Self-editing

Laura L. Sullivan – a former newspaper editor, social worker and deputy sheriff – is now a full-time author who writes in many genres. Under her real name, she writes books for children and young adults. Under the Green Hill and Guardian of the Green Hill are middle grade fantasies from Macmillan/Henry Holt. In 2012, she will have two historical young adult novels from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – the bawdy Restoration-era Ladies in Waiting, and the WWII fantasy romance, Delusion. Under the name Sullivan Lee, she writes adult crime and adventure novels. Brightwing is her adult debut. To add to her literary schizophrenia, she also publishes comic short stories under the name LuLu Sullivan. You can find out more about Laura at her blog, http://lauralsullivan.blogspot.com/

We all think we’ve edited our traditionally published books – until the acquiring editor, copy editor and  proofreader get their red pencils of doom on the pages we thought were already polished to perfection. Then when I tried a separate self-publishing venture (Brightwing, written as Sullivan Lee) I discovered a whole new realm of editing – reading my own book until I went crazy, paring down one line until my eyes blurred, agonizing over a comma. And it probably still isn’t perfect. (Though one of the nice things about self publishing is that I can easily put out a new edition whenever I need to.)

But there’s another kind of editing that I still struggle with – self-editing. Not editing my own work, but editing myself.

The issue cropped up with my first book – a fantasy for children age 9-12. When Under the Green Hill came out, I was fresh from working patrol as a deputy sheriff, and a saltier-tongued bunch you’re unlikely to meet. Except maybe Marines, and I was married to one of those at the time. So my formerly ladylike language had suffered a bit. Words were coming out of my mouth that no 10 year old should know (though sadly, most of them probably do.) It took me a while, but I learned to edit my speech fairly easily.

Editing my online persona is another matter entirely. Swearing online isn’t such a problem – my fingers have pretty good self control – but now I have to worry about my opinions. I have some doozies, opinion-wise, and they all tend to be on the liberal side. The extremely liberal side. So I’m faced with a dilemma, and I haven’t quite decided what to do about it. Should I feel free to spout off?

There are a lot of things to consider. Issues of reproductive rights and religion and gun control and the environment have nothing to do with my children’s books, though my adult work might touch on them. But they have to do with me, and don’t people want to know about the authors they read? On the other hand, what if my opinions alienate some percentage of my readers, and I’m a less successful writer because of them? Should my blogs and guest posts only deal with my identity as a writer, or should I expose myself as a person?

I’ve been in the business for a while now, and I still don’t have an answer. So far I’ve been politically neutral and quiet on my social positions. I don’t want to hide the real me – but I don’t think I want to use any (very tiny) bit of fame I might have as a soapbox, either. It doesn’t quite seem right, and I’m not sure it would be a savvy business move, either. Or does controversy equal publicity, and is all publicity good?

I’d love to hear your opinions of whether authors – or actors or singers or artists, for that matter – should spout their personal opinions and beliefs if they have nothing to do with their work?

Thank you so much for having me on Creatures ‘n Crooks/Buried Under Books!