worse, if you drop your book, then you really have to search to see where you were.

What goes into decided which to use, title vs number, or who makes that decision? I think the set up of the book is a really important element to the enjoyment of the book. In recent years I have seen so many books with just chapter numbers and they do present these problems and also for book club discussion. As mentioned, a table of contents is great too, even in fiction. How do you make the decisions on how to set up the book? Thank you for your time.


Yeah, the prior response, to Paula's question, speaks to this, I think. I'll say that I can't remember the last time a modern novel has actually had a table of contents. Modern novels that are historicals will do it sometimes, but this seems to me to attempt to mimic the style of Victorian novels, and often those chapter titles that Dickens used were there because he serialized every one of those sections, and each appearance in a London journal at a time had its own installment, its own title.
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