Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Friday, April 25, 2014

She Helped! (Interview With Cassie Cox, Line Editor of BRAINEATER JONES)

We've got a VERY exciting treat for you today, blogketeers: the inimitable Cassie Cox, line editor of modern masterpiece BRAINEATER JONES!  (Those of you who have followed the blog for a while will remember Cassie's microfiction piece as well as the story of her transgender cat.)  We're concentrating on BJ in the interview today, but Cassie has edited LITERALLY* hundreds of manuscripts, so she is a veritable font of wisdom on the business and practice of editology.

Cassie isn't big into social media, but if you're interested in working with her (I strongly recommend it!) she's open to being contacted through Facebook or you can submit completed manuscripts through the Red Adept site.  We're going to have a fun interview, but first, a brief introduction:

*"literally literally," not "figuratively literally"

Editors don't really make what you'd call "comb money."

About the Editor

Cassie lives in Tampa with her husband and six cats. She has a master’s in Shakespeare in Performance, and she recommends you don’t get her started talking about second person pronouns in early modern England. When she’s not editing, she can be found cleaning, organizing, or baking. For fun, she watches Charmed and reads YA fiction.


I understand you got your start in the hospitality industry.  Could you share a picture of yourself in your bellhop’s uniform for us?

Um, I was a front desk clerk, not a bellhop.

I see.  Well, for the edification of my fans I’m just going to insert a picture of Sting in a bellhop’s uniform instead.

Don't stand...don't stand so...don't stand so jauntily...

How did you get started in editing?  And is this the “traditional path?”  For that matter, is there a “traditional path?”

I honestly don’t know what the “traditional path” is, but I’m pretty sure mine wasn’t it. I kind of tripped and stumbled into editing. A friend of mine asked me to go over her book, and I enjoyed it enough that I decided to take her seriously when she suggested I look into getting a job as an editor. I’ve been doing this for almost three years, and I still enjoy it as much as I did then.

Describe the perfect editing client.  (This can be real or theoretical.)

Hmmm… Well, my favorite clients are the ones who write stories I enjoy reading. I’m a sucker for a good story, and the biggest perk of my job is that I get paid to read. I love it when clients appreciate my work and thank me for fixing problems or tell me I’m funny (it’s rare, but it happens). I love it when clients are quick to communicate. It always makes me happy when a client becomes a friend, someone I just enjoy talking to.

Your agent advised me that you will not discuss any editing client from hell stories.  Therefore to fill this slot, would you tell us about your hotel guest from hell?  (Again, real or theoretical is fine.)

Wow, I have a good agent. I might have to give her a raise :) Hotel guest from hell story? I’ll give you two.

At the first hotel I worked at, we had a guest who came to stay with her cat. Since her cat was allergic to everything, she insisted she couldn’t stay in a pet-friendly room. She was to be a long-term guest, so we agreed to put her in a standard room, even though that meant we would have to spend hours cleaning it after her cat left. Well, the first room wasn’t good enough. Nor was the second. Nor the third. After she got into her fourth non-pet room, she complained that the room smelled like the housekeeper’s hair product, and she had to move again. We moved her for the last time (seriously, it takes forever to clean rooms that pets have been in) we found out that the reason the room smelled like hair product was because she’d dyed her hair in the bathroom.

The other story is one my husband got to witness. On New Year’s Eve in the biggest hotel I’d ever worked in, the room locks died at midnight. Every. Single. One. So I was working the overnight shift in a hotel full of drunk people celebrating New Year’s who came back to the hotel to find that they couldn’t get into their rooms. We had one master key, the old-fashioned metal kind, that we had to take door to door to let people back in their rooms. It took forever, and as I’m sure you can imagine, people weren’t too happy about it.

Very few people know this, but you actually requested to work on BRAINEATER JONES.  Can you tell us what drove that particular decision?  And in a more general sense, how much do you get to choose your work and how much is it assigned?  Has this ratio been different with the different companies you’ve worked for?

I requested BRAINEATER JONES because I thought the author was funny and likable, and I hoped that would translate into his writing. Like I said, my favorite clients are the ones who are easy to talk to and who write stories I like to read.

I can request to work on a particular book that Red Adept publishes, and if my boss thinks it’s a good fit for me and I have the time to work on it, then she’s generally pretty happy to honor that request.

We all know what it’s like to do scut work, but editing seems more like a calling.  What’s it like, therefore, when you get stuck working on a book you have no interest in?

I can’t think of too many books that I had no interest in working on. For the most part, I try to find the good stuff in books and cling to that. Maybe a character I like or a plot line I enjoy. Sometimes I just cling to the hope that it will be better by the time I’m done with it. If I really don’t like a book, then I just remind myself that after I finish it, I don’t have to work on it again. The fastest way to other side is straight through, right?

I’d like you to put on your “writing cap” for a minute.  Can you tell us the story of editing BRAINEATER JONES?  I know what it was like from my end but I have no idea what it was like on yours.

It’s been a while since I worked on it, so my memories are a tad fuzzy. Editing BRAINEATER JONES was a fairly similar process to editing any book that was funny, confusing, and gross. When I got to the funny parts (hello, Hatscratch Fever!) I read them to my husband. When I got confused (I’m apparently underexposed to 30s slang) I made notes. When I got grossed out, I shared that with my husband. I enjoyed working with you and seeing your notes on my edits, seeing what you wanted to protect from my “red pen.”

I imagine editing must be bittersweet, to pour so much effort into a novel that somebody else will ultimately get the lion’s share of credit for.  I’ve also heard it described as a form of symbiosis.  But really I have no idea.  What’s being an editor like emotionally?

I love that you asked this! I do find editing emotional. I feel the books I work on, so I’ve been known to apologize to my husband for things I haven’t done. But it is bittersweet to see the books I work on do well and know that, for the most part, I get no credit for that. I’m so proud of my authors when they do well and when they write new books; I feel really invested in their careers. But sometimes I want to shout, “I helped!”

You’re famously a Shakespeare scholar.  Is this knowledge useful as an editor, counterproductive, or totally indifferent?

Thus far, my knowledge of Shakespeare hasn’t been super helpful. But I keep hoping I’ll get a Shakespeare book one day! The writing skills I learned in grad school have been helpful, though. I think back to my professor’s Picky Rules quite often while I edit.

Do you ever feel like The Bard’s work could have used a good edit or do you consider that sacrilege?


Shakespeare’s plays are written in such a different style (and for such a different purpose) than the books I work on. I’m sure that a modern publisher would have a play-editor (I assume there is such a thing) edit his plays if they were to be published today. But I think it’s always a good thing to revisit the format of Shakespeare’s plays and try to republish them in ways that are more accessible to today’s readers. I’ve actually done some work on that myself.

But the religious side of me, the side that thinks Shakespeare is God and his words are holy, recoils at the idea of altering his text. Then the factual side reminds the religious side that only God (Shakespeare) knows what Shakespeare actually wrote. So many people altered his text before it ever got to modern audiences, and people will continue to alter it long after my lifetime.

Finally, are you up for a game of 10x10x10 which is a thing I just made up where I ask 10 questions of 10 words or less and you have to answer in 10 words or less?  The topic will be Shakespeare.

Oooh, sounds like fun!

Thanks for coming on the blog, Cassie!  And we'll be back next week with the 10x10x10 game.  It's a hoot!


  1. I think Cassie should write a memoir about her hotel guests from hell. Awesome interview!

    1. Ooooh, good idea! She should call it: HOTEL CASSIE-FORNIA.


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