The Monthly 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 or, or on 0434 978 373.

Escape Publishing is at