Monday, May 10, 2010

Editor Interview: Brian Farrey, Flux

With lots of fanfare (there's confetti flying here in my home office) I'm kicking off the new SCBWI blog with an editor interview featuring Brian Farrey of Flux, an imprint dedicated to publishing only YA. Brian has been Flux's acquisitions editor since the end of 2008, before that working in publicity for the imprint since it started up in 2005. Here he talks about Flux, his direction with the imprint, some upcoming titles, and, of course, YA itself.

Has anything changed at Flux since you took over the imprint?

As some people know, my first job with Flux was as publicist when the imprint first launched. In that capacity, I worked closely with Andrew Karre, Flux's former acquiring editor (now the Editorial Director at Lerner's Carolrhoda imprint). I had (and continue to have) a lot of respect for Andrew's sense of vision. He did a lot to set the standard for the imprint. Thankfully, Andrew and I have very similar tastes in YA, so in that respect not much has changed. However, by nature, I bring a different eye to reading submissions. Ultimately, I don't think Flux's direction has changed at all. I'm still looking to bring in fresh voices with a solid grounding in emotional honesty. If anything, I aim to build on the success the imprint has enjoyed, expanding on the points of view we present. I'm adding some sci-fi/speculative fiction to the line in the coming year. I'm looking at the books where we've seen success and hoping similar titles will prove just as successful. We'll also be expanding the number of titles we produce each year, which means I'm chin deep in submissions.

How would you define YA?

I think the most important part of the definition invokes Flux's slogan: YA is a point of view, not a reading level. To me, that's where it all starts. I find I get in trouble (with myself, mainly) when I try to narrow the definition further because just when I decide what it is, I fall in love with a manuscript that challenges my criteria. In a lot of ways, YA is a lot like the target audience: try to label and define a "typical" young adult at your own peril. They're at that exciting* stage of life that's all about reinventing convention and exploration of self. The best YA--the stuff that really gets me excited--latches on to that.

{* I say "exciting" in retrospect because I think a sizable contingent of teens would find other adjectives (terrifying, confusing, stultifying) to describe their current situation.}

You accept electronic submissions directly from authors as well as taking submissions from agents. What makes you keep reading?

The thrill of discovering a new voice. Really, that's what it is. Finding the person who zeroes in on the right words and puts them in just the right order and leaves me giddy.  I've had that pleasure over and over again, both with agented submissions and unagented. Part of the price of admission for that thrill ride is, of course, reading lots of stuff that doesn't hit the mark with me. LOTS of stuff. Not that it's bad but I just don't connect with the material in the way that a writer deserves. So much of this job, to me, is about the author-editor relationship. I enjoy that collaboration and when you find an author with whom you share a wavelength, it's really exciting.  So I keep reading to keep reliving that experience.

What are some upcoming or recent Flux releases that you're excited about?

Ah, this is the part of the interview where I'm forced to choose which of my children are my favorites. Always so hard to do. To make it easy, I'll just mention three of the very first books I acquired when I took over Flux. Out in May is A BLUE SO DARK, Holly Schindler's stunning debut. It's the story of a girl who can no longer hide the fact that she's her schizophrenic mother's sole caretaker (and, as I type this, I just found out it got a starred review from BOOKLIST!).  And keep your eye on Heath Gibson when his debut, GIGGED, hits shelves (also in May). Like many YA enthusiasts, I adore Robert Cormier's work and I don't invoke his name lightly. But GIGGED captures a lot of Cormier's magic and includes a stunner of a twist ending of which Cormier himself would approve. And this summer, Karen Kincy's debut, OTHER, starts an exciting new urban fantasy series for Flux about a shapeshifting teen in Washington state who becomes the target of a serial killer when she begins investigating the deaths of "Others," the paranormal kinfolk of the world.

What advice would you offer to YA writers hoping to get published?

The piece that I've been distributing most often recently comes from something I'm noticing more and more with submissions: if you're going to write YA, you need to read YA. Know the market. Every day I get manuscripts from people who CLEARLY have not read a contemporary YA novel. Don't look at the "New for Teens" shelf at Borders and think you can do that without having read a word. DO NOT regurgitate what you see on the market. You definitely need your own voice, your own spin. But know what's out there and what's appealing to readers.

Here's where to find Flux online:


Nathalie said...

I enjoyed learning more about Flux, Alice.

Thanks to you and Mr. Farrey for the interview.

just Joan said...

I loved reading this interview and learning more about Flux. I look forward to many more great posts in the future!

Erin Dealey said...

Love this new SCBWI blog feature! Congrats to all!

Brian Farrey wowed all of our Spring Spirit 2010 participants with his great workshops, keen insights, and the fact that he's a genuinely nice guy!
Erin Dealey
Co-RA SCBWI CA North/Central
Twitter: @SCBWICA

Alan Orloff said...

Nice interview!

Weronika Janczuk said...

Brian rocks. :-)

Great interview, Alice!

Arjay said...

Well done, Alice! Very good interview.

Alice said...

Thanks to all for stopping by to read my interview with Brian. I hope you all come back soon. And Erin--great to hear how much you liked Brain at your event. I'd love to see him at the LA conference in the future.

J.E. MacLeod said...

Great interview!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I had a chance to see Mr. Farrey at the Spring Spirit conference, and this interview is a good representation of the refreshing attitude and enthusiasm he displayed in person.

Thanks for starting up the blog, Alice, it sounds like it will be worth checking it regularly. One tiny pet peeve--the light type on a dark background is really fatiguing to my eyes!

Looking forward to seeing future posts!

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Great article! I love Flux and am a big fan of Dust of 100 Dogs. Keep up the great work!

Lee Wind said...

This was a great interview, and such a super way to kick off your new blog, Alice!
Thanks to Brian for sharing your passionate and upbeat take on editing (and acquiring) YA!

Lee Wind said...

It's also pretty amazing that Brian participated in the Do The Write Thing For Nashville auction in response to the flooding disaster they've experienced. Bidding was fast and furious for his critique - and he doubled the donation with a cool hat-trick at the last minute! Very cool of him - lots of money raised for a good cause, and those two writers got quite a prize.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

awesome interview Alice thanks!

Lisa Albert said...

Great interview, Alice! Seriously, I'm not just saying that 'cuz Brian bought my YA. :-)

You know I heart your blog!