Our first Employee Spotlight of the year is with Jonah Heller, our Assistant Editor! He answered a few questions so that everyone can get to know him a little better.
Tell us about your history with Peachtree.
Like many of the Peachtree staff, I paid my dues by processing a bunch of slush as an intern. I had just graduated with my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and was looking to apply what I had learned to the publishing industry. Luckily, Peachtree was in my own backyard, and it was the perfect opportunity.
I showed up to my internship every day, took every assignment seriously, did the best job that I could do, and made sure I left a positive impression on the entire Peachtree staff (I shamelessly bribed them with baked goods once a week).
Unbeknownst to me, my predecessor was looking to relocate, and so I was offered a job as a Publisher’s Assistant at the start of 2017. Peachtree, being a smaller company, is an all-hands-on-deck environment. I had the opportunity to learn about multiple areas of the business while also training to take on an Editorial Assistant role.
The interactions that I had with our customer orders were invaluable and influenced my editorial taste for the better. Now, as Assistant Editor, I’m responsible for Peachtree’s co-edition titles as well as seeking out new talent and exciting works.
What are your top three favorite books, any genre?
The Story of Ferdinand
The City of Ember
A Face Like Glass
If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be?
Samwise Gamgee—just enough adventure in a supporting role without having the fate of the world rest on my shoulders.
Who is your hero or role model and why?
It’s a cliché and almost everyone says it, but I’d better be saying it too in case they google this—my parents. They worked hard to provide for my brothers and I, and I carry the values they taught me into my professional life.
What is your favorite thing about working at Peachtree?
The people. Hands-down.
I like my coworkers and the team we have at Peachtree, and it’s a thrill when all the working parts come together to bring about a stellar final product.
I also have a lot fun mentoring our interns and doing my part to bring up the next generation of editors.
In your position, what do you consider to be your secret weapon?
It’s definitely my education, and it helps to have an appreciation of the classics. Kudos to the free spirits out there that like to discover everything organically, but I like to know where I’ve come from to figure out where I’m going.
More than that, it’s a willingness to always be learning. That never goes away in an editorial role. If you aren’t a master of a particular subject, you often find yourself becoming one.
What type of books do you edit? Any particular genres?
Board books, picture books, middle grade, young adult.
I’m pretty open-minded in regards to genre, and I’m a huge dork for accessible fantasy and science fiction. I’ll consider: action, adventure, contemporary romance, dystopian, historical fiction, LGBTQ+, magical realism, mystery, novels in verse, suspense, and thriller. I’m especially looking for #ownvoices projects and author-illustrators.
I’m probably not the right editor for slice-of-life dramas, horror, sports, or westerns.
What makes a great book for you?
I’m of the philosophy that it all comes down to character, and if there’s a bump in the road—we can probably trace it back something that is or isn’t happening with character development.
I want to like the characters I’m going on a journey with, and they need to be fleshed-out enough with compelling arcs to be able to inform and influence the other story elements like plot structure, pacing, syntax, etc.
What’s your ideal working relationship with an author?
I love working with authors who have a confident point of view. The relationship should be a collaboration of ideas. I don’t ever want to be the lone voice in the room. I really love working with someone who can feed off of my edits and come back with something even better than what I could have ever imagined. It’s not my book, after all—I’m just here to shepherd it to a cleaner version.
Do you have any big interests or hobbies that you focus on outside of work?
I’m reading all day, so my guilty pleasure is audio books and having somebody else read to me. I’ll binge watch good TV like anyone else, too. I also like to trek through the wilderness of the North Georgia mountains now and then.
If, in an alternate reality, you were to have gone a completely different career route, what would you have done?
I thought I was going to be a veterinarian—and then Biology class and I didn’t get along. If had been more science-minded, I would’ve liked to have worked with animals.
Feel free to write any questions or comments for Jonah below!