Elizabeth Fitzgerald has been a freelance editor since 2004 and is the owner of Earl Grey Editing. She has worked on a wide variety of publications–most notably Winds of Change, an anthology of speculative fiction short stories by CSFG Publishing. From 2010 until 2013, she was a committee member of the CSFG, serving as Secretary in 2011 and 2012. She has a weakness for books, loose-leaf tea and silly dogs.
You can find her at www.earlgreyediting.com.au or on Twitter @elizabeth_fitz
In your freelance editing work what guides you to help authors bring out the best in their story? How do you achieve a balance in time and energy for working on your own writing and editing for others?
I was very fortunate to become part of two wonderful writing communities early in my writing life—one of them being the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. Beta reading and critiquing circles were a significant part of these groups and editing was such a short step from there. Because of this, editing retains strong connections with building community for me. This association got reinforced by being able to watch editor Gillian Polack at work behind the scenes of Masques (CSFG Publishing) and Baggage (Eneit Press). She taught me that, more than anything else, editing is about having a dialogue with authors. If there’s anything I love as much as a good story, it’s a good conversation about stories (and a good cup of tea). Editing allows me to have all of those things!
Managing time for my own work as well as editing for others is quite a challenge. Most of the time, I deal with it by concentrating on editing during normal office hours (since it is my day job) and then working on my writing in the evenings. However, freelancing doesn’t always work out so neatly. There are occasions when I am juggling a couple of jobs at the same time or need to work outside of normal office hours. Anthologies very much fit in here. During these times, I find it tends to be less about balance than about cycles. I’ll drop everything to work on the editing. Once the project/s are complete, there’s usually a lull time in which I can recover my sanity and then focus exclusively on my own work for a little while.
You edited the anthology Winds of Change published by CSFG in 2011. (I was lucky enough to be one of the authors and working with you was wonderful!) Can you tell us about the process and the highlights?
You are too kind—especially considering the number of times I sent you back for rewrites!
As I mentioned earlier, I worked behind the scenes with Gillian Polack and Scott Hopkins on the CSFG’s anthology Masques. Very shortly after publication, the CSFG decided to get the ball rolling on its next anthology and put a call out to members for editors. After some unsubtle nudging from other members, I volunteered and was accepted.
Working on CSFG anthologies is intended to be a learning experience for members and I certainly found that to be true. Although I had learned a lot from working on Masques and Baggage, there were aspects of the process I got to experience for the first time with Winds of Change. An example of this was selecting the theme of the anthology from a large number put forward by CSFG members. I also read all the slush myself and coming across Maxine McArthur’s story ‘The Soul of the Machine’ for the very first time was definitely a highlight. It was the first of the stories that I knew without a doubt I wanted for the anthology. Getting to meet new or new-to-me authors was another highlight.
The process wasn’t without its challenges, however. Our submission deadline got pushed back after a cyclone hit Queensland. The CSFG has some strong ties to the writing communities there and we wanted to make sure they had a chance to recover and get their stories to us, even if it meant a tighter timeframe for the editing. My grandmother also passed away and I found myself writing both her eulogy and the introduction for the anthology at the same time.
Winds of Change was launched at Conflux 7 the day before my 29th birthday and it was a pretty memorable birthday present.
Your story ‘Phoenix Down’, published in Next by CSFG in 2013, weaves textural, thermal, and seasonal contrasts into the narrative. In your current work, does the natural environmental inspire you and affect how you work?
If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably gathered from the photos that I have a bit of an interest in nature. Place is a preoccupation of mine and one of the awesome things about having lived in the same place for my entire life is that I’ve had a chance to study this bioregion fairly intimately. At first this study was pretty casual, as it is for most people—just a noting that the flowers are out now or which species of birds have returned to the area. Then it grew more intense and I began to study natural history more thoroughly.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my writing has mirrored this transition. The natural environment started off as unsophisticated background. As I learned more about my own bioregion, I found my world-building becoming more nuanced and I started to use the environment in my stories to create those contrasts you mentioned in relation to ‘Phoenix Down’.
These days the natural environment is playing an even more active role in my writing. I’m currently working on a short story called Heartwood which uses an animistic setting. Oceans, rocks and other environmental features possess their own spirits and power which human mages are able to draw upon and exploit. The story focuses on the relationship between a young mage and a tree.
I also have a 10 000 word story gathering dust while I figure out what to do with it. Called Siren Songs, it was my first foray into fantasy that uses a distinctly Australian-inspired landscape and is about an undead siren plaguing a town on the edge of a salt lake. I had thought it would be a stand-alone piece but it seems to want to morph into something longer—something about travel, place and belonging. I just haven’t yet figured out the specifics.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
I recently spent one glorious day devouring Juliet Marillier’s YA fantasy Raven Flight. It is the second in the Shadowfell trilogy and I have been itching to get my hands on the final book, The Caller, which has just been released. The series features one of the more deftly handled romances I’ve seen in YA recently, showing how a protagonist can be in love while still retaining her intelligence and independence.
Speaking of intelligent and independent female characters, I am way behind the times and still catching up on Glenda Larke’s Mirage Makers trilogy. In addition to the characters, the world-building in this series appeals to me. All too often, I feel like writers build their worlds by throwing together a collection of geological features almost at random, without any clear idea of how these features interact. However, the map in the Mirage Makers trilogy made sense from a geological perspective and was a great demonstration of the careful consideration given to the creation of this trilogy.
Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
The recent industry changes have meant that my editing clients are somewhat more likely to be heading towards self-publishing rather than towards more traditional methods. However, the change hasn’t been as dramatic as you might expect and ultimately doesn’t influence the way I work.
The biggest change has been in my reading. While I still tend to favour paperbacks, I have started reading more novella-length e-books. This is partly thanks to recommendations from friends who have been steering me towards fantasy romance and introduced me to the work of UK author Amy Rae Durreson. I hope that in five years from now my reading horizons will be continuing to expand into genres that are new to me.
As for my writing, I have a duology I’m working on that I hope to have finished in the next five years. It is an epic fantasy/alternate history that owes somewhat to George R.R. Martin and is taking me well outside my comfort zone.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and collating the links at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: