It’s back to business this week as I continue my theme of highlighting some of the fabulous people I’ve met on my writing journey. Today’s guest is Anna Britton. Anna is a freelance editor who worked with me on all three Eliza Kane books, and this week she is celebrating the publication of her debut novel, Shot in the Dark. I’m intrigued to know how she found the editing process with her publisher. But first, let’s hear about the book…
Welcome to the blog, Anna. Tell me a bit about Shot in the Dark. What drew you towards the crime genre?
Shot in the Dark opens on a young woman running through a moonlit forest. She climbs a tree, believing she is safe. Then three shots ring out through the forest.
The next morning, the body of Melanie Pirt is found. Detectives Gabe Martin and Juliet Stern are tasked with finding her killer. But a lack of forensic evidence, tightened resources, and suspects who will not stop lying make this the toughest case they’ve ever faced.
I didn’t set out to write crime, but the scene of Melanie running through the forest popped into my head and I rolled with it! The story flowed from there, and Gabe is a character who I have really loved unpacking. She’s determined and strong, but often feels dragged down by traumatic experiences of her past. I loved writing her and Juliet’s partnership, and I hope readers will enjoy their story!
How did it feel having your work edited by someone else? Were there any arguments?!
Ha – fist fights all over the place!
My editor was such a joy to work with. She totally got the story I wanted to tell and helped me get there. We made massive changes to Shot in the Dark, and I feel so happy with all of them. They have made the story much stronger.
I think I recognised, maybe because of being an editor myself, that someone knowledgeable and kind is only ever going to give advice that they feel is going to make the story shine. My editor didn’t mind when I didn’t want to make a change, so long as I had a good reason, and she trusted me to know my story best.
A sign of a good editor! I know we haven’t always agreed on aspects in my books but the story always became better because of the editing process. Can you tell me a bit about how you got started as a freelance editor? How many books/authors do you work with at one time?
I started out reading friends’ stories for free, but quickly realised that the way I analysed stories and engaged with them critically was slightly different to what I was seeing elsewhere. I naturally thought about the plot as a whole and questioned characters’ motivations, picked up on bigger issues with their writing and focused on their strengths and what they could do more of.
I started out taking on a few clients while I was still working at a library, but things snowballed quickly! I was able to switch to editing as my sole income, which was lovely as it gave me lots more time for my own writing too. Now I take on one or two bigger editing projects a month, but the bulk of my work is with long-term mentees. I love walking alongside other writers as they figure out their stories and develop their craft.
What, in your opinion, are the most common mistakes authors make in their manuscripts?
This is a tricky question, as each writer and story is so different. I know for myself that in one novel I will be really conscious of not over-telling, but in another it will slip in. I might be hot on describing the setting and characters one day, but then forget that readers can’t see inside my head on another. I genuinely feel like each writer has unique skills and weaknesses, and my job as an editor is to help them focus on their strengths while being conscious of their weaknesses.
I think one big mistake a lot of authors make again and again is not trusting their gut. People send me their manuscripts with a list of questions or areas to focus on, and when they flag something to do with writing technique, character, or part of the plot, nine times out of ten, they’ve identified one of their issues. Sometimes, it’s because they weren’t sure how to fix it, but sometimes they just weren’t trusting themselves enough!
Has scrutinising other people’s work has made you super critical when it comes to reading? Can you switch off, or do you find yourself thinking if I’d edited this book I’d have suggested this/that?
Oh no, I totally switch off. Editing uses a very specific part of my brain that I am very happy to let rest when I’m reading for pleasure. Reading has always been such a joy and an escape for me – so I’m glad that my editor brain can be turned off!
What’s your favourite genre of book to read?
I’m not totally sure I have a favourite genre – I’m a massive mood reader so careen between sci-fi and romance and YA and historical depending on how I’m feeling. In all stories, I need strong characters I want to root for until the end.
I know you didn’t ask, but some of my favourite authors are Becky Chambers, Natasha Pulley, Fredrik Backman, Elizabeth Strout, and Jane Austen. I would like to sit down to dinner with all of them (we would bring Jane back to life) and listen to them talk about crafting stories.
What comes next after Shot in the Dark?
Shot in the Dark two! (This is absolutely not its name.) I’ve signed a three-book deal with Canelo, so I am currently busy working away on Gabe and Juliet’s second adventure. This one is even more twisty than the first, and I’m loving diving back into this world!
Shot in the Dark is published by Canelo on 26 October 2023
Moonlight slants through the trees on the ancestral Dunlow estate, where a young woman runs for her life. Gunshots break the silence.
The next morning, the body of seventeen-year-old student Melanie Pirt is found.
DS Gabe Martin is more than ready to take the lead on her first murder case. Determined to prove herself to the cold and mysterious DI Juliet Stern, Gabe can’t afford any distractions – especially not ones that wake her in the night, reminding her of a past she’d rather forget.
Because while Gabe and Juliet have few leads, there are plenty of suspects. And every one of them is lying…
Social media links (Twitter Instagram Bluesky) @BrittonBookGeek
Many thanks to Anna for coming onto the blog. I wish her every success with her new book. You can find out more about Anna and her editing and mentoring services at https://www.annabritton.co.uk.