With her recent promotion to editorial director of romance added to her existing role as executive editor at St. Martin’s Press, Monique Patterson will help oversee the house’s romance program with Jennifer Enderlin, senior v-p and publisher of St. Martin’s Griffin and St. Martin’s Paperbacks, and Anne Marie Tallberg, SMP v-p, associate publisher.
As she has done throughout her 15 years at SMP, Patterson will continue to acquire literary fiction, commercial fiction, and commercial nonfiction. “A big chunk of my list is general women’s fiction, which includes all romance—suspense, historical, paranormal, and erotic. It keeps me very busy,” she said.
Though Patterson does acquire so-called African-American fiction, she strongly resists using that designation as a genre. “Back when we had Borders, they had the ‘African-American’ category, and that’s where all the books by African-American authors went regardless of genre. True, it allowed them to sell a lot of books, and it becomes easy for us in the book industry to put that kind of label on it. But it’s treating a race like a genre, and that’s inaccurate. African-American science fiction writers are science fiction writers. African-American fiction writers are fiction writers. African-American fantasy writers are fantasy writers. Just like all other books, it’s about the genre, about the categorizing and shelving. Some readers say, ‘I only want to read black writers,’ which may be because when they were growing up, there were none. But African-American is not a genre.”
Making a point of disrupting that kind of thinking has long been Patterson’s commitment. She cites the example of Minion (2003), the first book in the bestselling Vampire Huntress paranormal series, by the late L.A. Banks. Under Patterson’s watch, “[Banks’s titles] never went into an ‘African-American’ section of the bookstores. They went into fantasy, and that’s where they grew,” she said. Banks went on to write 12 more books in what became The Vampire Huntress Legend series, which now has more than 1 million copies in print. “Fortunately, I work at a house where I can publish something in its [actual] genre. The sales force has been working with me for many years and knows how I push my authors and set them up. They’re a huge part of why I’ve been able to do what I’ve been able to do.”
Patterson publishes about 45–50 titles per year across all formats and has approximately 30 authors on her list. When one of her authors wants to try to go up a literary level—either switching genres, making their books better, or both—Patterson offers all the support she can. “To go to that next level needs pushing. If an author’s ready, you go there with them, understand what they’re capable of doing, shore them up in areas where they’re weak. It’s a journey for both me and the author.” Also, she emphasizes, “I love working with the authors to shape the books, but also becoming partners and helping them shape their careers is very gratifying.” Among her authors are paranormal novelists Sherrilyn Kenyon and Mary Janice Davidson, bestselling erotic romance novelist Lora Leigh, and Jeff Chang, whose 2005 title Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation won a 2005 American Book Award.
Since childhood, Patterson has been a fan of genre fiction. “I love—and grew up loving—fantasy, vampire and werewolf tales, all the fairy tales. I read so voraciously! And I got really intrigued by sci-fi when I saw The War of the Worlds movie. My sisters and I were little nerds.” Immediately after college, she began her publishing career at Avon in 1997 as an editorial assistant. Three years later, after moving up to assistant editor, she got a call from Jennifer Enderlin, then v-p, publisher, Griffin and SMP paperbacks. The two hit it off, and Patterson was invited to SMP to meet with Enderlin, SMP president Sally Richardson, the late Matthew Shear (then publisher of Griffin and SMP Paperbacks), and then-editor-in-chief George Witte. A couple of days later they offered Patterson a full editor position, and she has been at SMP ever since.
Currently she’s busy with the paperback edition of Marlen Suyapa Bodden’s bestseller The Wedding Gift, and Daughter of Gods & Shadows, by debut author Jayde Brooks, released last month. And she’s also overseeing the release of three new works from the prolific fantasy novelist Sherilynn Kenyon, who Patterson predicts will have an “epic year.”
Originally, Patterson aspired to be a lawyer; at college, she was an English major with a minor in history and a concentration in creative writing. Then, reality struck: “The second semester of my senior year I did an internship with the New York City criminal court, with a few high-profile cases. But I realized I didn’t want to do that every day. I wanted books.”
Current title: Editorial director, romance and executive editor, St. Martin’s Press
Almost became: Lawyer
Higher education: B.A., Marymount College
Favorite books: Jane Eyre, any and all mythology, everything Dean Koontz