The Publishing Profile speaks to Rebecca about being the sole audio editor across two imprints.
Hello! I’m Rebecca Fortuin and I’m an Audio Editor for HarperCollins UK looking after Avon and HQM&B audio lists.
I always say that publishing found me. Near the end of 2016, an entry-level role to work in the audio team at Penguin Random House popped up on my Facebook feed and I just thought, why not? They wanted someone who loved audio and was organised and that basically describes me! I never thought I’d get past the application stage let alone be offered the role.
I have to admit I used to turn my nose up at thrillers (without ever having read one) but thrillers work so well in audio. Once I gave them a chance I was hooked. I’ll devour them in a single evening and they’re my go-to when I want some pure escapism.
I don’t understand hardbacks, they're so clunky and difficult to get comfortable with. Give me a paperback I can fold in half, accidentally drop in the bath and break the spine any day! Audiobooks are my go-to in the evenings and at weekends, I’ll get Alexa to read me non-fiction as I tidy my flat and switch to fiction when I’m drawing. I do most of my work reading on my phone, back when commuting was a thing it was much easier to cram onto the tube with than an e-reader.
There are so many audiobooks I’m proud to have worked on, back when I was in charge of CD publishing there was nothing quite like seeing something you worked on in an actual bookshop. I think recently though I’m most proud of the audio I created for Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie. It was the first time I headed up a project independently and not only did I create a partnership with a local acting school the project went on to win awards.
When it comes to reading purely for pleasure it’s got to be YA. It’s a genre that takes the most risks and approaches topics with an open-mindedness you rarely see in adult fiction. Within that, I’d say my favourite sub-genre is magical realism such as Alexandra Sheppard’s Oh My Gods or Connie Glynn’s Rosewood Chronicles. When I was a kid I used to love pure fantasy but now I want magic to be within my grasp.
Being the sole audio editor across two whole imprints means the majority of my books I get for free. I have piles and piles of proof copies in my flat, scribbled with casting notes. I also have an MP3 player filled with audiobooks and an Audible account that get used regularly. So when I do buy I like to make an outing of it. My favourite places are the children’s floor at Waterstones Piccadilly, mid-week after work, it’s so quiet you forget you’re in central London. Forbidden Planet is for when I want to pick up some independent graphic novels and whilst I’ve never actually stepped foot in Round Table Books I often buy books for their free bookshelf online to be donated to the local community.
I’m grateful to have an indulgent mother who puts up with my book hoarding so all my childhood books litter her house. I did take one book with me though when I moved out, my very dog-eared copy of Howl’s Moving Castle. I first read it in my early twenties when I felt completely lost and connected so much to the protagonist, Sophie. Last winter I got to put the story into audio which is hands down a highlight of my career.
One of the few hardbacks I own is Coralie Bickford-Smiths The Fox And The Star, it is absolutely gorgeous. It honestly looks like it belongs in a fairy tale and is the only clothbound book I have.
The trouble about working in publishing is time kind of loses all meaning. Most of my favourite books published this year are ones I read last year (or in some cases the year before that!). If you haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying Louise Hare’s 2020 debut This Lovely City yet I’d advise picking up a copy. Looking forward, I cannot wait for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman to be released in audio, the cast is sinfully good and I know there is going to be some mouth-watering sound design on it too.
The book that everyone should read is different for every person. Everyone has a book that just connects to them and ignites a love of reading. For some people it takes a long time to find that book but keep trying, I promise it’ll be worth it when you finally read it.
I have a semi-professional twitter feed @TWA2Becky if you can get past the alarming number of fire-based GIFs I have detailed threads of my publishing journey and insight into the day to day life of an audio editor.