An Interview With… Megan Jones

Hi everyone, and this afternoon on the blog I’m delighted to welcome Megan Jones. Megan is an editorial assistant for a new northern based division of HarperCollins and is, like myself, from Liverpool.

HarperNorth is based in Manchester, and I was really excited when Megan agreed to answer some questions for me on her current job role, how she started out in the industry and her advice for anyone looking for jobs in publishing.

Over to you, Megan…

1) How did you first become involved in the publishing industry? Did you always plan to become an editor when you left school? Did you have any other career plans?

I graduated from the University of Aberdeen with my MA in English with Creative Writing in 2019, and it was actually in one of my creative writing seminars that editorial really clicked for me. I realised that I enjoyed picking apart and offering suggestions on pieces my classmates had written more so than writing itself. I regularly checked the careers service page and anywhere else for anything that could lead me to the publishing industry. Luckily one day the opportunity was right there: the HarperCollins Graduate Scheme. I applied for the scheme on a whim and after being told that there had been over 1700 applicants wondered how on earth I’d made it to the final 30. I was absolutely over the moon and couldn’t believe it when they told me I’d been selected. I started on the scheme in October of 2019 as one of only two grads, and after completing my first rotation in the role of Communications Assistant interviewed for the permanent position of Editorial Assistant for HarperNorth and here I am!

I never really had any firm plans to be honest, throughout my education I just followed what I was good at and what I enjoyed most. Reading and studying English at A-Level lead me to my degree, and my passion for books landed me where I am today.

2) You completed an MA at the University of Aberdeen. What was your experience of the course like and how has it helped you in your current job role?

I did indeed! I had an amazing time studying at the University of Aberdeen and was offered a really interesting range of modules to study. I think the combination of English with Creative Writing was perfect preparation for my role too. On the English side of my degree I chose modules such as Controversial Classics, Mind and Monstrosity in the Gothic genre, Children’s Literature and The Short Story as a literary form. Meanwhile in Creative Writing I looked at modules like Creativity & Craft and The Writer’s Voice. I read such a wide range of literature and worked hard at crafting my own writing with the help of my lecturers. So much so, that I felt I understood the dynamic between writer and an editor before starting in my role (which was super helpful).

3) What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into publishing?

Keep trudging on. I know it feels like an uphill battle but I promise that there will be light at the end of the tunnel! I also have 6 handy tips:
• Be yourself – because that’s who is coming to work everyday
• Do your research – really look into the company you want to be a part of
• Ask them questions – show them that you’re interested and clued up
• Acknowledge the fact that you don’t know it all yet – but emphasise how
eager you are to learn
• Use what you know – be savvy with the experience you do have
• Always apply yourself – to anything and everything industry related

4) What job would you be doing if you weren’t working in publishing?

Oh this is a difficult one! Potentially journalism, or maybe teaching? Now that I am in the role I’m in I can’t imagine doing anything else!

5) At HarperCollins, what is a typical day for you? Are you attached to a particular genre of novel that you work with?

This one is a little harder to answer; each day is generally quite different (I tend to have similar weeks rather than days). However, daily duties include general admin, taking minutes and also monitoring the general enquiries. I try and put set time aside for any manuscript reading and quite like the expression our Publishing Director Gen uses for my role: essentially I make sure that all the trains are running on time and are going to the correct places. I wouldn’t say that I am attached to a particular genre (I try to be as unbiased as possible when reading), but would say that I am attracted to an authentic voice and a sense of believability in characters.

6) Do you have a favourite genre you enjoy reading? Do you have a guilty pleasure book that you pick up and you can relax with?

I tend to read more fiction than non-fiction (I’m working on that though). I’ll read a wide range from poetry to murder mystery and women’s commercial fiction to gothic. I am a major fan of H.G Wells and also have a soft spot for Arthur Conan Doyle. I would say my guilty pleasure read is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, because it’s a childhood favourite that never gets old.

7) When you leave your desk on a Friday afternoon, what’s the first thing you do? On a Friday evening/ the weekend, what do you do to relax?

Pop open the prosecco – I’m joking, only sometimes – and go for a wander. During these strange times I’ve been working from home, so I usually get up and debrief with my family after sitting at my desk for so long. Friday evenings I like to enjoy a girls night catching up with different groups of friends (via zoom). My school friends and I are currently running a book club so we like to chat about whatever we’re reading together. I like a good family movie night at the weekend too and then I’ll read in bed to wind down.

8) During lockdown, what have you been reading? Have you found yourself re- reading your favourites or starting new books?

I have read so many manuscripts! But, in terms of reading in my own time, my lockdown list consists of around 20 books so far. I won’t list them all but I’ll give you my highlights:
• Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
• Common People: An Anthology of Working-Class Writers by Various
• Natives by Akala
• Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

At the beginning of lockdown I set myself a goal to read those books that I had gathering dust in my bedroom in Liverpool, but as always the ‘to read’ pile gets bigger with each impromptu purchase!

Of course, I always enjoy rereading old loves too for example Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

9) During lockdown, what have you been watching on television? Do you have a favourite drama that you watch religiously?

Okay well, for years I’ve been told to watch Gossip Girl so I finally binged that. I also devoured I May Destroy You – if you haven’t watched it yet do it – all the good things you’ve heard are true. I don’t have any dramas that I am religiously watching, but I am a sucker for Only Fools and Horses reruns and never get tired of watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

10) If you could only listen to Rod Stewart, Freddie Mercury or Brian Johnson (AC/DC), who would you choose and why?

Easy. Freddie Mercury, because he is an absolute legend and one of the greatest frontmen of all time (also if I chose anyone else, I think my dad would disown me). I grew up in a household that played Queen, Pink Floyd, Prince, Whitney Houston, Abba and I could go on! The Jonesy residence is definitely appreciative of the greats.

Thank you for visiting the blog today Megan, and thank you for the opportunity to interview you! I can’t wait to see HarperNorth publish some brilliant books!

Bio: Born and raised in Liverpool, Megan is at the start of her career in publishing. After completing her English with Creative Writing MA at the University of Aberdeen, Megan applied for the HarperCollins Graduate Scheme in 2019 and was selected to be one of two graduates from 1,700 applicants.

During her time on the scheme she took on the role of Communications Assistant, but has since secured a permanent position in the company and is now Editorial Assistant for HarperNorth. Megan looks forward to being a part of the mission to increase regional diversity within the Publishing Industry.

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