This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Harriet Bourton joined Transworld Publishers in April 2013. Harriet is a Senior Commissioning Editor and runs the Women’s Fiction list, acquiring new writing talents alongside working on brand authors such as Danielle Steel.
I have always loved commercial fiction; I grew up in a house where stacks of paperbacks nestled in every nook and cranny. Women’s Fiction became the cornerstone of my reading habits and felt like the natural place for me as an editor too. It’s a funny term, really, ‘Women’s Fiction’ – it sounds like something your nana would read – but when I explain what I do to friends and family (including my nana) I say that it’s a bit of a catch-all term for stories by women, about women, for women.
It’s much harder to condense this passion into a neat summary of what I’m looking for, though! Essentially, I’m looking for Women’s Fiction with a clear narrative hook that packs a good punch. I get excited about books that you can pitch in one sentence but once you’re into them they deliver so much more – and I love to be surprised by the humour or emotion of a novel. Above anything though, I want books with a strong voice.
Like a lot of people, I want to laugh or cry. But I also want to be whisked away to another time or place, and I’m particularly keen on time-slip and nostalgic fiction at the moment. I like books set in the 40s, 50s and 60s – there are lots of fascinating stories to be told about that time in regards to women’s changing role in the workplace, the home and society.The knock-on effects of the recession are still reverberating, and a lot of people rely on books for escapism – myself included – so I’d love a series that takes you to different parts of the world. I am a huge fan of a good series, and am interested in this model in digital publishing too. This year we published a four-part serialised novel, Ivy Lane, with great success, and I’m constantly on the lookout for similar projects that support new, innovative publishing models.
I’d also like to find something that breaks the rules – that takes a deviated route to the one you were expecting, but is no less satisfying for it. I think that’s why Gone Girl became the success it did – it was deliciously subversive. And, as I have argued many times, it lends itself to the genre of Women’s Fiction as much as it does to Thriller. I definitely have an appetite for something a little darker, and I’d love to meet a really powerful, flawed heroine who isn’t a bundle of clichés – such as Carrie Mathison from Homeland and Alicia Florrick from The Good Wife.
Lastly, I feel I should add something about the kind of author I’m looking for. My ideal author would deliver a book a year (and on time!), be ideas-driven and keen to work collaboratively, know who they are writing for and what area of the market their book sits in, and have a clear idea of the career path they want to follow.
Some of my favourite books include The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Rosie Project, The Help, My Sister’s Keeper, and anything by Jilly Cooper or Maeve Binchy.