Confessions of a Harlequin Editor: Laura Barth

This week, pet peeves, favourite heroes, dietary downfalls and more from Associate Editor Laura Barth!

Laura Barth

Hi! I’m Laura Barth, associate editor for Harlequin American Romance and Blaze and manager of the Worldwide Mystery and Suspense program. I also have two authors who write for Harlequin Heartwarming. I started my career at Harlequin as a proofreader in 2005. It was fantastic being paid to read romance novels all day! My job today is much different—I read fewer novels, but I get to work closely with authors and have a lot more influence over how the characters reach their happy ending. And now, a few confessions…

1. I’m easily bored.

Variety is the spice of life, and I especially value it in my work. The different romance lines I work on span the spectrum of heat levels, and I love the challenge in finding the right tone for each story. I also enjoy managing Worldwide Mystery and Suspense because what I do in that role is so different from my editor life. I still assess and contract books, but I also schedule titles and ensure that the whole program is moving along smoothly. And I need to maintain relationships with other publishers, as well as agents and authors outside of the romance community.

Fast-paced stories with active plots are great for keeping my attention and interest. One of my pet peeves is stories where nothing really happens. I loved Seinfeld, but this type of story based on clever dialogue and daily life does not generally work well for romance. I’m not suggesting characters should just run from event to event, but I’d love to see at least a couple of strong plot points. Other editors might disagree, but sometimes I welcome a fire or natural disaster in a novel just to liven things up a bit. I love seeing the hero and heroine learn to work together to overcome hardship.

And I’m not above killing off characters in order to increase the emotional intensity or make a backstory more compelling. Engaging my emotions goes a long way—if you bring a tear to my eye you’ll have me hooked.

2. I’m a bit of a romantic.

I was rather cynical about relationships before I came to work at Harlequin. My marriage had ended a few years before that and my faith in love and trust in happy endings took a long time to restore. Working at Harlequin, engaging with stories of hope and love every day for ten years, has slowly brought back my romantic soul. These days I find much to be hopeful and grateful for, and I’ve learned a lot about what kind of man I want to spend my life with. Harlequin and the talented authors I work with are at least partly responsible for that. I love flawed but honorable heroes, men who can show their vulnerability and their strength. Men who ultimately put the needs of others above their own. And, of course, a nice pair of broad shoulders doesn’t hurt!

3. I’d rather be outside.

Well, except in the winter…or when it’s raining really hard… But when the weather is nice it’s all I can do to force myself indoors. This means I have a special love for outdoor adventure in romance novels, whether the setting is a diving boat on the Caribbean Sea or a cabin in the Rocky Mountains. I also love traveling and have been to about 20 countries, often hauling my backpack and staying in hostels. (I’m not suggesting anyone write a hostel romance…in fact I’m begging you not to.) So I relate well to characters, especially heroines, who have seen a bit of the world or at least want to. It’s hard for me to understand characters who have never aspired to leave their hometown, although I can still appreciate them for their own values.

4. I’m constantly eating.

My coworkers must wonder if I have a tapeworm because I’m always snacking and never skip a meal. I’m saved by my intolerance to gluten and sugar, which forces me to eat mainly healthy things…though I will admit to the occasional potato chip binge. To all those who send me chocolates for Christmas …um, sorry for the bad news. But I appreciate the thought, and my friends and coworkers love you.

Thanks for stopping by to read my confessions. I hope you will use this information for good, not evil. And now I need a snack! Is anyone else craving potato chips?

Questions for Laura? Comment below! And follow Laura on Twitter @LauraBarth2011

8 replies on “Confessions of a Harlequin Editor: Laura Barth”

Hmmm… is there an evil side to your confessions? Here’s hoping your confessions bring some more fires and natural disasters to upcoming books. I’m a fan of those myself!

Haha! Thanks for your comment, Danica. If I end up with a fire in every story proposal I guess I’ll know what happened.

I enjoyed your confessions, especially the one on travel because I caught the bug big-time when I studied in London in college. I, also, am easily bored. As a writer, I fear the dreaded words “episodic” in my stories but I simply have to have things happening! Any thoughts you have on working in events naturally would be welcome!

Hi, Cathy! Thanks so much for your comment. I’m sorry it took me so long to respond. I totally forgot I should check back here. Maybe I should add easily distracted to my list of confessions.

Yes, working things in naturally is definitely the key. You want to avoid the characters jumping from event to event unless the sequence makes sense.

I usually look at the characters and the situation and think about what could reasonably happen to these people. For instance, if the story is set on a boat it could start sinking, or there could be a storm, etc.

Then think about how the characters might react if such a thing were to happen. The event needs to move the relationship forward in some way. So will it show them something new about each other, or will it force them to work together in a way that helps them grow closer or gain more respect for each other?

Best of luck with your writing!

You’re killing me, Smalls. I’m currently knee-deep in a WIP that might target American and there’s only one plot; Will they or won’t they get back together? Now I might have to set the ranch on fire or something drastic. LOL
P.S. I’ll happily eat any of the unwanted chocolate.

Hi, Elle,

Sorry for the late response! Yes, it sounds like you might need a bit more plot there. Making the reader wonder if your characters will make it work is, of course, the key to any romance. But we all know they’ll get together in the end. Something needs to happen in the middle. 😉

Best of luck! And remember, there doesn’t have to be a fire in every story. There could be a stampede! 😀

What an interesting journey you’ve had so far, Laura.

I would love to travel to the U.K. and Australia but I hate to fly which makes things a teensy bit difficult. LOL!

You mentioned having gluten intolerance. I have Celiac so I understand first hand about the issues associated with no gluten.

I took my Cairn Terrier to Starbucks for his first Puppuccino today. Next time I’m bringing my camera to take pictures. He loved it as much as the people watching.

It was nice getting to know you a little more.

Hi, Tambra!

Sorry for the late reply. Thanks for your comment :). Hating flying does make travel a bit more difficult. Central and South America might be better choices for you. Or you could come visit us here in Canada!

I’m so happy I don’t have celiac disease. Being gluten intolerant is tough enough. At least they’re coming out with a lot more gluten-free products these days, I suppose.

Have a great night!

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