Creative Corner – Maya Rock
Meet: Maya Rock
Maya Rock has seen the publishing industry through a number of lenses. After graduating from Princeton University, she worked as a copyeditor and journalist, later becoming an agent at the prestigious Writers House agency, where she spent five years assisting chairman Al Zuckerman. In 2010 she opened Rock Editorial Services, and published her first YA novel, Scripted, in 2015.
- Welcome, Maya. Thanks for joining me here on Creative Corner. What should my readers know about you?
Hi, Clara! I’m an author, and I run a book editorial services business, Rock Editorial Services.
- What are the 3 words that best describe you?
Blunt, honest, and frank.
- Tell us about your work.
As an author, I primarily write YA, though I occasionally do journalism and copywriting as well. My first novel Scripted came out earlier this year, and I’m working on my second. Writing is very close to my heart, and I think one of the best ways I can express my feelings and thoughts about this world.
Through my business Rock Editorial Services, I edit manuscripts for agents, publishers, and individual writers (some who are going to self-publish and some of whom are looking for agents). I also assist with query letter and synopses. I specialize in YA, memoir, thriller, romance, literary, and middle-grade. I primarily do what is known as substantive or developmental editing. I wrote a good blog post explaining developmental editing here: http://maya-rock.com/2015/05/26/what-is-developmental-editing/. My editing work is my “day job,” while I write fiction in my spare time.
- Which piece of work are you most proud of?
This is a great question. I could never choose among the works I’ve edited, but I’ll give it a shot for the writing.
I once briefly wrote a dating column. I’d already written two in the series, and it hadn’t really clicked for me, though my editor seemed satisfied. I worked very hard on the third one and took it to a higher level. Also, a friend whose opinion I trusted told me he noticed it was significantly better than the previous two.
So, of my own published work, that’s the one I’m most proud of because it has become a touchstone, a way to remember that I “know” internally when things have clicked, even without official editorial guidance.
- What other creative endeavors do you enjoy?
Does karaoke count? I never felt I was very drawn to do any other art/creative endeavors in a serious way, but I have a lot of appreciation for the other arts/creative endeavors, especially those with a musical element.
- Are you a publicity-lover, or publicity shy?
- I love music, and I’m always interested in the musical tastes of my friends. Tell me your 3 favorite songs.
- Me, too! I have SO many. This question is almost impossible. Current top three are: 1) “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse (her cover of The Zutons song) 2) “I’ll Take You There” by The Staples Singers 3) “Night Shift” by The Commodores.
- What song best describes your life?
Tough question. Oh! I came up with the answer. This song “Hush” by Shanks and the Dreamers. It came up randomly on my Pandora one day a couple of years ago, and then I hunted it down and have listened to it many times since.
The song lives up to this band’s name by having a very dreamy tone to it while also having a hard beat (like “Shanks” is a hard word). Life seems very dream-like to me, slightly mysterious, but with a good rhythm that lets you know there’s some sort of order. So that is why “Hush” best describes my life. (Here’s the Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixdVO3acpMk)
The Glamorous, Dangerous Romance Section:
- You are offered, free for one year, the use of either a customized, fully staffed jet (say a Bombardier Learjet 40XR), or a fully-staffed luxury yacht (perhaps a 150-foot vessel built by Palmer Johnson). Which do you choose?
Yacht! Gotta love the water.
- Fabulous! Where are we going?
Italy and Greece? (I think what I have in mind is known as the “Mediterranean coast”—you can tell I’m not totally familiar with the yachting life.)
- Who are we bringing with us?
A few close friends and family. No more than six or seven. And a great band.
- I love to shop! And guess what? An eccentric billionaire has offered us his charge card for a day of shopping; with one caveat…we can only go to one store. Where are we going?
Okay, I’m not the most frequent shopper, but I did recently enjoy a trip to a Bloomingdale’s in Soho, which was a bit easier to navigate than the big Bloomingdale’s uptown and had some hip features–like a tarot card reader!
- What do we buy there?
Ankle boots! I see them everywhere and really want some.
- Which of the following soap operas most resembles your life: All My Children, Grey’s Anatomy, Dynasty or The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?
Grey’s Anatomy. My life is populated by smart, crazy people.
- Which celebrity would you most like to star with in a romantic movie?
Cillian Murphy. It was love at first sight with 28 Days Later and the love is still going strong.
- The setting for this movie is a private island. Where is it located?
Hmm… also off the coast of Italy? The Amalfi coast, I think.
- What do we find there?
A really nice palazzo, with plates of olives, dishes of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, bowls of pasta, and a good sound system.
- Now comes the danger…This lover’s paradise has an unforeseen danger. What is it?
There’s a lethal snake. So rare in this area, but you never know what life will bring you.
- Naturally, this danger imperils the love of your life. How do you save him/her?
I’d like to say I’d suck the venom out, but I think I’d probably just be really commanding about getting the rescue helicopter to come in a timely fashion.
- If you could trade places with someone for one day, whom would you choose?
Probably President Obama. I watch a lot of Scandal but still find myself curious about the daily life of the U.S. president.
- If you were interviewing me, what’s the first question you’d ask?
What your favorite songs are. (Or maybe one song describes your life.) I think those were excellent questions.
Okay, maybe that wouldn’t be the first question. I am curious about your working habits, though, because I’m impressed by what you produce, so perhaps something like, “Could you describe your average work day to me?”
- Finish this sentence: In my next life, I’m coming back as a ___________________.
A brilliant and successful singer.
- If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing; and one thing only, what would it be?
