April 15, 2019
Recent Prizes at A.M. Heath
We are enormously proud to see so many A.M. Heath authors recognised by this year’s literary prizes. In literary fiction, Alice Jolly’s extraordinary MARY ANN SATE, IMBECILE has been longlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize. Also longlisted for the Ondaatje is Jamal Mahjoub, for his moving evocation of Khartoum in A LINE IN THE RIVER. Georgina Harding’s LAND OF THE LIVING, her meditation on loss and survival, made the longlist for the Rathbones Folio Prize. Cynan Jones has been longlisted for the Europese Literatuurprijs (Netherlands) for THE LONG DRY, a short work of fiction characterised by Cynan’s acute, detailed narrative style and his clarity of prose.
The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction included two A.M. Heath authors on its longlist: Elizabeth Lowry’s story-at-sea DARK WATER and THE WANDERERS, the second novel in Tim Pears’ West Country trilogy. FORGING ON, Catherine Robinson’s Yorkshire-set comedy of country life, has been longlisted for the inaugural Comedy Women in Print prize. In crime fiction, Steve Cavanagh’s tense, twisty THIRTEEN has been longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, the UK’s top award for the genre. THIRTEEN is also shortlisted for a CrimeFest eDunnit award. Samantha Hayes’ gripping psychological thriller THE REUNION is a finalist for a 2019 International Thriller Writers Award, while Mari Hannah has been nominated as Wordsmith of the Year by Diva Mag. David Mark’s gritty DEAD PRETTY has also been nominated as the best paperback original in the Barry Awards.
Last but very much not least, Kamila Shamsie’s elegant, electrifying HOME FIRE has continued to attract awards after winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018. Alongside winning the London Hellenic Prize, HOME FIRE has been shortlisted for the Costa Novel Awards, the Southbank Sky Arts Award for Literature, the Books Are My Bag Readers Award, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature (India), Medici Book Club Prize (USA), the LiBeraturpreis (Germany) and the International Dublin Literary Award (Ireland). HOME FIRE was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Europese Literatuurprijs (Netherlands).
Huge congratulations to all our authors, and fingers (and everything else) crossed for those still waiting for the results!
March 19, 2019
THE JOAN AIKEN FUTURE CLASSICS PRIZE 2019
In 2017, A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, launched the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize, a competition to find a standout new voice in middle-grade fiction.
Our winner was Tim Ellis, and his stunning novel, Harklights, was sold at auction to Usborne Children’s Books and will be published in 2020. Of our shortlisted authors, two others have recently announced publishing deals, and every author on the shortlist is represented by a literary agent, so we expect more good news to come.
We’re so pleased with the success of the prize that we are running it again in 2019.
Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.
Joan Aiken took her craft very seriously – this may be why her books have become classics. She wrote:
‘Really good writing for children should come out with the force of Niagara… children’s books need to have everything that is in adult writing but squeezed into smaller compass. Furthermore, as children read their books over and over, a book needs to have something new to offer each time. Richness of language, symbolism, or character may be appreciated for the first time at later readings, while the excitement of the story will only disguise failings at the first.’
The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate.
Julia Churchill writes: If I think of my childhood reading, it’s the classic 8+ novels that filled so much of my imaginative landscape. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Charlotte’s Web, The Borrowers, Goodnight Mr Tom, The Witches. With these novels my reading took a jump. The scope of the stories was wider, deeper, darker than I’d read before.
We are looking for a standout junior novel. It could be contemporary or fantastical, it could have the makings of a series, or be one crystalline stand-alone. We know we’re setting the bar high. We hope to find a book that will be in print in fifty years, as Joan achieved with the Wolves series – and many more of her books.
Lizza Aiken writes: Books have completely shaped my life. I agree with Joan Aiken that ‘A book isn’t only a thing in your hand – it’s a thing in your mind as well. Once you have read it, if you enjoyed it and remember it afterwards, it is like a sort of invisible treasure-box that you can carry about with you and unpack whenever you want to.’
Joan Aiken’s own children’s books are bursting with treasures. In her introduction to the Folio edition of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Katherine Rundell summed up the vital ingredients as ‘love, and peril and food’ which she said ‘Aiken writes with an insight and grace that has rarely been rivalled.’
Then, as Joan Aiken would say, ‘it is like nest-building, all kinds of stray ingredients play their part; you throw in all the brightest and boldest ideas you can lay your hands on – the unconscious mind and serendipity play their part – not to mention a good sprinkling of nonsense.’ But writing them is hard work, for as she said, children deserve the best.
The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.
All shortlisted writers will have the chance to meet with Julia Churchill to discuss their work.
The Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize is open to un-agented children’s book writers resident in the UK or Ireland.
