Meet the Agents: An Interview with Clare WallaceHarry Bingham
This is an interview with literary agent Clare Wallace. Clare joined the Darley Anderson Agency in January 2011. She began her career as an intern at The Policy Press, Penguin Books and Luxton Harris Ltd. Clare is building the children’s list and is looking for new children’s authors and illustrators. She also represents commercial women’s fiction. You can find the Darley Anderson Agency page here, her twitter feed here and of course, her Agent Hunter profile here!
Q. What books/authors do you love in literary/historical/book group fiction? Examples and reasons, please!
One of my favourite novels is still The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I first read it when I was fifteen and then reread it in my mid-twenties. I loved different things about it, but I still loved it, and both times it made me cry. It has the ingredients that I look for and that I adore in great fiction – an original, emotive premise, a strong and distinctive voice, and characters you don’t want to say goodbye to.
Q. What (very roughly) is the balance of your list between literary fiction / commercial fiction / non-fiction?
My list is a balance between commercial women’s fiction, book group fiction and children’s from picture book right through to YA. In terms of the weight of that list, it depends what’s in the submission pile, but at the moment I’m particularly looking to build the children’s list at the agency.
Q. Is there anything in particular you’d love to see at the moment?
Although I speak to editors all the time about what they’re looking for, ultimately voice and character with a gripping plot and pace are what I’m after. My remit is wide and so I’m open to a range of submissions although I don’t represent crime or thrillers. For the children’s list, I’ve taken on quite a bit of middle grade recently but I’d like to find another fantasy adventure. I’d also like to find a bold YA love story and some sweet but bright romance for younger teens. I’m also very interested in titles about friendship and always want to read great survival stories. On the adult side, I’d like to find a book club read with a sci-fi or altered world twist. I would also like to find a few more historical titles and am particularly interested in those inspired by true events. And I’m always looking for vibrant new voices in commercial women’s fiction and particularly like narratives set around an unusual family dilemma.
Q. What’s your biggest turn-off in a covering letter? What would you really hope to see?
If it’s addressed it to the wrong person, or my name is spelled incorrectly (it’s easy to get this right as I’m on the agency website). I also get frustrated when the covering letter is very long and focused on irrelevant information about the author rather than the manuscript they’re submitting.
Q. What are your biggest peeves in an opening page or opening chapter? And what do you love to see?
An opening page should have a smashing first line, be active and start at a point of intrigue. My peeves are the opposite of this – too much backstory or ‘telling’ and starting at a moment which doesn’t best launch the plot. I receive a huge amount of submissions which start with someone waking up in the morning. I understand why as it’s a logical place to start, at the beginning, but unless it’s integral to the plot, it’s also terribly dull.
Q. Do you have any unpredictable loves?
Victorian London. Wolves. Epidemics.
Q. Would you take on an author who had self-published? What kind of self-pub sales would make you sit up?
Yes, of course. A number of great reviews and a strong ranking in the Amazon paid Kindle Chart help.
Q.What single piece of advice would you most want to give writers?
Read. Read as much as you can around the genre you’re writing in. Read your competition. Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Edit, edit, edit.
Q. How many submissions do you see annually? And how many of those submissions will end up on your list?
At the moment I personally receive around 150 submissions a week (so roughly 7,800 annually). And each year I might only take on three or four new clients depending on the gems that are discovered in the submission pile.
Q: What character (from any book) would you be and why?
I’m going to say Blackberry from Watership Down because he’s super brainy, gets to hang out with amazing Hazel and blunt but brilliant Bigwig, and he has pretty ears. And because Watership Down is still one of my favourite stories of all time ever and it’s an excuse to mention it here.
Q: Which 3 famous people (alive or deceased) would you invite to a dinner party and why?
This is an ongoing conversation in my house and it changes all the time. Assuming fictional guests are fine, today I’ll say the Gilmore Girls (Lorelai, Rory, Emily or Sookie are all welcome). I’ve spent a shameful amount of evenings watching the boxset and eating dinner in front of them…