Editor-Turned-Author Jenny Jackson on the Other Side of the Editorial Process
In Conversation with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review Podcast
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On micro-generations and generational wealth:
JJ: One of the things that I’m really interested in is how our micro-generations shape how we act. In this family, the parents are definitely the most repressed. And then the people my age— the geriatric millennials on the cusp of Gen X—are purposefully oblivious when it suits them. And then the youngest generation, so Georgiana, who is like the youngest millennial-slash-Gen-Zer, she’s the one who is the most in touch with her feelings, the one who has the first moral reckoning and kind of drags everyone with her.
And so I, on purpose, made this ten-year age gap between her and her older siblings. You should have seen me sitting there with a pen and paper being like, okay, she was born in this year. All right, so it was an accidental baby late in the marriage.
But I wanted to do that because I feel like I grew up with this really unexamined relationship with money. I grew up watching 90210 and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and MTV Cribs and Clueless. And I thought, my relationship with money was literally like, oh, money seems cool. I would like to make some.
And then you look at the people who are now in their mid-late twenties and they grew up watching Occupy Wall Street, and they grew up voting for Bernie and supporting AOC, and they grew up witnessing the income gap getting larger and larger to a point where it’s completely unsustainable. And so they have developed a much more active and questioning relationship with money. They are the ones who are saying, hey, inherited wealth is not just, and we can’t continue this way.
I remember as a kid, people would be like, oh, him, he’s independently wealthy. Now I look back and I’m like, what did I think independently wealthy meant? Like, oh, you just have it? Just like a suitcase of money appeared one day? No. It was given to you by your parents and your grandparents and your great-grandparents. This is generational wealth. Nobody’s independently wealthy.
On being on the other side of the editorial process:
MK: Tell me a little bit about the editing process. What, if anything, felt familiar to you as an author?
JJ: It’s so hilarious because I genuinely, genuinely believed that I was gonna be different. I genuinely was like, well, I’ve edited 20 books and I know that criticism is just about the work. It’s not personal. Good thing I have thick skin and I’m above all of it. Ha ha ha ha.
What happens sometimes, and I’ve been on the editor side of this, when you have multiple editors working together [Jenny’s editors in the US, UK, and Canada], you end up with a monster editorial letter. It landed in my inbox at 18 pages. So I printed it out, I skimmed it once, I put it down, and I didn’t look at it for two weeks. I was so troubled.
I was like, well, it’s awkward that I can’t do any of these things they want me to. It’s just not gonna happen. I felt so intimidated. And also like, if you didn’t like the book, why did you buy it? I felt crazy about it. And then also, it’s so funny because I know when I’m editing, I’m always putting “haha” or “Love this” or I put hearts in the margins. Not on Cormac [McCarthy], but other authors. I was like, I know that’s important, but it is pathetic how much their little “haha,” “love this” notes meant to me as I went on. Because you really lose any sense of whether what you did is good or not.
And so just having those little things in there when you know every other line, they’re saying like, this joke doesn’t work. I don’t believe this character. Why do you have this section here? It’s much easier to write a book in rotating third person point of view than it is to edit structurally. Because every time you move something, it throws off who knows what in other chapters. I felt like it was a Rubik’s Cube.
Jenny Jackson is a vice president and executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf. A graduate of Williams College and the Columbia Publishing Course, she lives in Brooklyn Heights with her family. Pineapple Street is her first novel.