Editor's Spotlight
Urban Book Source
February 2006


Barbara CusterBarbara Cluster

In her decade as a writer Barbara has seen a lot of praise. Her work consisting mostly of horror and science fiction has been published by a number of small presses, including her first novel Twilight Healer, and constantly featured on www.chaoticdreams.net. Barbara is currently finishing up her second novel, as she works as an editor for Night to Dawn Magazine. Aside from the scary tales, Barbara’s works also appear in Kim Robinson’s Sweet Satisfaction and Food For The Soul.

UBS: What do you think of urban literature as of right now?
Barbara:
I feel that competition is getting stiffer among authors. It is harder for a first-time author to break into traditional publishing, no matter the genre. As a result, we’re seeing better quality novels.

UBS: How do you feel after reading something you spent countless hours working on and then you come across something you missed after the work has already been published? Maybe a typo or spelling error?
Barbara:
I get frustrated with myself, as this happens from time to time. Fortunately, I was blessed to have a mentor, who explained that these things happen to every editor.

UBS: Who do you think has it easier, magazine editors or book editors, and why?
Barbara:
I think that overall, book editors have it easier if they work for publishing houses because they’ve got a steady pay with benefits. Some large magazine outfits have this too, but they are quicker to fold, hence less job security. Small magazines do not pay as well. On a high note, if you have a day job, you’ve got less formality in a smaller magazine.

UBS: On average how long does it take you to edit an article?
Barbara:
It depends on the length of the article and how tight the writing is. A well-written story will only take one evening to edit or less. A story with multiple errors might take several days.

UBS: What are some of your favorite article topics?
Barbara:
Most of what I publish is fiction and poetry, but for nonfiction, I look for something in the vampire or horror genre, usually book reviews.

UBS: Do you ever find yourself re-writing a lot of any one authors work?
Barbara:
This has happened several times, at least with the first two issues of Night To Dawn. But as the submissions come in, I find that I don’t really have the time to rewrite a story. If a story has that many flaws, I either ask the author to do a rewrite or I encourage him or her to submit another story.

UBS: With Urban fiction receiving a lot of flack for the way some of their books are edited, what do you suggest to combat this problem?
Barbara:
I would suggest that the editors keep in touch with the author, and let them know what they have to edit and why. When I started writing ten years ago, I was taught that you submit a short story, enjoy the publishing, and keep my mouth shut about the editing. But writers are taking more pride in their work. This last issue out, as I worked on the story, I sent emails to the writer, letting him or her know that I was working on their story or poem, and gave them a heads-up about changes.

UBS: How do you feel about using slang in novels and articles about urban life?
Barbara:
I feel that a character has to be real. If a drug dealer loses his wallet, he won’t say, “Oh, gosh, oh darn!” So I will go along with him dropping an F-bomb. At the same time, a lawyer would be out of place using vulgar language in a courtroom. That said, I don’t allow taking any god’s name in vein in the magazine (urban or otherwise). I will go with slang if it is clear to the reader what the character is saying.

UBS: Is it hard to break into the editing side of magazine publishing?
Barbara:
Yes…and no. The opportunity sort of dropped into my lap. I’ve been submitting (and getting published) stories to Night To Dawn for some time, when the editor announced that she had to fold, and she wanted someone to take the reins. The magazine already had its own ISSN number. I’ve had Walter Mitty dreams about publishing my own magazine, so I jumped at the opportunity. At the same tame, another editor who’d I been writing for retired and took me under her wing, talking me through the layout and printing process.

UBS: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Barbara:
I’ve met some great people. Sometimes writers will send me Christmas cards and the like. And I do get to read some interesting tales. There is a lot of good talent out there.


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