Today I’ve invited Nicole Fiorica to chat with me at the EasternPennPoints Café. Nicole is an assistant editor at Margaret K. McElderry Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. She’ll also be joining us at our Fall Philly event on November 2, where she’ll be delivering our opening keynote address.
Laura: Hi, Nicole. Welcome to the EasternPennPoints Café. Before we start chatting, can I offer you something to eat or drink?
Nicole: Just coffee and a donut for me!
Laura: Coming right up! So, tell us about McElderry Books. What kind of books do you publish?
Nicole: McElderry publishes a pretty wide range of books, from teen all the way down to picture books, and across genres. The unifying factor is that we tend to look for books with a literary sensibility as well as commercial appeal. I would say we’re most known for publishing teen and middle grade fantasy, but we also publish teen thrillers, voice-driven contemporary, historical middle grade, nonfiction, and a small but growing list of graphic novels. Essentially, we have the freedom to publish the stories we’re really passionate about, and that’s always super exciting.
Laura: And what path did you take to land in your current position as assistant editor?
Nicole: Even though I studied communications and psychology at school, I always knew I wanted to get into books somehow, and without being sure where to start, I got a job as a bookseller my local Books-A-Million store. I think this is the best thing I could have done; it’s incredibly useful to know your way around a bookstore and to understand how books get into the hands of readers! From there, I landed a publicity internship with Crown Publishing, and after that was an editorial intern with St. Martin’s Press, where I learned so much about evaluating submissions and crafting edit notes and countless other things I probably take for granted now. At this point, I was sure I wanted to be an editor and was very lucky to get my job at S&S. I started as an editorial assistant, which is where most junior editors begin, assisting both of the acquiring editors for the imprint. For all of their titles, I also provided edit notes, wrote flaps, prepared for sales meetings—the whole nine yards. As an assistant editor, I still do all of those things, but in addition to editing the books on my own list.
Laura: Tell us about an upcoming project that you’re excited about.
Nicole: I’ve had such a tremendous blast working on a YA thriller called I KILLED ZOE SPANOS by Kit Frick. When Anna arrives in the Hamptons for a nanny position, she discovers she looks a lot like a missing girl named Zoe. And when Zoe’s body is found, Anna confesses to her murder—but a teen podcast reporter isn’t buying her story and is determined to uncover the truth. This is a twisted, atmospheric page turner that will be out June 2020, right in time to take on your next beach trip.
Laura: Oooh, that sounds intriguing! I’ll be sure to check it out.
Here’s a fun one: If you had the magical ability to jump into any book in time and watch the story unfold from the inside, what book would you choose?
Nicole: Normally this would be a difficult question for me to answer, but I’m feeling pretty confident: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. I’m somewhat obsessed with this book—not just with the story itself, about a librarian apprentice searching for a lost city—but also with the way the story was crafted. The world and the real conflict unfold so methodically, as the story spans a continent and alternating points of view introduced at carefully chosen moments. It probably wouldn’t be the happiest world to watch unfold in real time, but it’s such a stunning story that comes together with such vivid imagination . . . I can’t say more without spoiling, but I would want to see it all for myself.
Laura: Okay, get ready. As fast as you can, what is your favorite
Movie: The Martian.
Emoji: The shrugging girl. That’s me 90% of the time.
Outdoor activity: Haha what uh . . . reading outside?
Podcast: Binge Mode
Laura: Whew! Thanks. And finally, tell us a little about what you’ll be speaking about at Fall Philly.
Nicole: I’ll be speaking about one of my favorite topics: characters! And, specifically, how to write characters that readers will care about. I’ll be getting into some of the nitty gritty of how to create a character that’s empathetic to readers (even if they aren’t necessarily sympathetic), and how those key character elements unfold over the course of the story’s plot to create a lasting impact on the audience. I will get very emotional about fictional people and events. It’ll be fun!
Laura: I can’t wait! Thanks so much for chatting with us at the EasternPennPoints Café. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Philly in November.
Nicole: Great talking with you as well! I can’t wait to see you (and everyone) there!
For more information about our Fall Philly event and to register, click here.
Nicole Fiorica is an assistant editor at Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. She works on everything from picture books through young adult, in a wide range of genres including both fiction and nonfiction. Prior to joining S&S, she graduated from Fordham University with a degree in Communications and Media. She has had internships with St. Martin’s Press, W.W. Norton & Co, and the Crown Publishing Group. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, Nicole enjoys pottery and watches too much reality TV.