Anyone who knows us is well aware of our undeniable Anglophilia (and all this time, we thought we were being ever so subtle…). What isn’t commonly known, is our equal love of grammar, punctuation and spelling. For as much as we love to play with words, we want to make sure they’re safe and spelled correctly before any such playing commences.
When we came across the work of Ms. Emily Hetherington, we decided, without hesitation, that she would be our next guest inside Anglophile Studios. The fact is, her work as a proofer and editor is second to none (we would say none to none, but such a comparison is unprecedented and structurally. it’s awkward…and here at TSF, we’re not about being awkward). She’s perfectly polished novels and short stories and we were honoured to welcome Ms. Hetherington into our humble, Union Jack-accented dwellings.
As we partook in a signature afternoon tea, we had a right and proper chat with Emily. Here it is in all of its properly proofed glory:
1. When did you realise that becoming an editor and proofreader was what you were meant to do? What do you enjoy most about the editing/proofing process?
The idea of becoming an editor and proofreader came to me after I found myself getting increasingly annoyed at finding errors in the books I was reading, but that was in my late teens and I didn’t do anything about it for a long time. I finally looked into doing it when I was laid up at home for a long time following an operation and needed something to do. My grandmother put me in touch with her publisher and it went from there. That was in 2012.
My favourite part of the process is discussing different options or ideas with the author. Most of the time changes are made because they are necessary, but sometimes I want to make a change in order to make the story flow better or because I think it sounds better and in those cases I often end up discussing the change with the author to find the best solution and we perhaps try out various options.
2. When you’re in the midst of correcting a project, what enables you to spot errors that a software programme like Microsoft Word would miss? In other words, how do you spot spelling, grammar and punctuation errors that you believe a computer or even another editor might miss?
First of all I read through the whole manuscript making changes only on the most obvious errors in order to get to grips with the story and the characters. I don’t leave comments or make any changes that I’m not sure about. Also on that first read through I clear up anything that Microsoft Word flags, so on the second read through there are no squiggly lines to distract me. I hide the mark-up and view it as if it were the final draft, which also helps to reduce distractions. On the second reading I read each paragraph twice to make sure I’ve caught everything and this time I will leave comments or move back and forth through the manuscript to check for continuity errors. Then I send it back to the author for them to check and accept/reject the changes and ask me any questions. Ideally they would then send it back to me again for a final proofread, but not everyone bothers with this final step.
3. Of the many projects you’ve edited, what has been the most unique and why?
I’m not one to shy away from certain genres, so I’ve worked on a variety of different themes, but I have to say the most unique was The Naming of Cats by Britney Bolling. It was a strange kind of mix of science fiction and erotica of the like I had never read before and haven’t seen since. I can’t really explain why without giving away the story, but it’s available on Amazon if you wish to find out.
4. What is your perspective on slang and colloquialisms? Do you believe that they can actually have a negative effect on both writing and conversation, particularly with respect to speech patterns and vocabulary?
I believe that slang and colloquialisms should be used in a natural way i.e. if a character is from a certain area or is of a certain age where that kind of language would be very common then that language should absolutely be used in their dialogue, but I don’t think it should be used in the narrative. I do, however, think it should be used sparingly. You want it to sound natural, but you don’t want it to be too taxing on the reader. I remember trying to read Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh and giving up within a few pages because it was so difficult to read. Then again, that novel was so popular that it was turned into a very successful film, so I wouldn’t say it should never be done. At the end of the day it’s not my work, it’s not my story, and it’s down to the author to decide whether they want to take that risk.
5. What are the most common mistakes that you notice when editing/proofing a manuscript, or do the mistakes differ depending on what it is that you’re actually correcting?
There are always the kind of typos where a word has been spelt incorrectly, but it actually spells another word so it doesn’t get picked up by the word processor. Those are probably the most common along with punctuation issues. But in general each manuscript is very different in terms of how much work it needs or what kind of errors there are. Some only have those kinds of typos, others have lots of grammatical errors or continuity errors.
6. We would love to get your take on the following; why do you believe “gonna” is used far more frequently than “going”?
That’s an easy question for an English teacher. I have to teach my students this all the time. It’s simply because when we talk fast we ‘eat our words’ as we say over here. Sounds get lost as we join words together and ‘going to’ sounds like ‘gonna’. I think it’s fairly standard to want to write in the same way as we speak and for that reason we have begun to write ‘gonna’ as well. It’s not something I often see in manuscripts because we tailor our writing as we tailor our voice for different things. It might appear in a dialogue, but we tend to use more formal language for a narrative depending on the target audience.
