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(F) MEDEA by Eilish Quin. A feminist reimagining of Circe’s niece, Medea and her early years on the lonely island of Kolchis with a domineering father and absent mother, her growing expertise in the art of sorcery, to the arrival of Jason, preordained by the gods to be not only her husband, but also her lifeline to escape her isolated existence, and her travels across treacherous seas with the Argonauts. Goodreads.
(F) THE BAND by Christine Ma-Kellams. After a K-Pop band member’s latest song inadvertently ruffles the political feathers of three East Asian superpowers, he hides out in the McMansion of a Chinese American psychologist with a savior complex, whom he meets in an H-Mart; meanwhile, in his absence, the band’s producer reflects on his previous creation—a girl group who he built from scratch to stardom before their tragic disbanding. Website. Goodreads.
(F) THE OTHER VALLEY by Scott Alexander Howard (two-book deal). A literary speculative debut, set in an unnamed valley—surrounded by other valleys, each twenty years apart in time—in which bereaved residents may petition to cross the border to visit the past or the future on a “mourning tour,” but a candidate training to oversee such requests spots two visitors from the future: the grieving parents of the boy she loves. Goodreads.
(F) THE PALEONTOLOGIST by Luke Dumas. Pitched as for fans of Jennifer McMahon and Riley Sager, a literary suspense and mystery about a haunted paleontologist who returns to the natural history museum where his sister was abducted decades earlier and is faced with a murderous prehistoric spirit. His Twitter. Goodreads.
(F) INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT SPACE by Emily Austin. From the bestselling author of Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead, her second novel about a true crime-obsessed and bald-phobic serial dater navigating her first serious relationship. Soon, she’s convinced that someone is stalking her. Goodreads. Website.
(F) SUNSHINE NAILS by Mai Nguyen. From the National Magazine Award-nominated journalist and copywriter, an upmarket novel set in a gentrifying neighborhood in Toronto, following a Vietnamese family whose no-frills nail salon is threatened by the arrival of a new “Starbucks of Nails” salon, and as they devise a series of ill-conceived plans, they risk losing not only their business but also the family ties keeping them together. Goodreads. Website.
(F) AT THE END OF EVERY DAY by Arianna Reiche. Part mystery, part horror, and part hallucinatory journey, a literary debut that begins after the very public suicide of a Disney-like theme park’s most iconic actresses, and follows a loyal employee as she discovers what happens when the lights go up and the thinly veiled artifice of a phantasmagorical world is revealed. Goodreads. Website.
(F) THE DOUBLE LIFE OF BENSON YU by Kevin Chong. An engrossing literary work of metafiction following a once-popular graphic novelist as he writes a polished retelling of his upbringing in 1980s Chinatown, but soon loses control of his own narrative. Goodreads. Website. *NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDERS*
(F) THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT by Adam Hamdy. A mind-bending, thought-provoking novel in which the lives of a disgraced police officer, a prolific author, and an upstanding citizen are inextricably bound together by a series of mysterious deaths. *NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDERS*. Website. Goodreads.
(F) MOM’S NIGHT OUT by Sarah Langan. Set in the cloistered world of the one percent, an unsettling novel in which one mom’s Night Out goes terribly wrong and a discovery made in its aftermath threatens to dismantle the entire system. Website. Goodreads.
(F) A HISTORY OF FEAR by Luke Dumas. An eerie, spellbinding literary suspense-horror novel set in Scotland about the psychological unraveling of an American graduate student who fears he is under the Devil’s control as he finds himself implicated in the murder of a classmate. *NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDERS* His Twitter. Goodreads.
(F) THE FORTUNES OF JADED WOMEN by Carolyn Huynh. A heartwarming, humorous debut following a family of estranged Vietnamese mothers and daughters who grapple with a psychic’s prediction—that the family, all in one year, will experience a death, a marriage, and a pregnancy. *NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDERS* Website. Goodreads. This deviates from my usual dark and moody books, but it captured my heart immediately.
(F) BENEATH THE STAIRS by Jennifer Fawcett. Pitched for fans of Jennifer McMahon and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, a chilling literary horror debut in which a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a haunted house, where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago. *NOW AVAILABLE Website.
(F) A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES by Shea Ernshaw. From New York Times bestselling author of YA novels The Wicked Deep and Winterwood, her adult mystery debut following three residents of Pastoral—a reclusive, seemingly peaceful commune–as they investigate the disappearances of two outsiders: a mysterious children’s book author and the man hired to find her. *NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDERS!* December Picks: Indie Next, LibraryReads, Book of the Month, Amazon Best of the Month (Mystery + Thrillers).
(F) THE SHIMMERING STATE by Meredith Westgate. Jennifer Egan’s cool, transcendent prose meets Karen Thompson Walker’s speculative eye in this luminous literary debut following two patients in recovery after an experimental memory drug warps their lives. *OUT NOW* Belletrist Book Club Pick for September 2021
(F) GOOD NEIGHBORS by Sarah Langan. Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburb—pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger. *NOW AVAILABLE* B&N Book Club Pick for February 2021. Amazon Editor’s Pick for February 2021.
(NF) WE ARE ALL SNOWFLAKES by Dylan Marron. From the creator of the award-winning podcast “Conversations with People Who Hate Me” and the “Every Single Word” video series, a timely personal and cultural book exploring the nuances of difficult conversations in today’s divided society and offering ways to navigate them, expanding on his TED Talk “Empathy Is Not Endorsement.”
Wish List (favorite reads, old and new)
- In general, the darker the atmosphere (“eerie,” “unsettling,” “full of dread,” etc), the more likely I’ll want to see it!
