I joined the agency in 1995, having spent several years as a fiction buyer for one of the major chain bookstores. Originally from Stockport in the northwest, I studied English at St Anne’s College, Oxford. My interests span the full breadth of the agency’s activities, from literary representation to TV to brand consultation. I represent historical thriller writers, contemporary and historical literary novelists, upmarket genre and bookclub fiction, science writers, food writers, historians, nature writers, music journalists, memoirists, and cultural critics.
What I’m looking for in new submissions is constantly evolving, often in response to what I’ve been able to read recently just for the pleasure of it, books that I take on holiday in the knowledge they are going satisfy and take me somewhere new and interesting. Novels that have served me well recently, in areas where I’d love to see more submissions, include:
HOW TO KILL YOUR FAMILY by Bella Mackie, THE LAST DAY by Andrew Hunter Murray, THE MAID by Nita Prose, SORROW AND BLISS by Meg Mason, BIG SWISS by Jen Beagin, YELLOW FACE by RF Kuang, THE SISTERS BROTHERS by Patrick deWitt, SLOW HORSES by Mick Herron, MY NAME IS LEON by Kit de Waal, THE APPEAL by Janice Hallett, LULLABY by Leïla Slimani, SHY CREATURES, the brilliant new novel, not yet published, by my colleague Judith’s author Clare Chambers, GIRL WOMAN OTHER by Bernardine Evaristo, CIRCE by Madeline Miller, REALLY GOOD ACTUALLY by Monica Heisey. In non-fiction I’ve been reading and particularly enjoying memoirs such as I AM, I AM, I AM: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell and THIS IS NOT A PITY MEMOIR by Abi Morgan and re-reading MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL by John Berendt.
In submissions often what catches my eye is when an author seems to have an interesting new take on a genre. When the historical crime writer CJ Sansom joined us in 2002 with his first novel DISSOLUTION, I fell in love first with the manuscript, without a thought for how it might fit into the commercial market. At that point in time there was effectively nothing comparable in the world of crime fiction, except maybe for Ellis Peters’ Caedfael novels. CJ Sansom started a significant trend and I do now represent a number of brilliant, bestselling authors of historical fiction, whether crime or otherwise, and I’m always on the hunt for more. More often than not these novels take a well-known tipping point in history. This isn’t a requirement but it can help. What I’m looking for is characters who embody the dilemmas of their time but whose struggles also shine a light on our lives today.
It’s often the points of difference that speak to me, whether it’s literary or commercial, contemporary or historical. I’d love to hear how you think your book fits into what’s already out there, and the books that inspired you, but I’d also love to hear about what gives your work a clear identity of its own particularly if you’re writing from a point of view or community marginalised and neglected by publishing.
I always want to see contemporary crime novels and thrillers.
As for non-fiction, the tantalising thing about it is that it’s possible to write a best-seller or a prize-winner on pretty much any subject (in recent years I’ve represented books on lemons, David Bowie, violins, money, the Periodic Table, astrobiology, stonemasonry, human failure, the whole universe, the Riemann Hypothesis, suicide bombing, and the novel NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR). It’s a matter of choosing your angle and working out how to make a page-turning story out of your material so in terms of submissions to me I don’t think there are any subjects that are off-limits.