Archive | October 2013

Interview with literary agent Peter Knapp of The Park Literary Group.

Today, we are lucky enough to have literary agent Peter Knapp of The Park Literary Group joining us. Thank you so much for being here, Peter!

 

Me: How did you become an agent?

Peter: While I was in school I interned at New Line Cinema, working for the assistant of the executive who was in charge of tracking books for possible film adaptation. I immediately fell in love with the whole business of books, and realized that I wanted to work with them. I ended up getting a job out of college working for a book scouting agency that helped film production companies in Los Angeles find books for possible adaptation, and then went on to join The Park Literary Group after realizing I wanted to work more closely with authors and their manuscripts.

 

Me: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?

Peter: After signing with an agent, they can expect to revise their manuscript in order to prepare it for submission. Depending on how much development needs to be done, this can take just a short amount of time or a little bit longer. Then, the agent brings the book on submission and hopefully finds the right editor and publisher to bring the book out into the world. After a book has sold, the agent will help champion for the book and author, helping to make sure the author’s voice is heard with regard to anything from marketing plans to cover design. And of course, an agent keeps an eye on the big picture, looking for the right opportunities to grow an author’s career from one publication to the next.

 

Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?

Peter: I want more magical realism. I love stories where the world is recognizable, and many of the rules are the same as in our everyday life, but some of the rules are just a little differentThere’s just an undercurrent of magic, and it’s not front-and-center but is more a part of the story’s voice and the characters’ viewpoints.

I am still getting a lot of science fiction and speculative fiction that feels as though it’s inspired by Across the Universe, Hunger Games, those types of books. While I love those books, I’m not really looking to take them on at this point.

 

Me: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?

Peter: I have eight screws and two metal plates in my ankle from when I broke my bone in high school. Unfortunately, there’s no great story behind the break. I fell on ice. While running.

 

Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

Peter: The best thing you can teach yourself is how to revise. Editors will want to do work even on very polished manuscripts to prepare them for publication, and it’s essential to know how to take notes and make meaningful changes to a story based on them.

 

Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

Peter: Yes! I am currently open to submission. You can submit to me by sending a query letter and a three chapter sample to queries@parkliterary.com. Please put my name (first and last) in the subjectline.

 

Advertisements

Interview with literary agent Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency.

Today, we are lucky enough to be interviewing literary agent Jenny Bent, of The Bent Agency on the blog. Welcome, Jenny!

Me: How did you become an agent?  

Jenny: At some point in my childhood, my mother gave me a book about careers for people who like to read.   It was at that point that I became interested in publishing.   Then in college, I took a class in editing and publishing, and a writer named Joyce Johnson came and spoke to us.   She explained the difference between agenting and editing and it was then I decided that agenting would be a better match for me.  After college, I got a job as an assistant to a literary agent, and I haven’t looked back since!

Here’s a link to a blog post where I go into this in more detail: http://www.jennybent.blogspot.com/2012/10/in-answer-to-your-questions-post-by.html

 

Me: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?

Jenny: I think it can really vary, depending on the agent and also the author.   At the least you should expect communication about the agent’s plans for the manuscript, and get a full submission list when the agent sends the book out.   I send my authors all correspondence from the editors who are considering the book and then when there is an offer or offers, we talk through the options and make a decision together.   I think an author should feel like the agent is always available to them, whether via phone or email, and feel comfortable discussing career problems, etc.

 

Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?

Jenny: I would love to see more high concept women’s fiction and twisty turny female-driven suspense (like Rosamund Lupton or Gillian Flynn).   On the flip side, I don’t think I’m getting too much of any one genre.

 

Me: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn? 

Jenny: I feel shy at writers conferences too!

 

Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?  

Jenny: Don’t take it personally.   It’s the surest route to giving up.   Remember it’s a business and just keep trying, every day.

 

Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting? 

Jenny: Right now I am closed to queries, I reopen in January.   Guidelines are on our website.

 

I had another short horror story published!

It was published In Underneath the Juniper Tree, a magazine of dark literature for children! Their mission: “Underneath The Juniper Tree was created after the departure of the beloved Crow Toes Quarterly Magazine in order to fill the gap in our lives. Underneath The Juniper Tree is a non-profit online magazine that supports new and budding artists and writers. We aim to promote the most creatively fantastical and darkly neurotic literature that has been much loved over the centuries and will be loved for centuries to come. Enjoy and remember, don’t get lost. You don’t want to end up underneath the Juniper Tree.”

You can find The Sleepwalker by Amy M. Newman in the fall issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Interview with literary agent Leigh Feldman of Writers House.

Today, I’m honored to have Ms. Leigh Feldman of Writers House on the blog. Ms. Feldman has been a literary agent for over twenty years and has represented some wonderful literature, including Charles Frazier’s COLD MOUNTAIN, Arthur Golden’s MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, and one of my absolute favorite YA authors, Sarah Dessen. Thank you for being here today, Ms. Feldman!

Me: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?

Leigh Feldman: I consider it my job to translate the inner workings of the publishing industry for my clients, even though it doesn’t always make sense to me! I give as much or as little information as a client wants.  Beyond the extensive editorial conversations, the business we discuss in the beginning, in very broad terms, is the time-line for editing, submitting, selling, publishing. The best part of the relationship with clients is the editorial process. I love helping my clients understand that their intentions don’t always make it to the page, and I love giving them guidance in making their book live up to the potential I see.  One of the most difficult tasks is managing my clients’ expectations. I never want to throw freezing water on them, but on the other hand I do know what reasonable expectations are in this day and age in the industry, so I do have to be clear about that.

Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?

Leigh Feldman: On the fiction side, I’m always looking for books that make me want to just drop everything and read all day. My assistant and I spend a huge amount of time reading submissions, and even though we see plenty of work we admire, it’s very rare to find a novel (or a work in any genre, for that matter) that achieves that kind of irresistible, “drop everything and read me” quality. Sometimes I’ll start a novel and be totally drawn in by the beginning, but then fifty pages later the story has lost its momentum, and I’m adrift – I can no longer feel that underlying sense of tension that drives the best stories. So of course I’m looking for writers who’ve really mastered the art of sustaining momentum. I’d also love to receive more narrative nonfiction submissions, in general.

What am I getting too much of? My assistant and I could do with a few less queries about zombie apocalypses and paranormal romances and the like. If it’s great then it’s great, and we want to read it. But sometimes I wish authors would do their homework a bit more – they’d find out that my personal YA tastes tend toward the realistic side of the spectrum.

Me: You rep YA author Sarah Dessen (one of my favorites!). What is it like getting to work with, and help shape the books of, an author with such a huge fan base?

Leigh Feldman: I certainly take the most pride in Sarah’s wonderful success.  I do very little editorial work with Sarah since she is such a pro, and when she does finally show me a draft it is usually clean enough to share with her editor.  I wouldn’t share something with any editor if I didn’t think it was living up to the potential of the client. Her editor and I will then discuss what works and what doesn’t – pacing, what characters we love, what boy we want to kiss (J), and the editor will share all of that with Sarah, as we don’t want too many editorial cooks up in Sarah’s kitchen!

Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

Leigh Feldman: The most important element in a work of fiction is not necessarily “craft,” but “conflict.” Asking “What is the conflict of this story?” is of the utmost importance if you want to write a book that people will want to read. Sustaining that conflict creates underlying tension, and that’s what makes a book a page-turner.  I don’t mean “page-turner” in the airport reading sense of the word – I mean any book that makes us want to keep reading, keep engaging with this world and these characters. And no matter what the genre, a book has got to be a page-turner, or the reader will put it down and feel no reason to pick it up again….or recommend it…or buy the author’s next book! So I’d advise writers to work intentionally on that aspect of their craft

Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

Leigh Feldman: Yes, I am open to submissions. Please check my Publisher’s Marketplace profile.

Review of Candlelight Christmas by Susan Wiggs


candlelight christmasDescription

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR SUSAN WIGGS INVITES YOU TO AN UNFORGETTABLE CHRISTMAS IN THE CATSKILLS

A single father who yearns to be a family man, Logan O’Donnell is determined to create the perfect Christmas for his son, Charlie. The entire O’Donnell clan arrives to spend the holidays in Avalon, a postcard-pretty town on the shores of Willow Lake, a place for the family to reconnect and rediscover the special gifts of the season.

One of the guests is a newcomer to Willow Lake—Darcy Fitzgerald. Sharp-witted, independent and intent on guarding her heart, she’s the last person Logan can see himself falling for. And Darcy is convinced that a relationship is the last thing she needs this Christmas.

Yet between the snowy silence of the winter woods, and toasty moments by a crackling fire, their two lonely hearts collide. The magic of the season brings them each a gift neither ever expected—a love to last a lifetime.

 

Review

Warning: review may contain spoilers.

I love Christmas books; seriously, LOVE. I’ve started listening to my Christmas CDs already, and it’s not even November. When I say I’m a Christmas fan, I mean it.

For that reason, I was super excited to read Candlelight Christmas by Susan Wiggs. I’ve read a few of Susan Wiggs’ books and liked them quite a bit. There are parts of this book that make all your romantic dreams come true. Some of the scenes, especially the Christmas ones, are truly magical. The descriptions make you feel like you are there, living every moment along with Darcy. Parts of this book are what I dream about when I hear the word Christmas. I particularly liked the scene where Darcy and Logan snuck out of the lodge in the middle of a snowstorm to hang twinkle lights on a tree in the middle of a field so that Santa would have a runway for landing. You can’t get much more magical than that.

For all those reasons, I gave this book four out of five stars. But if the author hadn’t been quite so gifted with her ability to write real-to-life descriptions and wonderful settings, I might have given this book only three stars, because there were some real problems with character motivation.

The main problem I had was with Darcy’s reasons for not wanting kids. To be honest, I just didn’t find it believable. She had a bad marriage to a man who had step-kids. The step-kids were mean, miserable kids toward the end of the marriage. Apparently, that made her decide not only to never marry a man with kids, but also to not even have kids of her own. I can understand being wary about step-kids after that, but not having her own kids? That doesn’t make sense to me. If this was just a side conflict, it wouldn’t have mattered so much, but unfortunately, it was the main source of tension between Darcy and Logan. There were also a few places in the story where both Darcy and Charlie, Logan’s son, said and did things that I felt weren’t true to character.

If you love Christmas romance novels I would still recommend this one, even with the problems it had. It still had that spark of Christmas magic!

Candlelight Christmas by Susan Wiggs will be available from Harlequin Books, November of 2013.