To get a good sense of the voice, concept and where the character is headed, we’d like to see the first 10,000 words PLUS a short description of the book (a few lines) AND a one page outline that shows the spine of the story. Please send this as a Word doc attachment to email@example.com
Entrants will receive an acknowledgement of receipt, but only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.
Submissions open on March 20th 2019 and will close on June 30th.
A shortlist of five will be announced on July 29th, and the winner will be announced on August 5th.
A.M. Heath is running the prize in order to support new writing talent, and to find a writing star. We will offer representation if we find an author, or authors, whose writing we love.
Do follow @juliachurchill and @lizzaaiken on twitter for updates. And if you have any questions about submitting, or the prize generally, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 14, 2019
A.M. Heath Centenary
In 2019 A.M. Heath will have been in business for 100 years.
The first thing we have done to mark our centenary is commission a brief company history, researched and written by our own author Rob Dinsdale. It gives a sense of what we’ve been up to, and the writers with whom we have been working. Founded by two women in the aftermath of WWI, our history is a lot more interesting and amusing than a roll-call of distinguished names, and peppered with not a few unexpected twists and turns.
We have also commissioned one hundred short animations by artist Lizzy Hobbs which celebrate one hundred of our books from across the years. The animations are currently being released on our Twitter and Instagram, and they will soon find a home on the website too.
We’re focussing on activities that give something back to writers and writing. The major piece of sponsorship is a new prize for political fiction that we are setting up, within the Orwell Prize Foundation. Richard Blair, Orwell’s son, is the other sponsor. In the age of Trump and Putin it seemed an appropriate moment for such a prize, and the author of 1984 and Animal Farm would we hope agree that – particularly in the UK – we have been coy about recognising the politics in literature, and addressing the political head-on in fiction.
Secondly, we’re sponsoring some memberships of the London Library for aspiring new writers. It’s an amazing resource which many of our writers use all the time both for research and as a place to write. We will also be participating in a number of events that they lay on.
And lastly, we are sponsoring an anthology, working in conjunction with The Literary Consultancy. The Literary Consultancy does a fantastic job of bringing writers, who may otherwise be overlooked, to the attention of the wider publishing industry. The anthology will be made up of 20 talented, low-income, diverse writers from across the country.
You can’t really ignore a centenary, and when we first started thinking about where we’d come from – two feisty young women setting up on their own just after WWI – and where we’d arrived, with seven full-time agents, a team of three in foreign rights and a company of fifteen people altogether, it looked like progress. We have specialists in children’s books, crime and thrillers, popular fiction and non-fiction, history, memoir, and the whole range of literary writing; we are rattling off film and TV deals on a weekly basis in London, LA and elsewhere; our translation rights department is second to none.
It has been an industrious first hundred years of working with writers, and it continues to be a privilege. Thank you to all the writers, publishers, co-agents, scouts, and friends who have been part of it and kept us busy.
December 6, 2018
A.M. Heath Team Christmas Reads 2018
If there is one cruelty of work at a literary agency, it might be the shortness of time and the hugeness of choice on what to read. Too many recommendations, too many proofs begged from publishers, too many shiny new covers that would look great on our shelves at home.
Thankfully, Christmas will soon be upon us, meaning it’s almost the perfect time of year for eschewing all social obligations and curling up with a good book. Or six.
This is what our office will be reading for pleasure over the winter break – the books that have been just beyond arm’s reach all year, be they new releases, rereads of classics, trusted recommendations, or forgotten gifts from last Christmas that Aunt Susan is definitely going to ask after.
Happy holidays and happy reading!
I could just call up my Christmas reading from last year and pop it in for 2018, given that I have failed to read half of what I confidently predicted I would be reading. I won’t, though, because I really want to finish reading Anna Burns’ Milkman, which I started, was loving and then had to put to one side for a quieter moment. I also have Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy waiting for a quieter moment. It is one of those events which loomed so large but about which I know very little. I am looking forward to remedying that. Well-read colleagues have insisted I read David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide, so I shall. There are laughs to be had in the Anna Burns, I think, but otherwise laughs in short supply. So I may supplement the above with one of my regular returns to Nancy Mitford. I have just re-read The Pursuit of Love, so will probably go for Don’t Tell Alfred. Happy days.
Somehow Christmas always feels to me like the right time to hunker down with the classics, so this year I’ll be reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier and Middlemarch by George Eliot. This selection will no doubt stretch people’s eyes and lead to various exclamations of “I can’t BELIEVE you’ve not read this before!” but I feel no shame, only delight at the prospect of finally getting to so many beloved gems. I’ll also be dipping into Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey which I was given recently, whilst eyeing up other people’s piles of Christmas books.
