One of the most common questions authors get is this: “How much of your book did your editor make you change?” (Sometimes it’s “agent” instead of “editor”, but the question is the same.) And there are unspoken questions behind the spoken one: how much did you give up? How much of your vision did you sacrifice? How much of your book isn’t yours anymore?
If someone asks, “How much did they make you change?” I answer with the truth: “Nothing. They didn’t make me change one thing.”
Did my agent have suggestions that shaped the book? Absolutely. Did my editor? Oh yes. (I assure you, the new old saw that “editors don’t edit anymore” is very, very much a myth.) Is it a better book because of their involvement? No doubt whatsoever in my mind. They picked out weaknesses and issues. They found slow sections, rushed sections, dead-end plotlines, opportunities for higher emotional stakes. They asked pointed questions: have you thought about this? What’s the reason this scene is here? What about if X were Y and Y were Z? They found ways they thought the book could be better, and trusted me to figure out how, exactly, to make that happen.
But there was an earlier stage in the process too, and I remember it well. There were several agents interested in representing The Kitchen Daughter, and when I was trying to make my decision, I talked to them about their vision for the book, to see if it squared up with mine. And more than one agent said, “I love the ghosts, I love the food, but — do you think you could get rid of the Asperger’s?”