Judith Geary is an author, editor, researcher and educator. Her first novel, GETORIX: The Eagle and The Bull, a Celtic adventure in ancient Rome and the related curriculum are endorsed for classroom use by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the Southern Regional Education Board’s Educational Technology Cooperative (representing 16 states.) It has been internationally reviewed, was a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards in both the historical fiction and YA historical fiction categories. The second novel in the series is forthcoming from IPG Books. Judith Geary joined Bob and Barbara Ingalls in forming High Country Publishers (now Ingalls Publishing Group) in 2001. As senior editor, she edited over 40 novels, including historical fiction by Ann Chamberlin, Cameron Judd, Charles F. Price and Albert A. Bell, Jr. Currently, she supports historical novelists as a researcher and free lance editor. Geary’s background includes an MA in Education from George Peabody College and continued graduate work in writing, editing, literary criticism. Geary teaches at Appalachian State University and presents at regional conferences libraries and schools. Website: www.judithgeary.com
Getorix: The Eagle and The Bull is the story of a Celtic captive in the aftermath of a battle with the Romans. When his life is spared to be a slave, at the request of a Roman general’s son, he’d literally rather die. The conflict is between Getorix and the immediate world, but by the end of the book he sees he has choices beyond submission or death. The curriculum, Getorix’s World, grew out of my request to editor Sandra Horton to help me make the book more “user friendly” for schools. My current projects include finishing up the second Getorix book (in time for the American Association of School Librarians conference in November 2009) and research on a book set in North Carolina in the late 1700s.
2. How did your free-lance editing service come about?
That’s a good question. It came about as a result of requests from friends and writers referred by friends and from a need to define my current relationship with IPG Books. In the last nine years, I’ve been responsible for every part of the book production process, from acquisitions to dealing with printers, distributors and book store owners, so I can shepherd a book from manuscript to sales. My website for that is still in development, but the url is: http://fosterbooks.tripod.com.
3. What does an editor do?
Ideally, an editor helps you shape your manuscript so that the images and messages that you want to convey get through to the reader without barriers caused by mechanics of the writing.
4. What are the three most common mistakes writers make?
*Telling in the author’s voice rather than using character pov to show.
* Basing the characters’ actions on the author’s needs rather than making sure the character has a plausible need of their own.
* Loving your main characters too much to make them suffer.
5. Describe your typical process in editing a novel.
First, I’ll read through the entire manuscript to get an idea of the arc of the novel, plot, character development, the genre, etc. If I have questions about any of this, I ask the author. Next, I’ll edit the first two or three chapters heavily, including detailed explanations of any changes I’m suggesting or questions I have. I point out any “bad habits” I notice (like using the word “just” in every other sentence, depending too heavily on adjectives or telling instead of showing.) At this point, the author and I may decide he/she wants to do a rewrite, based on my comments, before we continue. We also establish “ground rules” for my editing — like what kinds of things I can change (like word order), and what to query or simply point out for the author to fix. I edit primarily using email, even for folks I see frequently, sending sections back and forth. We may go through the entire book three or more times until both the author and I are happy with the results.
6. What advice do you give writers when facing re-writes.
Recognize that good writing is rewriting. Rather than trying to do everything at once — one grand rewrite — go through the novel multiple times, looking at one element each time. Computer technology makes this easy. You can search for a particular phrase, to see if you’ve overused it, for a particular character, to make sure the dialogue is consistent with the personality and development you’ve envisioned for them. Often we authors are not sure of the best place to introduce a specific detail or piece of information, so we tuck it in multiple places. A search on those key words allows us to identify the right spot and take out repetitions. A “wise reader” – someone who is familiar with your genre, but is not a professional editor, is often your best ally in deciding where rewrites are needed. If an attitude adjustment is needed, try to experience the joy of honing your prose to its sharpest edge, or, if you prefer, of spending more quality time with these characters you’ve enjoyed creating so that the reader can enjoy them as well.
7. What are your tips for Point of View?
The topic of point of view is perhaps the most complex writers deal with (a close second is “voice.”) It generates considerable discussion in every group of writers I’ve participated in. When writing in what is commonly known as “third person close,” you can reveal in a scene only what that character knows. Anything else reads as “authorial intrusion” and jerks the reader out of the scene. (That doesn’t mean you can never interject information, only that there’s a price to pay.)You can effectively manipulate the amount of information available to the reader by choosing a point of view character for a particular scene that knows that information. It isn’t always the main character who makes for the best pov – remember Arthur Conan Doyle’s use of Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Homes series. Any point of view from first person, third person close, limited omniscient to omniscient can be effective in certain situations. Reading books in the genre you’re writing is perhaps the best way to internalize the conventions of that genre.
8. Tell us about your trips to Rome in researching your Getorix Series.
That’s a broad question. The short version is that actually walking the stones I’m writing about was invaluable in getting a sense of the setting. For example, as heroic as the myth of old Rome is, the actual space is rather compact. The long version is more easily available in a number of articles I’ve written for various websites. The [Links] page of my website has a list and portals to those articles. www.judithgeary.com
9. How did Getorix come to you?
Getorix: The Eagle and The Bull, began as a short story for a class I was taking from Orson Scott Card at Appalachian State. He’d said he liked historical fiction (even though he’s one of the stars in the speculative fiction world), and used historical research for world building. In the grand old tradition of giving teachers just what they ask for, I wrote a story set in ancient Rome. I can’t say exactly how, but the characters come first — they always do — the situation they face comes next, then I have to figure out the context. When Card said, “This is a young adult novel, expand it and send it out,” I was “inspired” to do the research and work necessary to do it right. In the process, I’ve become fascinated by history — primarily the details of everyday life (I still have to look up the dates.)
10. Tell us something about your part of the country – we love travel.
Boone, NC, is a college town and a resort area. It has everything you’ve ever heard imagined for the Appalachian mountains – incredible scenery, skiing, equity theater, moonshiners, gated resort communities, antique shops, mountain streams, cool summers & mild winters and wonderful people – but don’t tell anyone, because it’s already getting a bit crowded up here.
11. Chat about your pets – we love those, too.
The animals who share my space hardly seem like pets. They’re dependent on the fact we have thumbs and can open doorknobs and packages, but they believe they run the show, and sometimes they do. Daisy is a rat terrier, and at 13 years old, shows no sign of slowing down. Her consort, Bud is a mixed Boston terrier, corgi, whatever, who struggles to keep up with her. The cats, Roxanne and Naomi, seem to take delight in waiting on the front porch to touch noses with the dogs when they’re on leashes and can’t give chase.
12. Who is your favorite southern character?
My favorite Southern characters are real people, and there are too many of them to mention. In fiction, I particularly enjoy Sharyn McCrumb’s books – so the latest book I’ve read has my favorites. Camber, a race car driver in an upcoming novel, and Jesus, an Hispanic character in the same novel, are my current favorites.