- Categories John is most interested in representing:
MSWL update for John:
Literary fiction that can be described as quirky and enchanting, something heartland and funny and sad, with a memorable voice and that takes a deep dive into character. I'm thinking of titles like Kevin Wilson's Now is Not the Time to Panic, J. Ryan Stradal's The Lager Queen of Minnesota, Richard Russo's Chances Are.... Karen Russel's Swamplandia!, Jonathan Tropper's The Book of Joe, and Tom Perrotta's Tracy Flick Can't Win.
Southern fiction, Southern crime, Appalachian noir, and women's fiction set in the South all appeal to me. Donna Everhart's The Saints of Swallow Hill has an immersive voice and a "world building" atmosphere that pulls you deep into the story and the milieu -- those are qualities that I'm looking for.
Brad Taylor is my category-killer in the operator-based space, but if you have a twist on the genre and can appeal to those readers I'm open to it. I have had a few recent requests for espionage, so I'm looking selectively in that area. I've seen a small number of hitman and black-humor based thrillers (like the show Barry), and would be interested in anything for that space.
I'm looking for that rare thriller that's cleanly written, has good pacing, and keeps me guessing with a good amount of twistiness and gaslighting. In that vein, I loved Laura Dave's The Last Thing He Told Me, as well as Carolyn Kepnes's You, both book and show.
I'm looking for mysteries that are voicey, clever, fun, and traditional in structure with a slight twist or update. If you liked Richard Osman's The Thursday Murder Club, Anthony Horowitz's A Line to Kill, Elle Cosimano's Finlay Donovan is Killing It, and Nita Prose's The Maid, we are on the same wavelength.
I'm looking for Rom-Coms that are aimed at readers with life experience. Annabel Monaghan's Nora Goes Off Script is a great example; charming and fun and "reads fast."
There is a tendency these days to write narrow or small. I'd like to go against that grain and say I'm looking for expansive, multigenerational family stories of the old school tradition, in the style of John Irving or with the ambitions and import of Greg Iles' Natchez Burning Trilogy.
James Lee Burke sets the bar for me across the board, and one of the many things I like about his writing is his ability to set a scene using all of the senses. I'm a visual reader and want to "see" what I'm reading, I want to be immersed in that place. Where the Crawdads Sing has these qualities as well.
Finally, I'll make reference to a TV series, The Bear, rather than a book. It may sound corny but this series made me "feel" on a gut level. Much like the movie Raging Bull, there are parts of soaring beauty (if you love Chicago, which I do, the cinematography here is amazing) mixed with grit and chaotic, bickering, ugliness. It's intense, fun, and a little confusing. But the payoff in the last scene of the first season, when it all comes together, is masterful. It's unique and imperfect, with the sensibility of Anthony Bourdain when he was at his best, plus some influence from Scorsese. Just, Wow. But what is my point? In the tall order department, I'm looking for a book that can make me feel exactly like this did when I was watching the last scene. I can't say what particular form or genre that narrative will come in, but I think I'll know it when I read it.
Other TV shows that have the tone I'm looking for: The French dramedy Call My Agent!, and the Taylor Sheridan-created, Sylvester Stallone vehicle Tulsa King.
The common thread for the array of books, genres and shows above, is that they have complex and magnetic characters, characters that I want to spend my time with across the span of several books or seasons.
Crime and suspense:
Thrillers, domestically-set suspense, suspense with Western themes and settings, crime novels, and mystery series with bestselling potential. I look particularly for authenticity, a strong and engaging voice, good pacing, and, most of all, a singular protagonist who grabs my attention from page one.
Some favorite authors who are non-clients include CJ Box, James Lee Burke, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, Greg Iles, Craig Johnson, and Walter Mosley. I've just read Michael Farris Smith's Salvage This World, and he absolutely kills it with that one.
Favorite individual titles include Cemetery Girl by David Bell, November Road by Lou Berney, Off the Grid by CJ Box, The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke, Killing Floor by Lee Child, Tell No One by Harlan Coben, The Black Echo by Michael Connelly, American Assassin by Vince Flynn, Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, Natchez Burning by Greg Iles, The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, Raylan by Elmore Leonard, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley, A Simple Plan by Scott Smith.
Women's, Southern, and literary fiction:
I'm looking for authors with distinctive voices who convey a sense of authenticity and who write with conviction; strong characters, especially those who are resilient in unique ways; and well-constructed plots to keep the pages turning. I am especially interested in those who can bring a fresh take, a different background, voice, style or structure to the pages.
Some recent favorite works by non-clients include My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, S.A. Cosby's Blacktop Wasteland, Leah Hampton's F*ckface, Jean Hanff Korelitz's The Plot, David Joy's When These Mountains Burn, and David Heska Wanbli Weiden's Winter Counts.
I'm looking for sports narratives and biographies, immersive journalism, and unique histories. I want to see a stance on a given topic, answers to the "why" of the book's premise, perspective, and what I call the "whole life" in terms of biography and history.
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger, The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John, and Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers by Gary M. Pomerantz are examples of nonfiction that have stayed with me. Joan Didion is my touchstone for craft.
If you are not sure if I handle your kind of writing please do send me a query, as I work in a variety of areas and am open to many types of manuscripts. A cycle through the cover cascade on the Home Page might help to give you an idea of what I like to do. There are no absolute necessities except for an author's passion, a desire to develop one's craft, and the goal of communicating through words.
