Acquisitions and Editor Wish List
I’m honored to work with talented authors who write upmarket and literary-plus fiction that truly run the gamut. I joke that I started out “in a dark place” by acquiring thriller, suspense, mystery, and horror (Sarah Langan’s Good Neighbors is what launched my list), but what I really love is when characters confront their darkness and reach some sort of catharsis by the end. I’m also acquiring —and I say this with absolute love—truly weird fiction that toes the lines of genre. And in the past few years, I’ve been falling in love with “happier” fiction, especially when it’s multicultural family drama (see: Carolyn Huynh’s The Fortunes of Jaded Women).
Agents: To see if your client might feel right for my list, check out some guidelines below! I’m also offering a catalog each season, and if you’d like a copy of my Winter catalog, please enter your info here. Thank you! I hope we can connect soon.
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)
- Blacktop Wasteland (S.A. Cosby)
- 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)
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; memories; 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.
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.