November 2017 Q&A: Kate Cuthbert

Kate Cuthbert is managing editor of Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Australia. She is also an award-winning book reviewer and writer for national and international publications.

How has your month been?

September is always a bit of a blur for me. August is my busiest month every year: I attend the Romance Writers of Australia conference, where I take pitches, run workshops or appear on panels, hold author meetings, and host the Saturday night afterparty. Some years, I follow that up with the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference a week later, and then there are the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Brisbane Writers Festival. So I often stumble into September muddle-headed and exhausted.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

I never read for fun anymore. Reading used to be my escape (!) and my self-care, but now I just feel guilty for reading something that’s not in my towering slush pile. The constant, nagging, overwhelming guilt about keeping authors waiting for an answer is definitely a big challenge.

There’s also the ongoing battle against the entrenched negative attitudes about this genre. I’m never sure what I’m going to face when I tell someone what I do for work, but I can usually bet it’s going to have some measure of derision to it. So I have a few pithy facts always at hand about the economic success of the genre, the number of readers, and that it’s very easy to write a sad love story, and much much harder to write a realistic, believable happy love story. I maintain that romance writers are some of the best at their craft in publishing.

What do you love most about your work?

I get to read romance for a living! To be able to immerse myself in a genre of optimism, subversion and feminism, and to work with the creative, fierce women who write it? It’s a dream, every day.

How did you get here?

For a long time, I was a romance reviewer by night and a not-terribly-mild-mannered editor by day. I started at a mass-market publishing house in Melbourne, publishing everything from children’s novelty books to ‘book and DVD’ box sets. The job was perfect for a baby editor: it was wideranging, I had a lot of autonomy and the studio was a vibrant, creative space. I had such a good time and a really great education.

Reviewing doesn’t often pay much more than free books (which is still pretty great), so it kept me in new paperbacks while I worked myself up from new editor to project editor. At the time, I was mostly reviewing for overseas publications, but as publications like Books+Publishing started including more genre fiction in their coverage, I was often asked to write the articles or review the books because I was pretty much the only person in Australia who admitted out loud to reading romance.

I moved into magazine and academic publishing, taking on a role of publishing manager at a small not-for-profit. Then, when Harlequin Australia decided to start up a romance-only imprint, they asked if I wanted to run it. And, of course, I jumped at the chance to marry my two passions together.

If you didn’t have the job you are in now, what would you like to be doing?

I admit, it might be nice to have a bit more time to focus on the PhD I started last year. But I get bored easily, so I can’t imagine not having a few things on the go at once.

Thanks so much, Kate, for sharing your editing story with us.

Kate Cuthbert can be contacted by email at cuthkatebert@gmail.com or kcuthbert@eharlequin.com.au, or on 0434 978 373.

Escape Publishing is at www.escapepublishing.com.au.