- Categories Gail is most interested in representing:
I am looking for wonderful new or established voices in commercial women's fiction, upmarket high concept suspense (including domestic suspense, psychological suspense, thrillers, espionage) , book club fiction, historical fiction (particularly with a suspense element), historical mysteries, mysteries (both cozy and traditional), Up Lit, and narrative nonfiction.
Narrative nonfiction can cover almost any subject, but food, travel, history, sports and science are particular interests of mine. Newspaper and magazine experience is helpful; many books are generated from concepts first tried out in articles.
In fiction, I am looking for commercial fiction, beautifully written. It needs a voice that grabs me and a narrative that keeps me turning the pages. I like original voices. I like quirky novels with dual narrators, settings and time periods. The writing needs to be immediate with well- developed characters that leap off the page and make me feel they are sitting across the table from me, telling their story. I like twists, I like to be surprised, I like to be completely immersed in a story. If I believe in the characters and love the voice I will follow you anywhere. I am particularly looking for authors with an MFA who write commercial fiction.
Books I love that I wish I had agented:
THE LAST HOUSE GUEST, Megan Miranda
THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME, Laura Dave
THE ROSE CODE, Kate Quinn
THE CHRISTIE AFFAIR, Nina deGramont
THE MAID, Nita Prose
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB, Richard Osman
DAISY JONES AND THE SIX, Tara Jenkins Reid, THE TIGER'S WIFE, Tea Obreht, PIRANESI, Susanna Clarke, RULES OF CIVILITY, Amor Towles, THE SEARCHER, Tana French, MAISIE DOBBS, Jacqueline Winspear, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, Alan Bradley, WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, Delia Owens, THE LIST, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, THE LYING GAME, Ruth Ware, STATION ELEVEN, Emily St. John Mandel, THE DOLLHOUSE, Fiona Davis, SUMMER OF '69, Elin Hildebrand, STARDUST, Joseph Kanon, NOVEMBER ROAD, Lou Berney, THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, Kate Morton, ALL THE LIGHT I CANNOT SEE, Anthony Doerr, THE PARIS WIFE, Paula McLain, HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, Jamie Ford, BEAUTIFUL DAY, Elin Hildebrand, MISSION TO PARIS, Alan Furst, THE EYRE AFFAIR, Jasper Fforde, THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, THE EIGHT, Katherine Neville, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, Sara Gruen, SHOGUN, James Clavell, THE PIANO TUNER, Daniel Mason, DON'T LET'S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT, Alexandra Fuller, THE RIVER OF DOUBT, Candice Millard, A HOMEMADE LIFE, Molly Wizenberg.
- What we're not interested in representing:
We do not represent children's books, fantasy, poetry, or screenplays.
- Do you charge reading fees?
We do not charge reading fees.
- What is the approximate ratio between fiction and nonfiction at your agency?
Right now it's probably about three quarters fiction and one-quarter nonfiction.
- How would you describe an ideal client?
Our clients put passion into their writing and are enthusiastic about what they do. They communicate well with their editors and forge strong and responsive relationships with them. They love to read as much as we do, and they're the kind of people you'd enjoy hanging out with.
- How and why did you become an agent?
Becoming an agent was a natural progression from being editors. The work is similar, but we're able to spend less time in meetings and more time working with authors. We can also handle a more eclectic range of material, and we get to work with editors throughout the industry who share our passions and enthusiasms.
- What if anything can a writer do to increase the odds of you becoming his or her agent?
Put your best efforts into your work and just follow the submission guidelines; we welcome submissions from new and aspiring authors as well as those who are further along in their careers.
- Do you have any particular thoughts about editors or publishers in general?
Editors are without a doubt the hardest working and most idealistic people in book publishing. Publishers represent the best opportunity for gifted writers to get wide distribution, readership, and money in what is an often difficult business.
- Personal information and interests for John:
Favorite TV Series:
The Americans, The Bear, Bosch, Burn Notice, Call My Agent, Fauda, Friday Night Lights, Hell on Wheels, Justified, Longmire, The Offer, Ozark, Poker Face, The Son, The Sopranos, Tehran, Tokyo Vice, Treme, Tulsa King, Yellowstone.
Any Given Sunday, The Bourne Ultimatum, Chinatown, Dazed and Confused, Elvis, Gladiator, Goodfellas, Jerry Maguire, School of Rock, Slapshot, Saving Private Ryan, Top Gun: Maverick, John Wick IV, Working Girl.
I am a hockey dad. My favorite sports teams are the Bruins, Steelers, and the Ole Miss Rebels. I enjoy traveling, and the Isle of Iona, Kyoto, Lake Placid, Miami, Prague, and Quebec City are among my favorite places. My favorite bookstore is Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. James Meredith is my inspiration. Swimming, running, music, long drives, and the occasional bourbon keep me centered. Current playlist includes Gary Clark Jr., Christone Kingfish Ingram, and the North Mississippi All Stars. We have two cats, an orange tabby and a Maine coon mix. I drive a Dodge Charger. Good coffee and the search for great manuscripts are what get me up in the morning.
- Personal information and interests for Gail:
When I'm not reading, I'm happiest in my kitchen cooking and listening to The Psychedelic Furs. I love history and am a terrific armchair traveler. I've always been a Francophile and also have a fascination with Antarctica. Love old movies and binge watch Better Call Saul. I do needlepoint and am passionate about music. I always love to learn something new.