Anne Williams worked for over 15 years as a commissioning editor, first at Michael Joseph, then for thirteen years at Headline. She joined the Kate Hordern Literary Agency in 2009 and is here to tell us about the manuscripts she would most like to find amongst her submissions.
I have been involved in helping authors get published for over 25 years, first as an editor, working for over 13 years at Headline and before that at Michael Joseph. Wearing my editorial hat, I brought saga writer Lyn Andrews and contemporary Irish women’s writer Sheila O’Flanagan to their list, both big bestsellers, as well as publishing the writer whose crime novels launched Midsomer Murders, Caroline Graham. A few years ago I switched sides: I’m now looking for outstanding new writers to agent and sell.
As well as representing the phenomenal Lyn Andrews, who has sold over 4 million books for Headline, I’m agenting a new saga writer, Mary Gibson, and Scottish crime novelist, Denzil Meyrick, both of whom have been Kindle Top 20 bestsellers. I am still on the lookout for books in both these genres. I’d love to find a crime novel with a great female detective at its heart, featuring strong social themes and settings: Sarah Hilary and Eva Dolan are new additions to the crime scene whose books I admire.
On the saga front, I’m looking for UK-based stories, of primarily working-class industrial life, with vivid regional backgrounds, the grittier the better. More generally, well-turned prose matters to me but it should always enhance rather than obscure a strong story line, and memorable characters are at the heart of books I love. Place counts lots for me too; I love Sarah Waters, for example, in particular The Little Stranger – I’m a sucker for decaying country houses – and The Paying Guests is on my teetering bedside reading pile.
I like books with bleak, snowy settings – Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow is an all-time favourite and there’s a book called Wolf Winter by Karin Ekback out next year I really like the look of. Nature touches all sorts of chords for me and nature writing is something I’m interested in – H is for Hawk is another book in my reading pile, with JK Baker’s strange The Peregrine being a work that still haunts me. I’ve listed various taste touchstones but for me the really impressive writers are those, like Martina Cole, who break the mould then go on to invent a new one, creating a genre all their own, so my wish list mantra is really very expansive – outstanding books that will mean a lot to lots of people.