Interview with Carlie Webber
By Theresa Rizzo
Webber refused to major in English in college because no one would let her read
Stephen King or R.L. Stine for class. She took her love of young adult and
genre fiction to the University of Pittsburgh, where she obtained a Master of
Library and Information Science, and worked as a YA librarian and reviewer for
publications including Kirkus Reviews. Wishing to
explore her interest in the business side of books, she decided to switch from
librarianship to publishing and enrolled in the Columbia Publishing
Now she is building her agenting
career on her favorite genres: young adult, women’s fiction, romance, horror, mystery,
suspense, thrillers, and contemporary speculative fiction. Her ongoing
submissions wishlist includes but is not limited to
high-concept YA, literary suspense, grunge era nostalgia and things that go
bump in the night.
- Which categories do you currently acquire/
represent? Which category has a
special/constant place in your heart?
Answer: I am looking for romance, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, women’s
fiction, YA, and light science fiction and fantasy. Of these, YA is my favorite. I love any and all YA, whether it’s
serious or fluffy.
- What length synopsis do you prefer to
see with a partial? Single spaced
- In terms of submissions, what are you
sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: I would love to see more
women’s fiction that doesn’t revolve around men, marriage, or babies. I am not
looking for any more YA paranormal romance.
are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
read? What particularly grabs your attention?
Answer: The main character must pass my personal reading test. For me to
really love a character, I have to be able to say, “I want to go to the
mall with her!” or, “I want her on my side in a fight!” If I want both,
that’s great. If I want neither, the book is not for me. Other elements
that make a novel great for me include good pacing, memorable settings,
and high stakes for the main character(s).
- For you, in general, which elements in
a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections
and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a
talented author is willing to accept your advice?
- Voice – Automatic rejection
- Weak Grammar – Depends on how weak
it is. An occasional misspelling or misused comma is one thing, but if I
see too many Unforgivable Errors (incorrect apostrophes or dialogue
formatting), that makes a book hard for me to read and I will reject it.
- Common plot—I can work with this.
I like to say there are really only twelve plots in all of literature.
Any plot can work with great writing.
- Poor character development—Automatic
- Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?).
Everyone’s version of “controversial” is different. I don’t mind sex,
drugs, and rock & roll.
- Mediocre / uninspired writing – Automatic
- Excessive use of violence or cursing –
I can work with this.
- Lacking genre –specific requirements
like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building --- Many genre books
break rules. I would handle this on a case-by-case basis.
- Pacing is off—plot is too slow – Automatic
- Story starts in wrong spot –
- Ending is unsatisfactory –Depends
on the degree of unsatisfactory and how hard the writer is willing to
work to fix it.
- Does meeting an author face-to-face at
a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission
process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few
sentences of advice)?
Answer: I do prioritize authors
from whom I request material at a conference. All unsolicited materials that I
reject get a form letter.
- Besides the writing, the story and the
talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins,
cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of
publishing industry, promotability, etc?
Answer: I look for authors who have
long careers ahead of them, who understand that publishing is a business that
runs on deadlines and needs money to survive, and who are upfront about their
projects and career plans.
- Do you have any pet peeves?
Answer: Musicians in YA novels who
go to/are only interested in going to Juilliard. If a YA character wants to be
a writer you’ll hear about a variety of colleges with fine English programs,
but if all you read was YA you’d think there was only one college where you
could study music. I’ve never figured out why no one ever mentions Eastman,
Peabody, Berklee, the Curtis Institute, etc.
- What are you addicted to?
Answer: Bad reality television
- What have you always wanted to do?
Answer: Attend Hogwarts.