A few years ago, I had the incredible good fortune to be mentored by Kate Goldsworthy as part of my Master’s degree. Kate is a freelance editor who has worked with a slew of talented literary authors including Bri Lee (Eggshell Skull), Ariella Van Luyn (Treading Air) and Angela Meyer (A Superior Spectre). Kate has a razor-sharp eye. Her ability to pick up minute details while analysing a story’s overall structure is a gift. My work benefited tremendously from Kate’s generous guidance, and I am so pleased to share this interview with you. Enjoy and happy writing.
- Can you give us a brief overview of your career as an editor including education and your transition into freelancing? Did you always know you wanted to work in publishing?
I always loved writing but was originally too cautious to pursue a career in publishing. As an undergrad I majored in both psychology and English literature, and it took me a long time to realise that the former wasn’t leading me anywhere. I interned at magazines and did the RMIT Professional Writing & Editing course, which I highly recommend. Through a classmate, Jo Case, I got my first paid editorial gig as the Readings Monthly assistant. I also started getting freelance proofreads through Bec Starford, who’d managed one of my internships, and then I got more of this work through an Allen & Unwin editor who spoke at RMIT.
Jo recommended me to Black Inc., where I soon started working as a part-time editorial assistant while I continued to do some freelance proofreading. Then one of the senior eds at Black Inc. went on mat leave, and suddenly I was promoted to editor! All my dreams had come true! Except I was made redundant about two years later and had to fend for myself. That was a tough time. Fortunately I had good industry contacts, and within a year I was earning more as a freelancer than I had in-house, thanks mainly to a lovely and supportive publisher at A&U, Louise Thurtell.
I went back in-house for two years at Affirm Press because they offered me a great opportunity not just to edit but also to commission and acquire books. Although I really loved working at Affirm and was sad to leave in late 2016, I realised that I prefer freelancing. I was lucky to be in a position where I could easily transition from in-house to freelance work without losing income. I’m someone who needs to set my own schedule, and I enjoy working on my own, in my own space. I sometimes miss having colleagues, but I regularly catch up with my clients and authors.
Last year my partner and I bought a property in a semi-rural area, and I’ve decided that I’m never going back in-house. Well, unless someone lets me work from home and pays me a massive salary with benefits … um, anyone?
- Can you share any favourite memories or discuss any particularly rewarding projects?
One of my first big projects at Black Inc. was Lily Chan’s Toyo, a beautiful memoir about her Japanese grandmother. I got along really well with Lily, and the book ended up winning the 2013 Dobbie Award. Lily and I have become such good friends that I can’t imagine my life without her and her family. She’s not the only author I’ve befriended – my work has brought lots of lovely people into my life. Not every author becomes a friend, but I always want to be on friendly terms with them, and I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for them in general. Working with dedicated authors is always rewarding.
- What are some of the common mistakes you see writers make, particularly in regards to debut novels?
This is a public service announcement: If we’re talking about mistakes in first-time authors’ manuscripts, then timelines! Please, for the love of all that is holy, draw up a detailed timeline whenever you redraft your novel or memoir. Don’t just take months and years into account, but also seasons, holidays and mealtimes.
Outside of the manuscript: In my experience first-time authors often don’t do a lot of research into the industry before submitting their work. You don’t have to do this to produce a brilliant manuscript that becomes an international bestseller, but it might help. Why not take a few hours to learn about the industry, at least the Australian part of it, before you jump in? It’s important to know that you should try agents before publishers, for example; it’s also good to know about advances, agent fees, royalties and rights sales.
- What trends, if any, do you see emerging right now?
I’m really hoping we’ll see more speculative fiction published in Australia – commercial or literary, I don’t care, just more. This is for selfish reasons because I want to work on it (please send it to me), but also I think there’s more of a market for it than many mainstream publishers and booksellers realise, particularly among millennial readers. I was pleased to see this article (sorry, it’s behind a paywall): https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2019/02/20/123334/a-new-hope-for-un-real-fiction-rose-michael-on-speculative-fiction.
- You too are a writer; do you mind sharing your writing routine with us?
Unfortunately I don’t have one at the moment! I have a lot of paid editing work on my plate, and I’m the breadwinner in my household, so I need to focus on that. I’ve written a young adult novel, but I’ve hardly started on the road to getting it published.
The last thing I wrote (mid-last year) was a short memoir piece for a collection of essays, Split, which will be published by Ventura in a couple of months and was edited by Lee Kofman.
- Are there any resources or tools that have supported your creative practice?
The RMIT course was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t have written my novel without it, and I’m convinced that this writing process also made me a better editor. It also helped me feel empathy for writers; many editors don’t know what it’s like on the other side. But of course not everyone can afford to do a course, or to do internships, and I’ve come to realise that I was extremely privileged.
Something that also helped me a lot as a teen and young adult was writing fanfiction, a free resource that anyone with an internet connection can access. You just have to be interested in someone else’s characters and be willing to play around in their universe, and you instantly have an audience, editors and fellow writers to chat with. With no money, no pressure and a lot of supportive women and LGBT+ people involved, most of the time it’s a lovely place to write, share your work and hang out. If you’re interested, a good place to start is the Archive of Our Own: https://archiveofourown.org.
You can find Kate on Twitter: @KMGoldsworthy