Mary-Theresa Hussey Executive Editor of LUNA Books e-interviewed by Martina Bexte (February, 2004)
In January 2004, Harlequin Enterprises launched their new fantasy imprint, LUNA Books. Harlequin says LUNA will 'deliver a compelling, female-focused fantasy with vivid characters, rich worlds, strong, sympathetic women and romantic subplots', that 'highlight the inner female power'. Mary-Theresa Hussey, Executive Editor of LUNA Books, tells fantasy and romance fans what they can expect from Harlequin's brand new line.
Q: Harlequin and Silhouette already publish stories in which elements of fantasy, paranormal or soft horror figure into the romantic plot. What prompted Harlequin to invest in a new series dedicated strictly to fantasy? Is this something readers have been asking for?
A: Harlequin Enterprises is always trying to reach new readers. Although there are paranormal titles published in our category and single title markets, and in the mainstream fiction markets, and there are fantasy novels published with romantic elements, we felt that there wasn't a specific imprint dedicated to the idea that women like to read true fantasy novels that also have some romantic elements. This doesn't take away from the strongly romantic stories that are published in our series and single title lines, but instead focuses on a new group of readers. There have been a number of long-time fantasy readers in the company in various departments and we felt it was time to have more opportunities to read the type of books we look for and don't always find.
Q: What makes a LUNA fantasy different from other fantasies already out there that feature strong and unique female protagonists?
A: We believe Luna will offer strong fantasy authors and titles to readers. Where we will stand out, however, is that we will offer these titles on a monthly basis, rather than as an occasional part of the lineup. Our books will be accessible to all readers, male and female, but we do expect that by featuring magical, capable female protagonists, we will strike a stronger chord with female readers.
Q: Will there be any limits to LUNA stories, character, setting or world wise?
A: We are emphasizing the fantasy aspect of Luna at this time, so we are avoiding stories that are futuristic or with strong science-fiction leanings. However, we are open to stories with an alternate history, historically based, urban fantasy, contemporary characters brought to other worlds or combinations of the above! We have acquired stand-alone titles, linked titles and full-blown series, so are open to a variety of titles. We do want our novels to feature a female protagonist who is strong and capable and the focus of the story. There can be other points of view, other strong characters, but she should remain at the forefront of the story. And there should be a romantic element -- however, the resolution of the story cannot depend on the relatinship between the hero and heroine. The story should revolve around the quest or growth, and any relationship is an added benefit.
Q: Mercedes Lackey launched the LUNA line in January 2004 with her book, The Fairy Godmother in which she's reinvented the popular fairy tale Cinderella. Catherine Asaro and Sarah Zettel are also contributing with their titles, The Charmed Sphere and In Camelot's Shadow in February and March, respectively. Can you tell us a little more about each of these stories?
A: The Fairy Godmother is charming and humorous and just plain fun. Mercedes has done a fantastic job of reinventing the world of the Five Hundred Kingdoms where the focus of the Tradition encourages people to fulfill magical roles -- even if it's not a good future (after all, fairy tales were originally cautionary tales!). And Elena, the heroine, takes pleasure in some slight manipulations that keeps things going in the way she approves.
The Charmed Sphere features a heroine who is a bit young and insecure as the story starts. Although Chime has strong magical ability, she can't get it to work quite right. Since trouble is brewing in the kingdom, people come to depend on her and she must rise to the occasion. Catherine Asaro introduced the characters in a novella -- Moonglow -- that appeared in a Silhouette anthology titled Charmed Destinies.
By the way, the Charmed Destinies anthology was devised before Luna, and the goals of the two are not the same. As part of the Silhouette imprint, Charmed Destinies (which also has Counting Crows by Mercedes Lackey) is heavily romantic, with the focus on the relationship of the couple. Luna titles will feature a stronger focus on the heroine and a larger, more sweeping story. Before we knew that Luna would come about, Executive Editor Leslie Wainger had implemented the anthology with authors we thought would appeal to the romantic focus of the Silhouette readers. Now, of course, Luna is designed to appeal to the true fantasy reader, first and foremost.
Sarah Zettel's In Camelot's Shadow is Arthurian (the title is a giveaway I think!). She's taken the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, thrown in the Loathesome Lady, and created a new, vivid character in Risa. She's going to continue the series with Gawain's brothers, and discover, uncover and invent strong women and conflicts for each of these characters.
Q: What other authors have signed on with LUNA?
A: We have about sixteen authors total, now. For the rest of 2004, it's Deborah Hale, Michele Hauf, Anne Kelleher, Christie Golden, Laura Anne Gilman, Caitlin Brennan, Susan Krinard, Rachel Lee, P.C. Cast. We've also acquired titles from Laura Resnick, Robin Owens, Gail Dayton and first time authors Maria Snyder and Catherine Murphy.
Q: Are there plans to expand LUNA to multiple titles each month? Can readers expect any continuing series? Will LUNA Books be released only in hardcover?
A: After the launch book by Mercedes Lackey, we will be releasing titles in trade, with the mass market paperback available about a year or so later. Until the middle of 2005, we will be doing one original title a month, and then we're hoping/planning on moving to two original titles a month. And yes, we will have a number of series and connected titles going on. Some will be continuing characters, and a number will be specific 3-5 book series with a definite goal to be achieved.
Q: I'm an avid reader but I'm also one who has a monthly book buying budget -- I believe today's average reader is in the same boat. Do you think the average reader will spend $24.95 US for a LUNA fantasy when she could buy two or three paperback fantasies instead?
A: As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the titles will be in trade, running around $13.95. And though this is still more than one -- and sometimes two -- mass market titles, these books are often over 100,000 words, and the ease of carrying, reading and so on should be beneficial to the avid reader. We believe that because of the titles, the covers, and the stories, readers will feel they've gotten their money's worth.
Q: Is the current resurgence of interest in fantasy, paranormal and horror finally here to stay -- or just another trend as it's been in the past?
A: There's always been a steady interest in fantasy--I just think we're finally figuring out how to market it properly! There are good authors and projects.
Q: What else would you like to tell romance and fantasy readers about LUNA Books?
A: Just that we are looking to continue to expand and grow. And we have a number of editors in all our offices -- New York, London and Toronto -- who are eager to acquire new authors for the Luna line. Find out more about LUNA Books at their Website.
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