I’ve worked with authors all around the world. For some foreign authors, English is their second language. The first thing I do is ask who their target reader is. Is it the American reader? Do they want their book to be written in idiomatic American English or do they want to retain their foreign accent? If the setting is in the U.S., do they want it to be accurate? The author from Algeria who now lives in Los Angeles had the geography in his novel down pat, but two authors who set their books in New York City but had never been there, so I was able to help them when their geography got a bit skewed.
I’ve edited books on controversial topics. Because immigration from Latin America is a major issue in the U.S., I wish everyone could learn as much about the historical conflicts between Mexico and the U.S. as I did when I edited a long biography of Benito Juarez written by a Mexican scholar. I’ve also edited two books for a retired engineer who lives in the Islamic Republic of Iran (we don’t talk politics in our emails) and multi-volume book (nearly half a million words) about Islam by an author who was born in Los Angeles and now lives in Pakistan. I edited a totally fascinating memoir by a Japanese solo violinist who has had experiences with the others (people from other planets) all her life. I’ve edited a dozen brief technical proposals (physics applications to medical research) for scientists from Russian and Azerbaijan, including a Russian author wrote his book in Russian and used a computer translation program. You can imagine how much fun that was.
One of the best novels I’ve ever edited was written by a blind author. His computer reads to him. I helped him revise the end of the novel so it’s more “realistic.” His novel would make a perfect TV movie.
Some of the books I’ve edited have been stunning
I’ll never forget the memoir of a young black man who lived in New Jersey. He was a gang member by age twelve–it was the only way he could avoid being beaten up in school every day. He also became way too familiar with drugs and guns. His life was saved by his mother and grandfather, who drove him to North Carolina and enrolled him in college. We had an interesting email conversation about the word “Niggah.” Another book I won’t forget is the memoir by another young (white) man who was in a federal prison because he had robbed banks to support his drug habit. I suggested to his mother, who was my primary contact, that she add an afterword expressing her love for her son, who has cleaned up his act.
I’ll likewise never forget a science fiction novel I edited. It was about a metaphysical bomb that changed history. Sort of. The author’s speculations were fascinating, and I’d love to see that book turned into a movie. I also remember two books about the Nummo from Sirius B who came to earth and lived among the Dogon of Mali. The author believes that every religious and spiritual system on earth derives from the Nummo. (I don’t agree with her, but why shouldn’t she write what she believes?) I’m about to start the second book of the author of a highly inspiring book for alcoholics about using nutrition to help clean up your body. We put her own story in the book. I’m astonished that she’s still alive. Another author wrote about Mexicans and Americans living in southern Texas about the time of the U.S. Civil War. And I loved a huge novel that is a thriller, a love story, and a supernatural tale all wrapped together and in which magic flows out of a sort of Stonehenge on a hill in Indiana.