This Excellence in Editing Award spotlight is Spark by J. M. Hackman, edited by Michele Israel Harper and published by Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC.

Irene Chambers, EIE Coordinator, interviewed author J. M. Hackman and editor Michele Israel Harper.

Author J. M. Hackman

J. M., how did you develop the idea for this book?

While pregnant with my second child in 2005, I was drawn into the books of Harry Potter like everyone else. After reading those, I read the Percy Jackson series, the Lord of the Rings and Gregor the Overlander series, and then reread the Chronicles of Narnia series. But all of them had one thing in common: a male lead. I wondered if there was a book where the female was more than a sidekick or a love interest. I decided to write a story of a heroine with a God-given talent that’s physically visible. Since fire starting is powerful and a little unusual, I gave my main character, Brenna, that ability. I also gave her ADD after my second child was diagnosed with it. Brenna’s ADD causes her to be impulsive and headstrong, and although her intentions are good, her choices can cause trouble.

What did you enjoy the most about the writing process?

I enjoyed writing the first draft because the possibilities were endless. The world of Spark was my first attempt at world building, and although it was a lot of work, I enjoyed the sheer creativity of building a brand-new world with new races, creatures, and landscapes.

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

I struggled with staying positive and continuing to write. There was no evidence this book would be read by anyone other than my family. When I finally let God have complete control of my journey, that’s when things started to happen.

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

Aside from being a complete surprise, it’s a validation of the work my editor and I did. It’s also a sign we’re a fantastic team! I feel blessed and humbled by this recognition.

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

A good editor will catch your typos, as well as offer ideas to improve the book while keeping your voice authentic. Trust them. Let them do the job they were trained to do. Even if the process is difficult, the book will be a better story when it’s all over.


Editor Michele Israel Harper

Michele, how did you become connected with the author?

J. M. Hackman pitched her book to me at the 2016 Realm Makers Writing Conference. I loved her pitch, I loved the sample she gave me, and as soon as I read her story, I knew L2L2 Publishing needed to publish it. Jill has been a joy to work with in the editing process, and I love being able to say that.

What do you enjoy the most about the editing process?

I love taking what the author has written and helping them craft it into what they meant to say. So many times, even in my own writing, I know what I mean, but it doesn’t quite come out that way. Everyone needs an editor—even editors—and it is one of my dearest joys to work with an author to make their book the best it can be. And I love pointing out when they nailed it!

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

Read the entire book before you take someone on. In J. M.’s case, I was her acquisitions editor, then later her line editor, so I knew exactly what I was getting into. Often an author will polish the first three chapters, since those are submitted with proposals, then the rest of the manuscript is a mess. Know exactly what kind of edit you are taking on, know what kind of edit you excel in (whether that is developmental, line edit, or proofread), and do not be afraid to point out the kind of edit they most need, even if that’s a referral to someone else. And if at all possible, take courses from The PEN Institute! Or attend PENCON. The investment in yourself as an editor is worth it to make your business succeed and provide your clients with the editor they deserve. You.

What do you wish authors knew about working with freelance editors?

Oh goodness, please don’t dismiss most of what your editor says! I hear this time and time again from other editors, and it is frustrating for both the author and the editor. Unless your editor is not a true professional and has no clue what they’re talking about (which is so sad when that happens). You are spending thousands of dollars to make your book competitive in the marketplace. Be open, know when to keep your voice intact and when to yield to correct grammar (a good editor will do both at the same time), and if you find yourself reacting, take a step back, do something active, and pray a lot before you dive back into edits.

Also, your editor should ask questions. (Example: “Did you mean this? This may be unclear to your readers.”) Your editor should never impose his or her voice in your manuscript. (It is perfectly fine if they give an example sentence for a possible rewording, but you should be the one to reword it. Your story, your voice.) And your editor should make it clear when an edit is a suggestion or industry standard. Keep your voice—oh, please do! It’s what makes you unique as an author—but clarity, ease of reading, and proper usage are what will set your book apart. And perhaps, one day, award winning? Oh, I hope so!

What does working on an award-winning book mean to you?

It is the most satisfying feeling in the world. The fact that I assisted an author in making his or her book shine, in polishing it to be the best it possibly can be, is exhilarating. I want every book I edit to become an award-winning book, if only to watch that author succeed and enjoy the thrill of a job well done. I am so proud of Jill!

Thank you, J. M. and Michele! And congrats again on winning the 2018 EIE Award!

About the Author

  1. M. Hackman loves thunderstorms, bookstores, and happy endings. She’s never met a reading nook she didn’t like and prefers soul talk to small talk. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her two munchkins and her handsome husband, who supports her in this crazy profession. Her short stories have been published in the anthologies Realmscapes, Mythical Doorways, and Tales of Ever After. Her YA fantasy Spark (Book One of The Firebrand Chronicles) was released in 2017 from L2L2 Publishing. The sequel, Flare, is scheduled for an October 2018 release. She spends her days writing stories, consuming massive quantities of dark chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds.

About the Editor

Author of Wisdom & Folly: Sisters, Zombie Takeover, Beast Hunter, and Kill the Beast, Michele Israel Harper is also a freelance editor and the acquisitions editor at Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC. Harper has her bachelor of arts in history, is slightly obsessed with all things French—including Jeanne d’Arc and La Belle et la Bête—and loves curling up with a good book more than just about anything else. Visit to learn more about her.

About the Book

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands.

Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil.

Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time?

And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?

Purchase Spark here.


Enter the EIE Awards!

The Christian Editor Connection wants to honor the teams behind well-written and well-edited books and is proud to announce our fourth annual

Excellence in Editing Award. Are you the author, editor, or publisher of a book published in 2018? Submit it for the 2019 Excellence in Editing Award!

This award celebrates newly released books that are superbly written, well edited, and published by a CBA publisher or self-published by a Christian author.

The CEC Excellence in Editing Award is open to all books published in hardcover or paperback in 2018. Books must be written in English, have been released in North America, and contain a Christian worldview.

The publication teams (authors, editors, publishers) behind the EIE award-winning books will be honored for their dedication and work and may mention this honor in their marketing, promotion, and publicity. The most valuable aspect of the award is its use as a book-sales stimulator.

Visit for more information and to submit your entry. Deadline is December 31, 2018.