Friday, March 24, 2017

Chatting with Publishers: Clare Hey

We are delighted to welcome Clare Hey to this month’s Chatting with Publishers series.

You join us less than three months into your new role as Publishing Director with Orion. With your feet now firmly under the desk, can you tell us something of your journey to your current position?
I started my career at HarperCollins about fifteen years ago, with a job as the secretary in the Art Department. I couldn’t afford to work for free as an intern and so this was the perfect entry position. I learned a lot about how covers are designed, and what makes a good brief. I then moved over to Editorial, starting as an assistant and working my way up. I left HC after eight years, had a stint working as a freelance editor and then went to Simon & Schuster where I stayed for five years.

You spent several years with publishers you’ve previously worked for. What motivated you to move to Orion?
I was very happy in my role at S&S and had a great list of brilliant authors so it wasn’t an easy decision to make. But the opportunity Orion was offering was too good to pass up. It’s an exciting time at Orion at the moment, with lots of great new people joining, and having the chance to run the women’s fiction and reading group fiction list at a publishing house with such an amazing list was the thing that tempted me.  

In the past you have worked with many outstanding writers. Have you inherited a new list of authors at Orion or will you be building your own? Or a combination of the two?
It’s a mix of the two. There are already some amazing authors on the Orion list and my role is to oversee the publishing of those authors, with their editors, to make sure they are reaching as wide an audience as they can. But I’m also tasked with bringing great new writers to the list – a mix of debuts and more established voices – to complement the authors already at Orion. Our aim at Orion Fiction is to be the home of the best fiction around, a place where readers will find something that will suit everyone, and it’s my job, along with the other editors at Orion Fiction, to make that happen. 

What advice can you give writers who are ambitious to work with you?
For me the story comes first so hone your text as best you can before you submit. I am looking for great storytelling, a strong hook and a brilliant voice. I want to reach a broad audience with the books I publish and am interested in stories that will resonate widely and will speak to people across the country. Also, when submitting, it goes without saying but be professional and polite – people always want to work with someone they can get on with.

We notice you have been particularly interested in women’s fiction and historical fiction. Will you continue working in these genres and are there others you would like to pursue?
Yes, I will indeed. I love these genres and love publishing in these areas. I’ll also be doing reading group fiction and commercial/literary crossover fiction. It gives me great pleasure publishing books that people can escape into – something that’s necessary in this day and age, I feel!

As readers we believe in magic and we would all like to own a crystal ball. Do you have any advice to us as writers as to where we might concentrate our efforts? What are you looking for at the moment?
I’d love to find a big sweeping love story – something with a big canvas and ambitious storytelling. A Chocolat for the twenty-first century would be amazing, or something that feels fresh and new in the way The Time Traveler’s Wife did. I can’t predict the future either and I love to be surprised. But my advice remains the same always: write the book you want to want, one you want to read. Don’t write just for the market.

We would love to know a little bit about the person behind the name, Clare. Do you have any particular hobbies and how do you find time to follow them?
Well, it won’t surprise you to know that I love reading…! But when I’m not reading I enjoy going to music festivals and gigs (I’ve been going to Glastonbury since I was sixteen and still go even though I am substantially older now…). I also love getting out in the fresh air – long walks and cycle rides in the country (via a pub, of course). All very predictable, I’m afraid.

If you hadn’t established a career in the publishing industry, what else if anything would you like to have done?
I have a couple of fall-back career options: I would probably be a kitchen-fitter (I’ve fitted several kitchens myself over the years) or (bear with me…) I would love to be an estate agent. I love nosing around people’s houses and I actually enjoy negotiating so it feels like the obvious fit!

Is there one single ambition you would love to fulfil?
I want to publish that book that everyone has either read or heard about. Often we editors are guilty of thinking that books that have been successful have entered the popular consciousness but when you ask the man (or woman) down the pub they have rarely heard of them. I want to publish a Girl on the Train or a Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – a book that everyone knows. That’s not such a big ask, is it…?!

May your wish come true! Thank you for joining us today, Clare.

Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in her recently completed Regency. She is now working on a new contemporary. Her next novel, with Harper Collins HQ Digital, is due for publication at the end of June. You can follow her blog at

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Elaine Everest said...

A great interview. Thank you both.

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