Cover Story: Susan Isaacs: The Insider Interview
But Times Books was looking to change that, recalls Isaacs: "They hired a fiction editor who really was enthusiastic about my book. She and the subsidiary rights editor said, 'Let's go to town!' They took it to the Book of the Month Club and said 'You really have to pay attention.'" Timing was good, it seemed, as BOMC was seeking a book to pair with their other selection, the fourth novel by the then-little-known John Irving, The World According to Garp. They chose Isaac's book, Compromising Positions, looking to package "a dark comedy and bright comedy."
"John Irving and I were made for each other," says Isaacs. "I have enormous fondness for him based on the fact that we came out at the same time."
Debuting as a BOMC dual main selection garnered a lot of interest for Compromising Positions. "I had a paperback sale and the movie sale within a month [still pre-publication] and lots of foreign editions. Suddenly I went from high hopes to having a career." The book was published in 1978, and Isaacs has been busy writing ever since.
Book Business caught up with Isaacs at her Manhattan apartment in February to pick her brain about the future of publishing from the author's perspective.
After your first book became a hit, what came next for you?
● For my second novel I decided not to do a sequel … I didn't want to be writing 50 years down the road Compromising Positions Goes for Botox … I didn't want to be typecast.
Did you go back to the same publisher?
● After that first book my editor sensed that that place wasn't for her. She switched to another house and very generously said to me, 'Feel free to go elsewhere,' and I did. I went to Lippincott, which was assumed immediately by Harper & Row, which was eaten up by HarperCollins. But I stayed there for about 20 years with the same editor, Larry Ashmead, who was fabulous. Then I switched over to Scribner.