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Proximity to Romance

exclusive interview :: :: Warner Book's Senior Editor Karen Kosztolnyik ::

Warner Book's Senior Editor

spotlight on genre fiction
an excerpt from WSQJ

by julie farin

:: For more than nine years, Warner Book's senior editor developed a clear understanding of the structure that makes romance fiction one of the strongest categories in bookselling, and she comments, "this is a genre of books where the product is written by women for women."

Romantic events occasionally begin with an ad in the classifieds, but seldom result in pairings that produce an enduring alliance. For Karen Kosztolnyik, however, it was an employer's ad that developed into a position as senior editor at Warner Books' popular romance imprint, Warner Forever. For more than nine years, she's been working in publishing's wildly best-selling genre. It's an abiding passion.

After graduating from Smith College with a B. A. in English Literature and a year of foreign study in Florence, Italy, the Texas native of Hungarian descent decided to move to New York City to begin her career in a not-so-glamorous division of book publishing - college textbooks and science. She answered a 1995 ad in the New York Times, which landed her an associate editor position at Harlequin Historicals. From there she went on to Harlequin's imprint, Silhouette Desire, where she was promoted to editor in 1998.

At Warner Forever, an imprint launched in 2003, she works with authors Carly Phillips, Wendy Corsi Staub (aka Wendy Markham), Deanna Kizis ("How to Meet Cute Boys"), Karen Rose, and Claire Delacroix. Karen Kosztolnyik acquires fiction and nonfiction for all divisions of Warner Books including mass market, trade paperback, and hardcover.

In this interview, she comments on her entrée into genre fiction, the prejudices that still exist regarding historical and contemporary romance fiction, the evolution of the genre, its themes and its audience, as well as the importance of marketing and creative self-promotion for aspiring writers.

from Jane Austen and Judy Blume to bodice rippers?

"My first job in romance publishing was at Harlequin, where I started as an associate editor in 1995. Before that, I had worked in college textbooks and science publishing, but I wanted to try a different path. I think the appeal for me was that I would finally work on fiction -- no more math books!

"Also, being a Smith College graduate, I was intrigued by a book product that was marketed towards women, though I had never been a reader of romances before. I was an English Literature major in college and grew up on Jane Austen, but also on Judy Blume."

"I do feel that the romance genre in general, not just historical romance, is sometimes judged unfairly as opposed to other popular genres. I often think that those who judge romance novels unfairly are people who've never read one.

"I'll be at a dinner party and will tell someone that I edit romance novels as part of my job, and that person may describe the books as 'trash.' I'll usually ask if that person has ever read one, and the answer is generally 'no.' I'll tell them to go read one and then get back to me with any judgment they want to make.

"Perhaps it's because this is a genre of books where the product is written by women for women, or that they're books that are written for love and happy endings. That doesn't seem highbrow for some or garner enough respect.

"What I think can be so powerful about these books is that the woman is the central character and she always wins in the end. She gets what she wants -- what can be a more positive message than that? Do books need to be filled with angst to get respect? There shouldn't be anything wrong with reading for escape, for fantasy."

You'll read the entire interview by Julie Farin in our June (Spring) issue of WordSmitten Quarterly Journal. Discover what Karen Kosztolnyik, senior editor at Warner Books searches for in new writers. Read her comments about "the virgin and the experienced man, the hero as cowboy, Cinderella, and brides" in our latest issue, available at your favorite independent bookstore and by subscription.

is a true Manhattanite, bringing her extensive knowledge of The City to her writing, her reading, and her busy life. Her career in broadcast news and feature writing spans more than fifteen years and she brings that talent to the pages of WordSmitten (online and print) editions.

Her feature article on the famed Sewanee Writer's Conference appears in our June 2004 issue of the WordSmitten Quarterly Journal. When not listening to Shania Twain CDs, she appears in exactly the same places where Dorothy Parker's imagination stood.

Word Smitten
Spring Edition 2004


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