Interview with Ben Sevier
Ben Sevier joined Dutton as Senior Editor in January 2007. He was appointed Editor in Chief in 2011 and Vice President in 2012. Ben has edited the six consecutive #1New York Times bestsellers authored by Harlan Coben, including Six Years, which was called “perfect” (Entertainment Weekly), “a cause for jubilation” (Huffington Post), and “ingenious” (Publishers Weekly). He acquired and edited the instant, multimillion-copy #1 New York Times bestseller No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer, which was the top-selling hardcover book in the industry in 2012. In 2011, #1 New York Times bestseller Lisa Gardner joined Dutton and Ben’s list and immediately achieved new sales records and her highest bestseller list placement to date. Ben also edits the New York Times bestselling and award-winning novelist Jonathan Tropper; his breakout achievement This Is Where I Leave You was filmed in 2013 and is a forthcoming major release from Warner Bros.
Former Manhattan assistant district attorney Linda Fairstein, bestselling suspense writer Tami Hoag, retired private-school headmaster Selden Edwards, futurist Daniel Suarez, former Delta Force commander Brad Taylor, and #1 international bestselling Danish thriller writer Jussi Adler-Olsen round out Ben’s carefully curated list of compelling, page-turning fiction and nonfiction.Prior to joining Dutton, Ben worked as an Editor at St. Martin’s Press, where he acquired and edited the acclaimed novelists Marcus Sakey, Ken Bruen, Louise Penny, Charles Finch, Paul Neilan, and Ben Rehder, among other distinguished debut novelists.
TSM: What is the first thing you see in a manuscript that is a complete put-off?Sevier: Usually it’s an overwritten pitch letter or synopsis. I prefer to toss those and read page 1; there’s no pitch that can tell me more than I learn when I discover that I want to turn to page 2.
TSM: Tell us about some of the writers you work with?
Sevier: I’m lucky to work with some of Dutton’s most talented and successful writers of thriller and suspense fiction: Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, Linda Fairstein…I also edit two newer thriller writers, Delta Force operator Brad Taylor and Danish (and global) bestseller, Jussi Adler-Olsen. I recently acquired Joseph Finder for the list whose novel Suspicion is, I think, going to be the thriller to read in 2014. Outside the genre, I work with the novelist Jonathan Tropper and with Mark Owen, the former Navy Seal who wrote No Easy Day, which I think is the greatest nonfiction thriller in a generation.
TSM: What books have impressed you this past year?
Sevier: I’ll go outside of my list and Dutton to answer this question. My favorite new thriller writer at the moment is Tom Wood. His novels The Killer, The Enemy, and The Game have been at the top of my vacation reading pile this past year. I think any crime reader who doesn’t read John Verdon is missing out. Think of a Number was fantastic a few years ago, and Shut Your Eyes Tight and Let the Devil Sleep just got better. Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews is spectacular. And Louise Penny is at the top of her form and not to be missed, even if you think you like tougher stuff. Louise is pretty tough, let me tell you (Full disclosure: I edited Louise’s first few books years ago).
TSM: How do you respond to those who say that everything in the mystery world has already been written and said and that most mysteries are just the same stuff that has been repackaged?
Sevier: I don’t think I’d have anything to say to someone who felt that way.
TSM: What’s the best part of being in publishing?
Sevier: Spending my days with smart, interesting, ambitious people who want to contribute to the culture.
TSM: You have built a solid reputation as one of the sharpest editors around, what has your secret been?
Sevier: I don’t know if I have a secret, but I work hard and read widely, and I look for possibilities rather than excuses.
TSM: What are some of your future projects?
Sevier: I’m excited about Daniel Suarez’s new futuristic thriller INFLUX which we will publish next February. Dan wrote it before anyone knew who Edward Snowden was, and while it’s not about the NSA it is about a secretive government agency wielding an enormous technological advantage and the consequences when the rest of the world begins to discover how much power they have amassed. Spooky stuff. Dan is the writer who more or less predicted Google Glass in 2006 in his thriller Daemon, and the rise of small cheap autonomous lethal drones in last year’s Kill Decision (watch the skies over the next few years), so it wouldn’t surprise me if there is more in INFLUX that will prove prescient. Let’s just say that if Daniel Suarez disappears, I know who took him.