Laura Luckling ECA winnerThe Editors’ Choice Award celebrates newly released books that are superbly written, well edited, and published by a Christian publisher or author. Judges evaluate the entries based on organization, plot and character development (for fiction), flow, clarity, tight writing, accuracy, consistency, lack of typos, and proper use of industry-standard guidelines for punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. Because our judges are professional editors, the competition is fierce.

Today, we’re pleased to feature the first of four winners announced during the 2022 PENCON. Laura Luckling wrote Traitor, the continuing story Princess Penelope, who finally found a way to redeem her past mistakes-if only it didn’t require betraying her new fiancé.

How did you develop the idea for this book?

My wonderful editor, Michele Israel Harper, gets all the credit! In the epilogue of Common (Tales of the Mystics, Book One), I shared a hint of what became of Princess Penelope, who had been a conflicted villain in the book. In the midst of edits for Common, Michele reached out to share the fantastic idea that hint had inspired: I could write a book called Traitor following Princess Penelope as she seeks redemption in her new, arranged marriage in a foreign kingdom. I was intrigued, and how could I pass up such a compelling title?? Soon I had a framework for Princess Penelope’s story, and I was off and running!

What did you enjoy the most about the writing process?

I loved exploring the story world of Traitor. Princess Penelope travels overseas to Delunia, where everything is loud, colorful, and more vibrant than in her home country of Trellich. I enjoyed bringing this new country to life—even including snatches of their language—and detailing Penelope’s transition from looking down on her new surroundings to embracing the customs, sights, and sounds until Delunia started to feel like home. I also couldn’t help but smile every time I wrote a scene with Penelope’s new fiancé, Vander, whose kindness and sincerity quickly made him a reader favorite.

What did you struggle with the most during the writing process?

Since I didn’t originally plan to write Princess Penelope’s story, I’d never thought of her as anything other than a spoiled traitor who wouldn’t stand up for what she believed in. So when her role changed from villain to protagonist, I struggled to get into her mindset. How could I write a happily-ever-after for a character I didn’t like who didn’t seem to deserve it? But once I’d written enough scenes to start understanding Penelope’s point of view, I leaned into her fear of another failed relationship, her sadness in leaving her family, and her guilt for past mistakes and realized we had more in common than I ever would’ve guessed!

What tips can you give authors about working with freelance editors?

Editing should be a team effort to bring the author’s vision to life in a way that readers can connect with and appreciate. Authors need to be open to ideas for change, realizing that even the most beloved book baby has room for improvement. On the other hand, an author needs to stay true to their voice and the heart of their story and be willing to stand their ground when an edit doesn’t feel right. Finding that balance is never easy, but it makes a huge difference to have a supportive editor who understands your writing style and enjoys your story. Reading other books the editor has worked on and getting a sample edit can help ensure the editor will be a great fit!

What does winning the Excellence in Editing Award mean to you?

As my second published novel, in some ways I had more confidence in Traitor. My writing style had improved, and my rounds of edits took less time. But in other ways, I felt more riddled with doubt than ever. What if the positive reception of my first book was a fluke? Although I’d come to love Princess Penelope, what if readers could never see her as anything but a villain? Winning the Excellence in Editing Award for Traitor meant the world to me as affirmation that Penelope’s story resonated as deeply with others as it did with me. I’m so grateful to have all our hard work and long hours rewarded in such a tangible way!

Want to Learn More?

You can learn more about the Editors’ Choice Award in our recent blog post, Getting to Know the CEA’s Editors’ Choice Award. We’re currently accepting entries and recruiting judges for next year’s contest. You can learn more about submission guidelines and how to become a judge at Editors’ Choice Award | Christian Editors Association. Stay tuned to learn about our other winners in future posts.