Leslie Wells has edited forty-eight New York Times bestsellers in her over thirty-year career, including thirteen number one New York Times bestsellers. She has worked with numerous internationally known authors, musicians, actors, actresses, television and radio personalities, athletes, and coaches. She lives on Long Island, New York.
More about me: Growing up in my small town in Virginia, I always had my nose stuck in a book. I devoured everything on my parents’ bookshelves and pillaged our local library. In college, I double majored in English and Music (classical, piano). When I was a senior, my advisor suggested I apply to graduate school in New York City, and then afterwards, maybe I could think about going into book publishing.
Publishing! The minute he said that, it was as if a light bulb exploded over my head. My Master’s at Columbia only took a year, and then I landed my first job as an editorial assistant. The hours were long, you had to do all the editing on nights and weekends, and the pay was abysmal—but I was getting paid to read! Eventually I became a Senior Editor, and later, an Executive Editor. I worked at three publishing houses over two decades, after which I started my own business. Editing is my day job, and I still love it.
I began writing Come Dancing in 2009, on the thirtieth anniversary of my arrival in Manhattan. I wanted to describe what it was like in the years 1979-1981, when the city was still rough along the edges. And when nightclubs like the Palladium, the Roxy, Danceteria, and the Mudd Club attracted a huge mix of people from many different strata of society.
Back then, you could go out dancing and run into just about anyone: actors, politicians, rock musicians. Celebrities weren’t surrounded by bodyguards; the assumption was that if you were allowed into a club, you were cool. No one was going to harass anybody; after all, this was downtown. And there were no cell phones back then. People didn’t walk around with a camera in their pockets 24/7—so if you were famous, you didn’t have to worry about being photographed every time you turned around. That made for a much more open atmosphere, where regular people rubbed shoulders with the glitterati as everyone cut loose on the dance floor.
I also wanted to write about book publishing before the advent of e-readers and computers, when we were all lugging home 400-page manuscripts every night. As with the music biz, the changes have been seismic. Over the years, many people have asked me what editorial meetings are really like—so I’ve included some of those in my novel.