Meet the Agents: An Interview with Marilia SavvidesHarry Bingham
This is an interview with literary agent Marilia Savvides. Marilia, a graduate of Columbia Publishing Course in New York, is part of the foreign rights team at PFD, handling sales to publishers across Eastern Europe, Russia, China and elsewhere. You can see the link to the PFD agency page is here, Marilia’s twitter feed is here and her Agent Hunter page is here.
What books/authors do you love in commercial fiction? (Crime, women’s) Give us some examples and say why you liked these books/authors.
I tend to gravitate towards darker material and I’m actively looking for crime and thrillers both commercial and more upmarket. I love all sorts; psychological thrillers, serial killer plots, political conspiracies, spy thrillers and everything in between. If it’s cleverly plotted and has a strong voice, I’m hooked. If I’m totally in the dark about what’s coming next, even better. I’ll read well into the night.
The key for me is solid writing and perhaps most importantly that plot and tension remain strong throughout. In commercial crime / thrillers, I have a particular soft spot for the works and morally grey characters of Dennis Lehane, always pick up the new Rizzoli and Isles by Tess Gerritsen and absolutely love Sharp Objects and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, who I consider a modern master of the genre. Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers were also two recent favourites.
Some of my favourite, more recent debuts are I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes and Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
What books/authors do you love in literary/historical/book group fiction? Examples and reasons, please!
Kazuo Ishiguro, Haruki Murakami, Zadie Smith, Cormac McCarthy, Donna Tartt, Lionel Shriver. I love them all. It usually takes me a while to recover after reading any of the greats.
In historical fiction one of my favourite authors is Robert Harris and out of his books Fatherland is probably at the top of my list. A terrifying, beautifully crafted alternative history in which Nazi Germany won World War II.
Where d’you go Bernadette by Maria Semple is another favourite, which I reread every time I’m craving something funny and warm. I fell in love with the characters and couldn’t stop smiling the whole way through. I’ve also recently discovered Rainbow Rowell who is all heart and beautiful writing and an absolute pleasure to read.
How about sci-fi/horror/fantasy/paranormal/YA dystopian/erotic? What would you be interested in, and what’s a big no?
In horror, I absolutely loved The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin and World War Z by Max Brooks. All of these titles have a very obvious horror centre but are so much more than zombies and vampires. Also Stephen King. Always Stephen King. World War Z especially, is a brilliant example of how a zombie book isn’t necessarily a book about zombies. I’m interested in and on the lookout for books that tackle personal and social reactions to pressure and massive change, how humans adapt in impossible circumstances and how they survive.
I’m mainly drawn to speculative, genre-bending fiction and sci-fi. More recent great books are The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, the amazing Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and The Martian by Andy Weir, which is just so much fun to read. I also absolutely loved the great Stephen King’s foray into time-travel with the masterful 11.22.63
On the non-fiction side, are there particular areas that interest you? Does your non-fiction list have a particular slant to it?
On the non-fiction side I’m incredibly interested in popular psychology. Anything that helps make a dent in our understanding of human nature. Accessible, smart, eloquent books such as Quiet and The Examined Life are great examples of the kind of books I’m looking for.
I’m also looking for narrative non-fiction that has an immersive quality and investigative slant and I am always interested in true crime.
Do you have any unpredictable loves?
I love dark and suspenseful stories set in small town America.
What single piece of advice would you most want to give writers?
Read your work out loud when you’re editing and before you approach literary agents. It’s amazing how much this helps you to pinpoint repetitive tendencies or where the writing might lag.