I struggle with how to begin emails these days. I end up writing “I hope you’re staying safe and healthy,” even though I really want to say, “Hopefully you’re staying sane wherever you are!”
Present circumstances are preventing face-to-face meetings, which are so important to forging agent and editor relationships (even though we end up re-scheduling so many times that it seems like we really don’t want to see each other, ha). So, I thought it’d be helpful to provide my “wish list” for any agent who’s interested in learning more about my reading/editing taste.
I don’t mean to replace actual meetings (well, maybe for now) or phone call introductions, but this might be helpful. If you have a submission that meets any of the below criteria, email me at S&S! (My email is on Publisher’s Marketplace.)
(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.
(F) THE SHIMMERING STATE by Meredith Westgate. A luminous literary speculative debut exploring memory, identity, and human connection as it follows characters whose personal histories are distorted by an experimental memory drug.
(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 FOR PRE-ORDERS!*
(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
- Character-driven / Emotions
- General dislikes: Historical fiction, erotica, hard science fiction, and romance. Marriage drama. Misogyny. Anything that has to do with sports (sorry!).
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)
- 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
- Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)
- Sisters (Rosamund Lupton)
- Help for the Haunted (John Searles)
- Searching for Sylvie Lee (Jean Kwok)
Atmospheric/Psychological (unnerving, full of dread)
- The Majesties (Tiffany Tsao)
- Ill Will (Dan Chaon)
- I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Iain Reid)
- Universal Harvester (John Darnielle)
- Broken Monsters (Lauren Beukes)
- *Reading House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski – I KNOW. I’M LATE)
- 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.”
Spark Words + More
Diverse voices; 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.” 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, which 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 prize plot over character development and might use familiar language. But I always get excited at fiction that falls right in the middle!
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 actually 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. In my job, the rare ones I knew I had to champion had a distinct, entertaining voice and a strong mission to educate others.