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Industry Insight: Q&A with Finn Cotton (Harper Fiction)

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 13th May 2019

I always find the answers in our Industry Insight blog pieces absolutely fascinating, everyone has had very different experiences and I am inspired by what I read. Finn Cotton currently works for Harper Fiction as an assistant editor, focusing on crime fiction and thrillers.  I love how Finn entered publishing, a top tip there. After reading Finn’s answers I am now going to hunt down my Just William books, where on earth are they hiding?… And I find the idea of sleeping in a bookcase just heavenly, what gorgeous photos! 

Tell us about your role in the book world.

I’m assistant editor in Harper Fiction, a division of HarperCollins. I work specifically on crime fiction and thrillers, and I also commission titles for our digital first crime list Killer Reads. 

How did you arrive in the industry?

I took a round-about route into publishing, via English teaching, landscape gardening and door-to-door sales. After several temp jobs in different industries, I landed a two-week internship at Penguin Random House. I was fortunate enough to be there over the summer, at a time when lots of people were away on holiday and there were plenty of spare desks. They kept me on and I moved around the company, eventually getting my first proper job at Faber & Faber.

What three words best sum up your job?

Surprising, thought-provoking, brilliant

Which fictional character or person from history would you love to read a book by (why is that) and what type of book do you think it would be?

This is a difficult one, but I’m going to say Gandalf's memoirs. As a life-long The Lord of the Rings nerd, I would love to learn more about Tolkien's universe and Gandalf would be the ideal guide. His memoirs would be far-reaching and never boring. He's the architect of much that happens in the books, so it would be nice to learn more about his decisions and their consequences. 

Who are your book world inspirations?

There are so many talented and inspirational people in the industry. But definitely everyone I work with here at HarperCollins. Also Alison Hennessy at Bloomsbury and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books, both of whom are doing the sorts of things I would like to do as an editor. 

Describe your favourite place to read.

A very long train journey in a quiet, empty carriage, travelling through spectacular snow-covered mountains. 

What’s your favourite book from childhood, how did it make you feel?

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian. I read the entire series multiple times as a child and became obsessed with 19th-century naval warfare. I remember being blown away by the day-to-day lives of people confined below deck for years at a time, at the mercy of nature, as well as pirates, scurvy, gangrene and other unimaginable illnesses. I can still remember many of the nautical terms peppered throughout the books.

Hbk, pbk, ebook?

Hardbacks are my preference when I'm settled in an armchair at home, preferably next to a nice fire. Ebooks for reading submissions. Paperbacks for when your book is likely to get caked in sun cream and sand on holiday. 

Book Shelfie: could you take a picture of your favourite bookshelf please and tell us what it is about this particular shelf that you love.

The Book and Bed Hotel in Tokyo

This isn't technically a photo of my favourite bookshelf, but it is somewhere that I have been. The Book and Bed Hotel in Tokyo is a sort of book-nerd's take on the traditional Japanese capsule hotel, a place where you can sleep inside a bookcase. Perfection.

Any strange book habits?

As a child I used to read a lot of Just William books. Apparently, I was once found reading a paperback of one Just William title, whilst simultaneously listening to the audiobook edition of a different novel in series. 

If you enjoyed this article why not check out our other Industry Insight Features?

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