This is the story of a girl named Heidi who thinks her golden retriever Leo has run off into the woods, and she sets out in search of him. She meets a bunch of fantastic characters who seem intent on keeping Leo’s whereabouts a mystery but, at the same time, reveal to Heidi more about herself than about Leo. Where will her journey lead her? To Leo? Or to some other unexpected destination?
I edited this novel, and I am honestly discussing my impressions from that experience.
When I was in high school, I had a creative writing teacher who made me carry around a notebook. In this notebook, I was supposed to write three notable quotes from whatever book I was reading that day. This is a habit that has stuck with me through time. I jot down quotes from the books I’m reading constantly, little bits here and there that just stick to me. I collected these quotes the same way some people collect oil paintings. It’s art, and it’s beautiful, and I enjoy surrounding myself with beauty.
I consider it a rare treat when I read a book that is absolutely full of passages I want to hold close to me forever. I knew that In Search of Leo was one of those books as soon as I got my hands on it. In fact, in the respect of quotable passages, the sheer volume of them, I compared this novella to Catherynne M. Valente’s work. While their subject matter is different, the ability both of these authors have to make me sit back and think, “good hell that’s stunningly written” is very similar.
I edited this novella, and it was both a joy and a learning experience. This is one of those books that is deep. There are a lot of things happening beneath the surface, and keeping track of where all these threads were leading and where they came from worked out my cognitive space. That’s also what I loved about it. I love books that make me work for it. I enjoy the ones that that take me on a journey, where I feel like I’m a seeker. I like the books that are all about the journey.
Friends, In Search of Leo is exactly that.
Heidi, our intrepid protagonist, thinks her beloved dog Leo got lost in the woods, so she goes after him. Her journey into the woods sort of spirals into this journey that is as dreamy, ethereal, and imaginative as Alice in Wonderland. Not only is this a journey to find her lost god, but you quickly discover that this is a journey for Heidi to come to terms with her own emotions, and things that have powerfully shaped her life. This is a book all about love and loyalty, and personal development and exploration set in this incredibly imaginative dreamscape that had me frequently emailing Anitha with things like, “this is INCREDIBLE.”
It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I love novellas. When they are done right, they are small, easy to digest in a sitting or two, and they can pack a powerful punch, and In Search of Leo does all that.
As a reviewer, I’ve read a metric ton of books in the genre. I think this is my eighth year running this website, and while I’ve had my ups and downs like anyone else, I think I’ve become pretty good at spotting a person who was born to write. It’s a treat when I read a book and sit back and think, “This world is a better place because this author is writing books and sharing them with us.”
I tend to do the editing process different from others (if authors want me to, and most of them do). I usually break down the manuscripts chapter by chapter, and I email each edited chapter to the author in its own file as I go. Usually, they get a daily/a few times a week dump of a few chapters at a time. This way they can edit their book as I do, and both of us are in roughly the same spot. This can lead to some interesting back-and-forth discussions between the author and myself, and I’ve learned that the authors get kind of jazzed when I’m coming on a plot twist, and they are right there ready to edit that plot twist right along with me, and enjoy my HOLY CRAP WTFBBQ feeling in real time. It’s sort of an interactive way to edit, and while some of my clients don’t like doing it that way, the ones that do seem to really enjoy it.
Anyway, I was emailing Anitha a chunk of chapters at one point, and I said in my letter to her, “You’d be doing a disservice to the world if you didn’t share this book with it.” I firmly believe that. It was a labor of love for her to write, I could feel it in every page, and it was an absolute joy and delightful challenge to edit. When she decided to self-publish this thing, I told her to hit up Pen Astrige for cover art, which is how she landed this absolutely stunning cover. Seeing this whole thing come together like this has made me unbelievably proud of Anitha, and I’m so excited for this book to enter the marketplace on January 18.
Guys, buy this book and read it. It’s incredible and Anitha is a formidable talent to keep your eyes on. She’s an author that is going places.
Congratulations, Anitha. I’m so very glad you let me be part of this process.