Hard question. For what it’s worth, I’ve noticed that the truest regrets I have—the ones that aren’t just like, I wish I’d done this because maybe then I’d be a millionaire!—are the times I said or done unkind things, usually because I was hurting in some way. I guess this struck me as an effective way of feeling better myself or about myself. Funny, because the exact opposite is what results.
So, I’d advise myself to treat others as I’d wish to be treated. (Sound familiar?)
- Which would you rather see make a comeback – disco or psychedelic rock?
The Personal Touch:
- What sets you apart from other editors?
Writers like my literary agent background; they want to land an agent after having the editorial work done, so are drawn to someone who has insight into what agents would like to see. My experience with agenting sets me apart from other editors.
I stand apart, too, because editing is my full-time job, not just a gig on the side while I search for a full-time position. I devote myself to it fully, which includes not just the editing itself but developing work systems that can make the whole project run more smoothly for an author than if it were just a side gig.
- You’ve spent time working in various writing-related fields: as a copywriter, journalist, literary agent, novelist and editor. How has this shaped your work as an editor?
There have been a number of ways . . .
I think all the writing made me extra-sensitive to how clear editorial comments need to be effective. I try to be as specific as possible and also offer concrete, practical suggestions. I also try to write my comments with great simplicity and clarity, almost at a grade school level, because I know how exhausting it can be to wade through many comments. I consciously resist writing flourishes when I’m doing my editorial work.
I always sprinkle in positive comments. Not only so writers feel validated, but because I know as a writer that I need to hear what’s working so I can make sure not to cut it in rewrites.
The literary agent part informs how much effort and care I put in to make sure I come up with everything I can think of to improve a book. I saw firsthand while agenting how tough it is for a book to get published, so I feel pretty committed to making every manuscript that comes my way the best it can be.
- How do you feel when a book you’ve worked on achieves success?
It feels great! But there’s so much luck involved with that, that I don’t think too hard about it. Not to take away from the work anyone’s done—just that I’ve known so many books that were successes that didn’t necessarily garner awards or high sales.
- What were your writing goals when you started college at Princeton, and how have they changed in the ensuing years?
For whatever reason, I did not take the idea of being a writer seriously from maybe junior high on, even though I’d had early childhood aspirations to write. I have no idea why not. I think I might have been scared of the financial implications. So when I went to Princeton, I was pretty sure I only ever wanted to write as a hobby.
When I entered the publishing industry, I saw how plenty of writers had day jobs and writing hobbies and still managed to actually get published. So, I took it more seriously.
- You’ve spent time working as a literary agent at the very prestigious Writers House. What was the most important lesson you learned while working there?
I had a great time working at Writers House, and I learned so much there. My boss had a very calm demeanor, and I watched him handle a lot of stressful situations with a “keep calm and carry on attitude” that really impacted me. Seeing that one could live this way in our crazy world was really cool. In terms of publishing, I learned that anything can happen and that there are a lot of different kinds of writers out there, in all sorts of life circumstances.
- When you’re writing a book, how much of your own editing do you do, and how much do you leave to your editor?
I do a lot of editing. I trust my editor, but I dislike intentionally leaving stuff to be edited; it seems sloppy. I actually didn’t even realize it was an option to intentionally leave stuff for the editor to handle until I worked on Scripted. And now that I think about it, I probably did exercise that option a couple of times, when I was feeling crunched for time and knew the main concern was that I had nailed certain plot elements, not polished it all up to a fine sheen.
- How easy do you find it to switch hats from writer to editor, and vice versa?
It can be difficult. While I’m in the middle of a big line edit or an editorial letter, it is very hard to interrupt it with the equally deep-level work that writing a book is. For both there’s a pull to stay in a sustained headspace for the duration of the project, and you basically only want your breaks to be something refreshing or resting, like watching TV or eating. Not switching to other all-consuming projects.
I sometimes think I only make real headway in a book when I’m in a lull between projects or have vacation time. If I’m working on smaller projects, like a partial line or query review, it’s also easier to work on my writing.
Nevertheless, I keep try to keep juggling all the balls, all the time. I think most writers have to do some of form of this juggling.
- As an editor, is there any particular genre you like working on better than others?
I love working on contemporary romance a lot. It is really relaxing. I also like a lot of genres within the YA category. But I do like variety, too . . .
- What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a writer?
Don’t obsess about publication. It takes away from producing quality writing.
- If you were sucked into the reality TV world of your novel, Scripted, what role would you like to play?
Oh, I’d probably like to be one of the ones who does something so cool that she automatically gets filmed for it. Like someone who’s in charge of interior design or flower arranging, so the focus of all my segments would be about doing those sorts of things, but not on me.
- Would your character be in danger of being “cut” from the show?
Nope! Her special skill is too much fun for the audience.
- What would you do if your character was cut from the show?
Well, since it happened . . . I’d wallow around feeling bad about why I didn’t make it! I would definitely not instigate a rebellion.
- Of the books you’ve edited, which one(s) would you like to be a character in?
Oh, there are so many, but my client Anna Adams has created a wonderful world full of music, romance, family, and friends in her French Girl series. The first book is free on Amazon.
Reach Out & Touch Someone:
- Where can my readers get more information on you?
- What social media sites do you use?
How can my readers follow you? I’m on twitter. Twitter.com/mayaalexrock
- Where can my readers purchase your work?
It’s on Amazon and in bookstores!
- Please provide any other links my readers might find useful.
The page on my site that goes into my book editing services is at www.maya-rock.com/book-editing-services. You might also want to check out my FB page, www.facebook.com/RockEditorialServices.
Thank you so much for joining me, Maya! Best Wishes on all your future endeavors!!