Serena Arthur, Editorial Assistant at Wildfire Books

Serena speaks to The Publishing Profile about her new role as an editorial assistant at Wildfire Books.

Hi! My name is Serena and on the 1st of July I started as Editorial Assistant at Headline. I work for an imprint called Wildfire Books who publish fiction (such as Blood Orange and Fleishman Is In Trouble), along with a range of fascinating and accessible non-fiction.


How did you get into publishing?

During university I was the Deputy Editor and co-creator of Onyx Magazine, which platforms the work and voices of students of African and Caribbean descent – it was my first taste of publishing on a small student scale. I graduated in July 2019 and started as a Publishing Trainee at Hachette UK that September, after some short work experience at Walker Books and Usborne Books. This gave me a chance to check that publishing was for me and see which department I fit into before I found a permanent role in the industry.


Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?

Definitely! I never really read thrillers until I started my traineeship and then read quite a lot of them during it, most of which came in on submission from agencies. I have now developed much more of an appreciation for them and would 100% pick one up outside of work now. Beyond that, I read fiction quite widely, but I do think that I will be reading more non-fiction with the new role as all of the non-fiction authors that I have (virtually) met so far have been absolutely fascinating.


What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?

I much prefer to read physical books and at the moment it is so nice to switch off from social media/the internet/the world temporarily to focus on reading a physical book. I used to read library books all the time when I was younger, when I lived down the road from one, but now I tend to either buy books or receive them from work. As much as I love a stunning hardback I actually prefer to read paperbacks. I find that they are much easier to transport around and read on the go – they are light, they fit in your bag and you don’t have to worry about damaging the jacket! I mainly read digital formats of books when reading for work though, especially when reading submissions.


Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?

I haven’t worked on many books yet in my new role, but as a trainee, I got to help edit the amazing Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola. I’m doubly proud – firstly because of the representation that this book contains, with a diverse cast of characters that isn’t often seen in the romance genre and secondly, because it will always be the first book that I contributed to the edit on in a significant way. I’m so grateful to the Editor that let me help out and can’t wait for you all to read it in August!


What is your most-read genre? Do you have niche sub-genres that you are often attracted to?

My most-read genre is probably contemporary fiction, both literary and commercial – from Sally Rooney to Beth O’Leary. My second most-read genre is probably fantasy and historical fantasy and I am always on the lookout for recommendations in this genre. I love books that are diverse in topic and characters and that reflect insightfully on the world. My niche sub-genre recently is probably books with characters that are in their twenties and beginning to navigate adulthood.

Which childhood books have you kept on your shelves?

The Harry Potter series, of course (though the series is technically on my older sister’s shelves), and the entire Roman Mysteries series (which I absolutely loved, even before the TV series). Classics-wise Little Women and Alice in Wonderland and though they are not on my shelves as I read them from the library and it ventures in YA territory: Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series.

What’s the most beautiful book you own?

It’s a hard choice but I really really love the cover of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – it is so striking!

Since writing this I got my final copy of The Vanishing Half (I read a proof copy that didn’t have the final cover), and it presents some strong competition for the most beautiful book that I own.

Who is your most read author, and why?

That’s a hard one as there are quite a few authors that come to mind. I think, just from the volume of books that they have written and I have read, I would have to say Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments series, The Infernal Devices series and the rest of the Shadowhunter Chronicles) and Rachel Caine (The Morganville Vampires series).


What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?

Of the books that I have read so far this year I loved: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Normal People by Sally Rooney, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and The Switch by Beth O’Leary.

What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2020?

My most anticipated reads for the rest of the year (all of which are already out but are on my TBR) are: Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan, Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, The Mercies by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave and Conjure Women by Afia Atakora. I can’t wait to see and read the finished version of Love in Colour in August too!


What book should everyone read?

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (don’t be tricked by the title, this is a book that everyone would benefit from reading) and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.


You can find Serena on Twitter @serena_arthur and on her book-specific Instagram @girl_of_books_and_torchlight.


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