I am always wildly overambitious when it comes to how many books I can read in a holiday, but I have a couple of long train journeys this year – so I’m feeling optimistic. First on my list is Michelle Obama’s Becoming; I was disappointed not to get a ticket for her event with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but can’t wait to read nevertheless. Several bookish friends have (passionately) recommended Tana French to me, and I’ve been told to start with The Secret Place, so that is what I plan to do. This is technically work reading, but I have been saving A Place of Greater Safety for a quiet week by the fire – so I am hoping for extensive snowfall (or even rain, sorry everyone) to make that possible. Heaven. I’m keen to read The State of Affairs by Esther Perel (I love her podcast), and I’m also intrigued by Sue Prideaux’s I am Dynamite! A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche which I hear is excellent. Realistically, it also seems unlikely that I’ll be able to resist rereading The Pursuit of Love and possibly a Harry Potter book, or two…
One tradition I have over Christmas is to read the year’s Booker winner and I’ve got my copy of Anna Burns’ Milkman ready to go. There’s obviously been a lot of talk about it so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.
I love everything about Christmas, not least the joy of all that guilt-free reading time by the fire with the possibility of a snooze between chapters. My holiday reading this year is a pick-a-mix of: The Ethical Carnivore by Louise Gray prompted by her fascinating interview on Jess Fostekew’s brilliant Hoovering podcast, Letting Go by David Hawkins (according to my cousin ‘Everyone in Somerset is reading this. It will change your life.’ Who can resist such a promise?); Barkskins by the mighty Annie Proulx – a literary epic links the making of early America to its mass deforestation and, finally, Coming Up Trumps by Baroness Trumpington (because obviously). Of course I won’t finish all these but there is nothing more comforting and delightful than a stack of books by your bedside, is there?
First up will be Sally Rooney’s Normal People, which I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet given all the hype and prizes it’s won. Conversations with Friends sparked much debate in the AM Heath offices so I’m looking forward to coming back in January ready to discuss Normal People with my colleagues. I’m also looking forward to reading The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman and Educated by Tara Westover, which have been sitting on my shelves for some time – two very different memoirs but which both prove the power that books can hold. And finally, if I have time, I want to plough through the remaining Liane Moriarty novels I’ve not yet read: compelling writing and brilliant entertainment, I’m such a fan.
I’m going to Cornwall for Christmas; lots of walks are planned so inevitably it will rain the entire time. At least that means lots of reading time. I plan to read Truth & Beauty: A Friendship and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I read Commonwealth last year and absolutely loved it. I also want to read the third Wayfarers: Record of a Spaceborn Few. I like intelligent (but not overwhelmingly science-y) sci-fi. Victoria recommended The Weather in the Streets to me recently which sounds wonderful. Finally, the novel to get me in the Christmas spirit will be One Day in December. Bring on the holidays!
First up on my list is The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. I loved The Secret History and The Goldfinch, so I’m hoping this one won’t disappoint. I’ve also been meaning to read Elif Bautman’s The Idiot for a while now, which I’ve heard so many good things about. And, working my way through the Women’s Prize shortlist, I’m expecting to receive Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing this Christmas, after some not-so-subtle hints to my mum. Finally, it’s the perfect time of year to settle down with an old favourite, so I will be rereading Steinbeck’s brilliant East of Eden, with a glass of mulled wine.
I recently made a discovery even better than a fiver in an old pair of jeans – a £30 book token from last Christmas, that I’ve apparently been saving for a rainy day these whole past twelve months. The first item on my shopping list will be, I think, Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. It’s been beautifully published in the UK by Granta and I’ve had my eye on it for a while now. Then, I think for company on all my (many) train journeys of December I’ll turn to Barbara Trapido’s oeuvre. Brother of the More Famous Jack pulled me out of a little reading slump lately, and numerous trustworthy sources have sworn that she’s one of those writers who brings joy on every page of every book – exactly what I’m after at the moment. I’ve also been planning to read Emma Healey’s second novel, Whistle in the Dark, and Daisy Johnson’s Booker-shortlisted and gorgeously jacketed Everything Under. The last planned endeavour, apparently featuring twice on this company round-up, is Steinbeck’s East of Eden. A friend read it recently, adored it, and has since been rabbiting on about how I’m only hurting myself not giving it a go. Time to see what I’m missing.
October 29, 2018
Shirley Jackson’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE takes off
Shirley Jackson published her Gothic horror novel THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE in 1959. The novel was a finalist for the National Book of the Year Award that year, and has since been made into two feature films.
In October 2018, a ten-part series adaptation hit Netflix and has been called the platform’s first great horror series.
Watch the trailer here.
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE has been published broadly around the world and is now available in twenty-two territories, nine of which have been sold since 2017.
On her process of writing the supernatural in this novel, Jackson commented: ‘No one can get into a novel about a haunted house without hitting the subject of reality head-on; either I have to believe in ghosts, which I do, or I have to write another kind of novel altogether.’
The opening paragraph of the novel features – chillingly – towards the end of the Netflix series:
Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.