I had to take a hiatus from behind-the-scenes interviews for a month, but I’m getting back on track again, starting with my boss, Malle Vallik. When I intro my co-workers, saying positive things about them is easy, because it doesn’t sound like I’m sucking up. In Malle’s case, she’s the person who does my performance evaluations, so there’s no way around that ;P But it’s easy to tell you that I admired her before I ever worked for Harlequin. She has a tremendous reputation in the publishing community for her ability to get right to the heart of an issue and for being the “Oracle” and seeing what’s coming next. She’s been an editor, an author and a publisher (of Carina Press) so she understands this crazy business from all angles and she’s really good at disseminating that information to others. Also, not insignificantly, she understands and appreciates good food and good wine, so meeting up with her when I travel to Toronto or conferences where she’ll be is always wonderful!
AJ: To start, tell us your job title as well as what you do for Harlequin and Carina.
MV: I’m the Director of Digital Publishing for Harlequin. It’s a new position because the world of publishing is changing so much these days. I work with the traditional/print publishing teams across Series, Single title, Non-Fiction & Teen to ensure strategic alignment and consistency between the print and digital publishing programs in North America. I am also responsible for Carina Press. In addition, I look for opportunities for Harlequin to innovate and be at the forefront of Digital Publishing including multi-media content and playing a leadership role in the development of digital self-promotion skills for our author base.
What this means is that I get to read a lot, but also look at all kinds of entertainment and imagine if this could be part of our business. My favorite part of my job is Carina Press because it is a business in high growth and experimental stage. I am so impressed with the passion, smarts and commitment of everyone involved with Carina.
AJ: What’s the most overused plotline or trope, in your esteemed opinion?
MV: I’m going to flip this. My favorite plotline is Beauty and the Beast because the heroine is so proactive. This is also why I like paranormals/urban fantasy (everthing from Buffy to Lilith St.Croix to Meljean Brooks); the women are so strong and the conflicts and plots so complex.
The trope I dislike the most, because writers don’t stretch it anywhere, INHO, is the high-school sweethearts who broke each others’ hearts and have never loved anyone as much since. Okay – although I don’t really buy the last part (it’s like peaking in high school, how sad). She/he sees him/her and it’s like they’re back in time, blah blah blah. For me, because the characters are still obsessing over this one love that got away (when they were 17!) they haven’t grown enough to have an interesting story now.
AJ: If you were on an overnight flight and you realized you were sitting beside your all time favorite author but could only ask one question before he/she fell asleep, who would you be sitting beside, and what question would you ask?
MV: Oh, how to pick? Shakespeare? Jane Austen? Georgette Heyer? Lois McMaster Bujold? Enid Blyton?
I have to say Angela has asked a really wickedly difficult question. And I am so afraid I would freeze and ask something really stupid, so I would fall back on this:
It’s Jane Austen. Apparently she is completely nonplussed at having arrived onboard a flight and that Sense and Sensibility is one of the movie options on board.
Malle: “Have you considered digital publishing? Carina Press is a new imprint looking for great voices….” Yes, I think I would pitch my favorite author.
What’s your all time favorite recipe? Can you share it?
A few years ago my resolution was to not cook for a year, and it was the best resolution I ever made! I got so much done. Cooking for one really makes no sense in an urban centre; it’s so much faster to pick up food or eat in a restaurant. And there’s no cleaning up! I am revisiting the resolution again this year.
However, I made a great pea soup with ham. The secret, unfortunately, is having an elderly Estonian gentleman smoke the ham in your smokehouse (yes, I have a smokehouse at my cottage) so that you can use the bone and ham in your soup.
I also barbeque a mean steak. The secret is in the correct use of timers. I watch my food when I barbeque it, and everything, the steak and the supplementary items (salad, vegetables, potatoes), are all on timers so I know when everything should be done. You still have to look at the food to see if it’s done, but the timers are essential. I do, however, have a friend who only relies on timers and her food is often raw because she doesn’t taste/look. You have to do both!
If I had enough timers I could solve world peace.
AJ: What are you reading right now? Do you read any of the Harlequin or Carina books?
MV: On audio I am listening to A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness, which had amazing reviews in a slew of magazines about 6 weeks ago. I’m not sure. It’s interesting but a little slow going. I’m not yet convinced her take is that different from what’s been happening in paranormal stories for some time, but am willing to be convinced otherwise. Next on audio will be the newest Mercy Thompson book by Patricia Briggs. I started reading Julie Ann Long’s historical romances this weekend because of a review at the Dear Author blog, and am reading my 3rd book by her (I read WHAT I DID FOR DUKE, LIKE NO OTHER LOVER and am reading THE PERILS OF PLEASURE). I also just finished FALLEN by Michele Hauf, a Silhouette Nocturne. I do like paranormals and urban fantasy.
Books I am currently reading: A SONG OF SCARABEAUS by Sara Creasy, ARCHANGEL’S KISS by Nalini Signh (both recommendations from me!), and UNSEEN by Rachel Caine. I read the majority of my Carina books at acquisition and most of my Harlequin books after publication. The great thing about being on the digital team is having access to digital files early. (this is so SO true)
AJ: Dark, milk or white chocolate? Or no chocolate?
MV: Dark chocolate! I still remember the day my taste buds switched from milk to dark chocolate; I felt very sophisticated. For the most part I prefer my chocolate plain and a quality brand, I also like chocolate orange (the Terry chocolate orange ball in particular), chocolate mint (After Eight) and chocolate covered cherries. I adore chocolate covered cherries and always buy myself a box for Christmas! Expensive chocolate covered cherries are awesome, but I am also happy with the 99 cent box you can get from Wal Mart.