(Today’s interview questions were graciously answered by Amy Pierpont, Editorial Director of the Forever line at Grand Central Publishing! She has also donated 10 copies of Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Taste Temptation, to be given away to 10 lucky commenters)

Risky Regencies: Welcome to Risky Regencies! First, tell us a bit about the Grand Central program in general. How many romances are released each month? Where do historicals fit in? What settings and time periods are you looking for? What is your submission process? And are there any exceptions to the “agented-only” rule? (We like to start out with lots of questions here!)

Amy Pierpont: It’s great to be here! We release 3 titles per month, with one being a “super release” lead title. There are no hard and fast rules about the number of historicals we publish, but we are also publishing romantic suspense, paranormal romances, and contemporary romances, so we have to be selective!

We don’t definitely rule out any time period, but we do tend to focus on England and Scotland, as we know readers love those settings best.

Our submission process starts when an agent pitches one of our editors who expresses interest and asks that the manuscript be sent. We ask for all our submissions by email because we have Sony eReaders as part of our company’s “green” initiative, which makes things easier for everyone. The editor will read the submission–we try to do so within a month–and if they like it they will negotiate with the agent for the rights.

We try to stick to our requirement for agented manuscripts as much as possible. It really is best for both parties when it comes time to negotiate a contract. However, a couple of informal exceptions come to mind: when we judge contests we may discover a new unagented writer, and when we get a recommendation from one of our own authors about a manuscript by a friend, we do read them. And it’s always exciting when we are able to publish a first book from an author!

RR: What is your own background? What brought you to editing, and to GCP? What’s a typical day like for you? And what’s your favorite/least favorite part of the job??

AP: I’m a bookworm at heart. As a teenager I worked at the local library, where I read every single romance I could get my hands on! My background as a reader of romance (and of horror and gritty suspense!) helped me land my job at Pocket Books, where I happily edited women’s fiction for 12 years. The thrill of working with authors I grew up reading, like Jackie Collins and VC Andrews, was a real dream come true! I also have a healthy appetite for non-fiction, and my first job in publishing and my most recent stint as garden/lifestyle editor at Clarkson Potter allowed me to explore those interests as well. The opportunity to blend my experience as a romance editor and my passion for the genre as Editorial Director of Forever at GCP was an offer I just couldn’t pass up! Forever has a wonderful group of editors and authors, and it’s an honor to work with such dedicated and talented people.

A typical day for me includes a long train ride to and from NYC from Connecticut–I don’t have time to read in the office between meetings for cover art, cover copy, marketing and publicity, production and sales, so it’s a great opportunity to get some reading and editing done. The least favorite part of my job is writing rejection letters. I know how much heart and soul–not to mention blood, sweat, and tears!–goes into writing every word on the page, and when I have to reject a project because it’s not right for our list or the genre, I’m aware that I’m stomping on someone’s dream. I hold out hope, though, that they will find a perfect match at another house. And by far the favorite part of my job is calling an author with good news–whether it’s about acquiring another book, winning an award, or reporting great sales. It’s so rewarding when you’ve had a small part in creating a career for an author.

RR: What are you personally looking for in submissions, particularly historicals?

AP: I encourage all the Forever editors to look first for great storytellers. We’re here to help with subject matter, plotting, and other technical aspects of writing, but the natural talent of knowing how to tell a story is something we can’t teach.

In historicals, there is the added skill of getting the setting and tone correct for the period. It’s a talent I admire, and I can provide some suggestions, but ultimately the ability to immerse the reader in the past is what we depend on the writer for, and why we end up choosing their submission over others.

RR: Is there any kind of book you would love to see but haven’t? What “trends” do you see in romance?

AP: That’s the most difficult question of all! I am always looking for an engaging story that’s told in a fresh and innovative way, and I’m a real sucker for voice. I’ve been known to fall in love with a story that doesn’t have much of a plot simply because the writer is a superb storyteller with a strong voice. Of course, then I work long and hard with the author to make sure there’s a plot to go along with the incredible voice!

Bookstores tell us paranormals are continuing to be strong, and that historicals are on the rise. And the sexier the better; we are looking for super-erotically charged romances. But, like any other business, the popularity of genres seem to be cyclical in nature, so I don’t encourage an historical writer to switch to paranormal just because that seems to be working. There is a real power to sticking to what you know and love to write.

RR: Tell us about GCP’s new covers!

AP: Since coming on board as editorial director, I’ve been working with the art and design team to make the Forever covers sexier than they ever have been! This is the super-sexy paranormal romance Pleasure Unbound by a new author for us, Larissa Ione. And for some books, we have spiced it up by adding our first-ever stepbacks, like the one for To Taste Temptation by historical author Elizabeth Hoyt.

RR: What are some upcoming GCP books we should look for?

AP: This June, look for Pitch Black, romantic suspense from our returning author Susan Crandall, and contemporary romance by Jane Graves in Tall Tales & Wedding Veils.

In July, I’ve already mentioned debut novel Pleasure Unbound, and we’re also excited to be publishing Wendy Markham’s new contemporary romance, That’s Amore, as well as Shari Anton’s wonderful medieval historical Magic in the Night.

In August, we’re publishing the superbly sexy My Wicked Enemy by Carolyn Jewel, the chilling paranormal/romantic suspense Out of Time by Samantha Graves, and the enchantingly romantic A Highlander Never Surrenders by Paula Quinn.

It’s going to be a hot summer! Enjoy!