Kate Harvey on the joys of editing Tigers in Red Weather
We're all incredibly excited about the publication of Liza Klaussmann's Tigers in Red Weather here at Picador, none more so than her editor Kate Harvey. Here's what she has to say about this exhilarating debut.
When the manuscript first came in, what was it about Tigers in Red Weather that said, ‘Publish me!’?
The fact that I couldn’t stop reading it. I felt it had everything: incredible atmosphere, polished writing, an engrossing plot, a sophisticated structure – though the truth is, when all of these elements come together, you don’t itemize them. You simply get lost in the book, and you want to stop everyone else and have them read it, too. There were some brilliant early champions in the company, across all departments, and it didn’t take long for the excitement to build. We felt that we had a novel from an immensely talented writer, and, crucially, that we could see how to communicate it: that it would speak to readers of classic American writing; to everyone swept up in the craze for all things ‘50s; to film buffs; to smart readers looking for something special for summer. It felt like a gift.
Can you talk a bit about the acquisition of this book?
We weren’t the only publishing team to be captivated by Liza’s book and so we swiftly found ourselves in an auction. Our marketing director, Lee Dibble, put together a wonderfully visual pitch which captured the feel of the novel – in fact, she led with what is now the image on the front cover (we subsequently tried a number of others, but none ever quite topped the glow and strength of the original). There were several rounds of bidding and then a group of us met Liza and her agent, Caroline Wood, to share our ideas for her book. The whole experience was energizing, not least because it was August and other colleagues were returning from holidays, feeling the crackle in the building, and asking immediately what the buzz was about. I left on my own break before things were quite wrapped up, and was in Greece when I heard that the book was ours. It was an exhilarating moment.
The novel is in five sections, each recounted by a different character. Which is your favourite, and why?
That’s a tricky question. Liza has constructed the novel so beautifully that each section – each perspective – amplifies the others. I confess I was seduced by Nick, though – she’s such a beguiling mixture of positive and destructive impulses, so mercurial. It can take courage to create a character who is not always likeable, especially one as human as she is. Nick’s daughter Daisy was very popular in-house, and then there’s something to Nick’s husband Hughes’ section that is heartbreaking – the difficulty he has expressing his emotions, the sense that he makes what he sees as good choices at some personal cost. The other strand of the family, Helena and her son, Ed, are altogether darker and more dangerous. It’s not just that there’s something there for every reader, it’s also that, in telling the story this way, Liza offers multiple interpretations of the same events, which gives the novel a particular psychological depth. The structure she chose is difficult to pull off, and she does it with finesse.
How was the editorial process?
So enjoyable. Liza had already been honing the book for some time and it was in great shape when it went on submission. We got stuck into some close work on style and also some broader discussions: about making the timeline as clear as possible, for instance, and giving Helena’s husband Avery a day job (his ‘collection’ had, until then, been a round-the-clock obsession). Editing fiction is a long, invigorating conversation about a completely imaginary situation – and with Liza it was the best fun.
What other books does this one remind you of?
It’s more the milieu than the book itself – those East Coast writers I’ve grown up reading, Yates and Fitzgerald, for instance. Probably Fitzgerald most of all – for the glamour and the parties, but also the sad undertow. Everyone is talking about The Great Gatsby this year, but I’ve always loved Tender is the Night, and Liza’s book has some of the same resonances. Most of all, though, she has her own very special voice. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.