I’ve always loved books – ever since I was a child, I’ve adored those rainy days when I could curl up somewhere quiet and get lost within the pages of a story. I’ve carried this love throughout my career, first in libraries, then bookshops, through my Masters degree in Publishing and now into my career as a literary agent.
I set up DKW Literary Agency in late 2012, along with my fellow agent Ella Diamond Kahn, after working for three years at the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency. In 2013 both Ella and I were selected as ‘Rising Stars’ by The Bookseller. I now represent a wonderfully varied and exceptionally talented list of authors, and I’m constantly on the lookout for new and exciting voices.
My tastes in fiction are very broad – above all, what I look for is a compelling and original story that is beautifully told. So far my list spans from historical fiction to literary fiction to thought-provoking commercial women’s fiction, as well as fiction for older children and young adults.
As an agent, people always ask me what I’m looking for in a manuscript. But it’s almost impossible to define that ‘spark’ that has me turning the pages breathlessly and reading late into the night. I won’t truly know until I’ve found it, but I’ve tried my best to sum it up here.
I’ll always have a soft spot for gothic novels, or stories with a darker edge. My client SE Lister’s debut novel Hideous Creatures, published in May this year, is a good example of this – the Guardian recently described it as a ‘gothic road novel’. As a teenager my favourite novels were Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and I’d love to find something new in that vein – a compelling ghost story or gothic mystery.
I’d also love to find a beautiful fairytale for adults – one of my favourite novels of recent years is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. I adore stories with that added touch of magic.
I’m always on the hunt for narratives with a unique twist, or told from an unusual perspective. My client Virginia Macgregor’s debut novel What Milo Saw is just this: it’s the story of Milo Moon, a nine-year-old boy who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, which means that his eyes are slowly failing and he will eventually go blind. But his heightened awareness means that he often notices things which other people miss. Publishing at the end of July 2014, it is already drawing comparisons to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Wonder and The Rosie Project.
I particularly enjoy books that take me to a place I might not otherwise have discovered – and I mean this in both the geographical and historical sense. I love strange corners of history and stories with unusual settings.
In children’s fiction I’m looking for everything from heartbreaking tales to exciting adventures. I love fantasy and have a particular love of time-travel and stories that focus on friendship. For example Othergirl by my client Nicole Burstein, which publishes next year, is a fresh, funny and action-packed take on the superhero story, exploring the friendship between teenage superhero Erica and her shy un-superhero best friend Louise. Other firm favourites include Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea, The Hobbit and the Narnia books, through to Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.
It’s worth saying that all of my favourite books are ones I did not know I was looking for, but once I had found them I simply could not imagine my life without them. I read and respond to all submissions, and I’m always eager to find the next new voice that will keep me gripped and enchanted until the very last page.
So send me something. Anything. It may not be what I think I’m looking for, but it might just capture my heart.
You can find Bryony’s submission information here.