Guest Blog: Ugly Babies

I am very excited to have my first guest blog.  Emily has set the bar pretty high – but if anyone else is up for a guest spot – then blog away!!


Ugly babies

How kind of Libby to hand over her blog to me for a guest slot!  I am feeling highly honoured to have been asked, but also slightly nervous.  You see, I don’t normally do this kind of thing…write that is, and certainly not for public consumption!

It’s a very brave thing to write a blog…to write anything really and put it out there for people to paw over.  You are immediately inviting people to comment on a certain aspect of you, a part of you, or your life, that you have decided to share with others.  Who would want to do that?

Well, lots of people actually.  Every book or piece of writing you have ever read has been crafted, agonised over, erased, re-written, erased again, wept over until finally, finally, there is something that the author feels happy with.  That they are willing to (to quote a famous Snow Queen) – “Let It Go!”.

Some authors say that writing is like having a baby; you spend months creating this thing, making it perfect, and then you hand it over to people who might say…”Oooh!  Isn’t your baby ugly?”  Again, who would want to do that?  And who, might you ask, would be so cruel and harsh to criticise such a labour of love?

Erm…well, that’s me.  I am the person who might tell you your baby is ugly.  I am the person who crushes dreams.  I am AN EDITOR! Mwahahah!!

I don’t really crush dreams…in fact I try to make dreams come true wherever possible.  But as a fiction editor (and one half of editorial consultancy Ruston Hutton) it is my job to make sure that the books/writing I edit are practically perfect in every way…not ugly babies, but beautiful, strong and gorgeous babies that everyone wants to munch (or read).  Because, believe it or not, not every book starts out this way.  Most authors will require revisions at some point and it is this process that can take a story from pfft to phenomenal!

So what do I do?  Well, I don’t go around criticizing babies – let’s just clear that up!  Primarily my job is to work with an author to ensure that their book is structurally sound; that characters are motivated and likeable and behave in realistic ways.  Also, that there is a sustained tension or conflict running through a story giving the reader that page-turning quality that makes a book completely un-put-down-able (not sure that’s even a word!).  I work with authors to help hone their writing style, or craft, and brainstorm new plot ideas if she (or he) has hit a brick wall.  It’s very much a collaboration to make their book the best that it can be.

And authors now come in all shapes and sizes!  You don’t need to have a huge contract with a publishing house to get your name in lights.  There have been some wonderful achievements by authors who have simply self-published their work (much like Libby is now!) and have found an online readership – a group of people thirsty for the story they are telling.

So in addition to helping an author to get their story to shine, I might also offer advice on commercial positioning – where a book might (or might not) fit in the current market.  As much as an author wants to write the story of their heart, there must also be a market for that story – a readership just waiting to be engaged.  What is a book if it isn’t read?  A doorstop.

Perhaps the most exciting part of my job is finding new shining stars in the writing world; whether it’s an amazing story waiting to be told or a unique voice just waiting to be heard.  Nothing beats that buzz of finding something special…a bit like when you get that tingle watching X Factor when plain Sam Bailey walks in and Simon looks bored but then she BLOWS them away!  That.

But the favourite part of my job is reading.  Lots of lovely books!  All day.  I read anything from romance (love a strong Alpha male!) to YA Fiction (Hunger Games blew me away!).  I know many of Libby’s friends share her love of reading – hurrah! – and it’s wonderful to see her book reviews generate debate and opinion on Facebook and Twitter.

But what do I like in books?  It’s so hard to choose, a bit like picking my favourite (non-ugly) child!  I suppose my favourite books reflect my personal interest in the role of women in society; how strong women in particular are portrayed, often feared and often  maligned.  I like books that have powerful leading ladies who are not always likeable, but who have an innate strength.  My top two are probably Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, so totally different to the film (which I also LOVED), but a soaring epic nonetheless, and The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – we all know the story of Anne, but this turns an old tale on its head – a wonderful read!

So that’s me in a nutshell.  What’s your favourite book or what’s the one book that would become your doorstop?  How might you make that book better…?

Thanks Libby for inviting me over!

Emily xx

You can contact me at or visit our website  if you would like me to tell you your baby is ugly…or advise on your writing dream!!

Ruston Hutton fiction editors