The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is one of the most emotional and thought provoking reads of 2017 so far for me, today as part of the blog tour I’m talking to the editor who helped bring it all to fruition – Emily Kitchin. Thanks so much Emily!
So we are talking about The Roanoke Girls today – beautifully written and hard hitting emotionally, tell us a bit about what you thought when you first read it in the early stages.
The Roanoke Girls drew me in immediately. One of the first things we find out is that Lane (the main character)’s mother has died: ‘The second time I saw Roanoke was a month after my mother committed suicide… Her death showed a kind of dedication, a purpose, I’d never seen from her in life.’ The starkness of that, and the fact that Lane seems quite indifferent to her death, intrigued me straight away, and I knew that this was going to be one of those books I wouldn’t be able to put down. As well as Amy’s beautiful, suspenseful writing, the dark mystery of the Roanoke girls, and the curse which has befallen the family over generations (either the girls run away, or they die), made for incredibly compelling and disturbing reading. I couldn’t tear myself away from the pages – and I knew that this was a book I had to publish!
Now we can’t really talk about the central premise to this without spoilers so maybe we can talk around it a bit – The Roanoke Girls is really less psychological thriller and more pure character study, the Roanoke Girls seemingly having huge privilege but there are huge costs as well – how well do you think this author has captured that, made it real.
This is a great question! One of the things I love most about The Roanoke Girls is the way that Amy creates this image of the Roanoke women as these beautiful, privileged creatures, who all share the same long, dark hair and ice-blue eyes, who are all envied and lusted after by the men and women of the small Kansas town where the book is set – but that image is underpinned by darkness. On the surface, the girls seem to have it all – but underneath they’re all damaged in different ways, all suffering. The contrast between their beauty and the disturbed, twisted legacy of the Roanoke family is utterly chilling, and it’s what gives the book its power.
Looking at the final version in comparison to the original work, can you talk a little about the editing process, which I know I find fascinating having been delving into that a little myself lately – as an Editor, what is your first job when reading a manuscript you are going to work on?
In this case, The Roanoke Girls was edited by Amy’s US editor – the brilliant Hilary Teeman at Crown in the US. Hilary had already edited the book before we acquired the rights. In general, if I’m editing an author’s work, I read the manuscript once without making any notes – I’m reading it and responding to it as a regular reader would. Then I go back through it and evaluate it critically, making notes which will eventually become an editorial letter, which often goes alongside a line edit of the manuscript using tracked changes.
It is a very collaborative process – how important is the relationship between author and editor, and how did you and Amy bond?
The relationship between author and editor is the most important one there is. It’s often said that for an author, trusting an editor with their book is a bit like trusting them with their child… and I think there’s some truth in that. The author has worked on this project for ages, and it’s something they’re incredibly close to – and they have to trust their editor to totally ‘get’ their vision, and be proactive and passionate and strategic in publishing it. I’ve been lucky to work with Amy on two novels already – her brilliant young adult duology, The Book of Ivy – so we already had a good working relationship, which I’m pleased to say has stepped up a notch with our publication of The Roanoke Girls. My team and I are also sure to be very communicative with Amy, her agent and Crown’s team, too, so hopefully Amy feels supported and in the loop at all times, and process on both sides of the Atlantic feels very collaborative and joined-up.
How would you describe The Roanoke Girls to someone who is considering reading it?
I would describe it as a darkly disturbing, suspenseful mystery about the deeply twisted secrets families keep – beautifully written, incredibly atmospheric, and not for the faint-hearted! This is a book which will imprint itself on your soul and stay with you long after you turn the last page. And I’d say that if you’re a fan of Gillian Flynn, The Virgin Suicides or Flowers in the Attic, it’s a book which you’ll love.
About the Book:
Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.
After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.
Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
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