I have a wonderfully varied list (one of the perks of being an agent) but I’ve always been a sucker for commercial fiction that has the Holy Trinity of pace, plot and character. Those are the three elements I’m looking for in any novel. I also love books that have a clear pitch; a hook that has me immediately wanting to know more.
A significant part of my list is comprised of award-winning, bestselling authors of crime, suspense, and thrillers. Between Mari Hannah, David Mark, Julia Chapman and David Jackson, I think my authors have killed most of northern England. I’m eager to find authors who are plotting the demise of other victims, wherever they may be.
I do love speculative fiction with high concept plots in the vein of Lauren Beukes, Sarah Lotz and Kate Mascarenhas but I’m not looking for the type of science fiction or fantasy that would solely be found on the SFF table of a bookshop.
I’m on the hunt for commercial fiction with an emotional heart, compelling underdog stories with unlikely heroes and heroines. Something uplifting to balance out the murder and mayhem in the rest of my fiction list.
On the non-fiction front, I particularly enjoy sports writing and narrative non-fiction exploring contemporary social issues. I’m looking for great storytellers who bring an original, often personal, take to a subject. And I love it when the sheer power of an author’s words completely draws me into an area I had previously known nothing about. Adharanand Finn taught me what it was like to run with Kenyans, Kate Mayfield showed me what life was like growing up in a 1960’s Kentucky funeral parlour, and Gary Dexter spent a year as a street poet, learning the rhymes and taking abuse from midnight drunkards so I didn’t have to.
Discovering new talent is one of the highlights of the job. Nothing beats the feeling when you pick up the phone to a debut author to tell them a publisher wants to buy their book. But I’m also interested in existing authors who fancy a bit of reinvention and scriptwriters who would like to take their talents in a new direction.
I’ve given talks to various writers’ groups, university courses and international book fairs as well as being a Frankfurt Book Fair Fellow in 2010 and a former committee member of the Association of Authors Agents. You can almost certainly find me in the bar at the Harrogate International Crime Festival.