- Literary in style but still a page-turner (See “literary plus” below).
- Character-driven / Emotions
- If you’re more likely to call the novel “genre-bending,” then I’m interested!
- Not for Me: Historical fiction (but I’ll consider historical mixed with genre), erotica, hard science fiction, high fantasy (need to be grounded), and romance. Fiction where marriage drama is the main focus. Anything that has to do with sports (sorry!). No tech industry, military, or wars.
Magical realism or rooted in folklore
- The Book of Speculation and Light from Other Stars (Erika Swyler)
- Himself and Things in Jars (Jess Kidd)
- The Stolen Child (Keith Donahue)
- The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey)
- Build Your House Around My Body (Violet Kupersmith)
- The Cosmology of Monsters (Shaun Hamill)
- The Demonologist and The Damned (Andrew Pyper)
- The Boy Who Drew Monsters (Keith Donahue)
Family-centric literary fiction/suspense/mystery
- The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
- The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
- Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)
- Sisters (Rosamund Lupton)
- Help for the Haunted (John Searles)
- Searching for Sylvie Lee (Jean Kwok)
- The Majesties (Tiffany Tsao)
- Ill Will (Dan Chaon)
- I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Iain Reid)
- Universal Harvester and Devil House (John Darnielle)
- Build Your House Around My Body (Violet Kupersmith)
- I’m often drawn to the strange and the obscure.
- I tend to be more interested in narrative nonfiction than in memoirs
Unexpected subject with universal impact
- From Here to Eternity (Caitlin Doughty)
- Wanderlust and A Field Guide To Getting Lost (Rebecca Solnit)
- Quiet (Susan Cain)
Very specific wants at the moment
I’d love to see a Black Swan-esque dark literary mystery/suspense/thriller set in the K-Pop world.
A novel similar to the sci-fi/mystery/drama Netflix show “The OA.”
A novel similar to the slow-burn crime/suspense Netflix series “The Sinner” and “Broadchurch.”
A novel similar to “Archive 81.”
Vietnamese authors writing beyond the Vietnam War.
Novels about codes, ciphers, puzzles, etc. Recently adored The Cartographers.
Spark Words + More
Diverse voices (I wish I can underline this a thousand times!), ; unusual perspectives; Vietnam War; Vietnam refugee experience (and other refugee and immigrant experiences); misfits; supernatural events; hauntings and demons (literal and/or figurative!); human connection; trauma; psychological literary fiction; unrequited love; family secrets; clever plot twists; sisterhood; unlikely friendships; and more!
I can best describe my fiction interest as “literary plus.” Upmarket is the “correct” description, I suppose, but “literary plus” makes more sense to me. Maybe if these terms are placed in a line, it’d be commercial, upmarket, literary, then literary plus? Upmarket might still emphasize the commercial hook over the character/interiority development, whereas literary plus emphasizes the latter.
So, “literary” to me means the prose is polished, distinct, stylish. It signals that the author has paid attention to each word, sentence, and paragraph, and considered their emotional impact on the reader. The “plus” means elements such as horror, magical realism, or suspense that add propulsion to the pages and lift up the plot. Ill Will is literary + suspense . . . The Cosmology of Monsters is literary + horror. You get the point. I don’t respond as strongly to commercial fiction because it tends to have more plot versus character development. NOTE: This is not to say that commercial fiction isn’t valuable or important; I’m just not the editor for it.
In the story itself, I hope to encounter nuanced characters who feel as if they’ve lived a full life. They have a past—a past trauma, a past love, a past hope—but they also have a reason to move forward. And the secondary characters feel just as necessary as the protagonist.
I am also huge on atmosphere. I like feeling like I’m there in the story, and can easily imagine each scene playing out in my head like a film.
I’m not a huge reader of nonfiction so I don’t acquire many nonfiction titles. I don’t respond strongly to memoirs. But I gravitate toward titles on unusual subjects that have universal impact like Susan Cain’s Quiet, Rebecca Solnit’s The Field Guide to Getting Lost or Wanderlust, and Mary Roach’s books. I like people who have obsessions and just want to share them with the world.
Where was I? Oh, right.
If you’re an agent who’s reading this wish list, I just want to say thank you. The whole reason I created this list was to prevent anyone from wasting their time! Like, do I want you to write an impeccable pitch, then waste it on me because it’s a space opera romance and I don’t know how to publish space opera romances?!? I would feel horrible! Your clients should have editors who are wholeheartedly passionate about them, their book, and their writing career, and I truly hope you’ll find the right editor for your clients. (But hopefully that editor is me.)
Other small requests I have (since you’ve stuck around for this long….why not.):
- I don’t really care if you email first and ask if a manuscript’s right for me OR email me with the manuscript already attached. But can you include the agent pitch in the attached manuscript? Here’s why: I forward documents to my Kindle, and it’s a bit of a hassle to save the pitch email as a PDF, then forward that to my Kindle as well. (I know: you’re thinking just do it, it’s not that big of a deal, geez but . . . honestly, have you ever felt like if one small thing goes wrong, it might push you over the edge? That’s me throughout the whole pandemic.) But if the pitch is in the doc, then I’ll just need to forward everything once.
- I prefer Word docs. Sometimes PDFs don’t convert well on my Kindle.
- Make sure the space breaks, if your client’s manuscript has them, are where they are meant to be. Anxious me when I see a random space break: “Wait is that on purpose? Am I reading it correctly?” An easy fix? Use # to indicate a break!
- I LOVE author’s notes.
- Feel free to ignore this list.
But if you follow it, I will 100% offer on your client’s book.