7. What makes you proud to British?
This is a difficult question for me. I don’t consider myself to be proud of being British. I find it especially hard to be proud of being British while the UK is in its current situation. I do, however, feel grateful – or maybe lucky is a better word for it – for being born in an English speaking country, having English as my first language, and being brought up in a place that has such a diverse culture. I’m just not sure that ‘proud’ is the right word for it. After all, it’s no achievement of mine.
8. You’re on Desert Island Discs and Kirsty Young has asked you to select a book and a luxury before she casts you off to your island. What do you choose and why?
Can I choose a book on survival? I don’t think there is a single book that I loved so much I could read it several times over. I have read several books more than once, but I don’t really have a favourite that stands out above the others, or at least not one that I would want to keep with me and read over and over. The luxury would have to be something that doesn’t run out quickly, so not chocolate or anything like that. Perhaps a large fluffy blanket to snuggle up with at night. I hate the cold.
9. Who are your top five favourite authors?
Well I have to say my grandma, Jenny Twist, of course, but I admit I’m totally biased. After that, Tess Gerritsen without a doubt. But then it gets more difficult to choose. I like lots of different authors, but I always struggle to choose favourites. Also, these days, I tend to read more books from relatively unknown authors and I’m rather out of touch with the best selling books and authors. I love the work of some of the authors I’ve worked with e.g. Wayne M. Sefton and Chris Ward, but I really struggle putting together a top five of all time.
I actually get much more passionate about children’s books because getting children to really love reading is so important, so anyone that successfully does that is a hero in my eyes. Listing favourite children’s authors is much easier: Julia Donaldson, Jill Murphy, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Tony Ross, Giles Andreae. I could go on!
10. What one author’s work would you love to edit/proof and why?
You might expect me to list a very famous author here, but actually I wouldn’t like to do that. I like to help the self publishing authors try to get the best start they can. To that end I would really like to edit for Dan Worth. He’s an author that was recommended to me because he is a sci-fi author and I love sci-fi, but unfortunately his books were in desperate need of editing. It’s such a pity because the stories had such potential and were really interesting. I struggled on to the end of the second because I wanted to know what happened, but I must admit it was painful reading and I couldn’t face the third. I would love to work with someone like that who has written really interesting stories that I really want to read and someone that I feel I would really be helping.
11. What prompted you to leave England and relocate to Spain?
This is very much down to my Aunt and Uncle. I’ve always loved working with children, but I always focused on nursery age and teaching never really occurred to me. But my Aunt and Uncle presented me with an opportunity that was just too good to miss. They thought I would make a good teacher and they had set up an English academy out in Spain and were looking for native teachers so they not only offered me a job, but also offered to pay for my teaching course! I would have been mad to pass up an opportunity like that.
12. How did you become involved in the National Novel Writing Month project?
My family seem to have directed my life quite a lot, it turns out! This one is down to my sister. I always liked the idea of writing, but never thought I was any good at it. I found it too difficult because we were always taught at school that a story had to have a beginning, a middle, and an end and that we had to plan it all out beforehand. I just can’t plan like that. So school put me off the idea of even trying to write and I never bothered after I left school. I’m what they call a pantser in the NaNoWriMo world. A devout pantser at that! I have little more than a vague idea before I sit down and write. I just start writing and see what happens.
My sister on the other hand is an amazing writer and loves it. She introduced me to the National Novel Writing Month project one year when she had either bought or been given an achievement badge set for that year’s project. They often have things like that available for motivation. In this case she would get a badge if she recruited someone else to the project, so she spent a couple of weeks trying to convince me that it was worth doing and that I actually could do it, which is something I really didn’t believe. In the end I gave in and said I’d try it out at the very least. She gave me a lot of encouragement and tips during the month as well and I absolutely loved the whole experience. The idea of ‘pantsing’ – of just sitting down and writing without any sort of plan – was revolutionary for me and I amazed myself with what I came out with. I amaze myself with that every year. I think I’m now officially a NaNoWriMo addict, although I now have a different problem; I can’t write without the NaNoWriMo experience – the challenge, the deadline, the community, the progress bars and charts.
13. What is your all-time favourite novel…..and why?
Well, choosing one above all the others is very difficult and this is one that I have only read once (although I am sure I will read it again one day) but it is one that always stays with me: Perfume by Patrick Süskind. It was so powerful and I marvelled at the author’s ability to describe smells so perfectly. The character development was excellent as well. Yes, he’s an evil serial killer, but you kind of understand why. And the ending is just fabulous.