Welcome to Helena Fairfax who brings us another in her series of interviews with literary agents. This month Abby Saul of Browne & Miller Literary Associates answers Helena’s questions.
Browne & Miller Literary Associates is Chicago's premier literary agency, specializing in full-service representation of a select clientele. Our tastes are broad and eclectic and we value exceptional writing and very fine storytelling above all else. Founded as “Multimedia Product Development, Inc.” in 1971 by the late Jane Jordan Browne, the agency became known as Browne & Miller Literary Associates after Danielle Egan-Miller joined Jane as her partner. Danielle became president and Joanna MacKenzie joined the agency in 2003. The agency currently represents more than 100 authors.
I joined Browne & Miller in 2013 after starting my career on the production and digital publishing side of the industry, first at John Wiley & Sons and then at Sourcebooks. I had interned for the agency in 2007 and stayed in touch with Danielle and Joanna as publishing took me to New York and then back to Chicago. Becoming a part of the agency was the perfect next step for me, a fantastic use of my well-honed publishing and reading skills.
Are you ever approached by British authors for representation? And do you perceive any problems representing an author who lives outside the US, or has it become irrelevant in this digital age?
Yes, we are often approached by British authors for representation—it seems to be happening more and more, which is great! There was a time where we felt there was a problem with representing someone outside the US, but no more. We’ve had an exciting start to 2016 with several new clients, including two British authors (one who lives in Scotland, one who lives in Singapore). Skype and FaceTime and email are wonderful things, and we’re making good use of them.
Are there any specific plots or themes you’re seeking in women’s fiction/romance?
Browne & Miller is always looking for good stories told well, so we’re open to all sorts of plots and themes in women’s fiction and romance. That being said, we each have our own faves (Danielle loves hot and steamy, Joanna loves firsts—first kiss, first love). I particularly love stories where something from the past influences the present (whether that’s a past mystery, a historical happening, a found letter, etc), as well as projects where setting is practically the third protagonist in the love story. I’m a sucker for a crumbling house, a misty moor, a sun-warmed beach house…
And is there anything you’re tired of seeing in the slush pile?
I’m tired of seeing romance where the main conflict could be solved with a single forthright conversation (ugh!). Does no one speak to one another?
What do you enjoy most about your job? And least?
My job is great! I most enjoy reading fantastic manuscripts and working with amazing authors. It’s the best. There is very little I dislike about my job, but the most heartbreaking, for sure, is that rare instance where I love a project and can’t find a home for it.
Are there any websites/blogs/podcasts you regularly visit that you would recommend?
One of the book websites I regularly visit and always highly recommend is Goodreads. For those of us who are big readers, it’s a great spot to track what we’ve read and find new recommendations from other bookish people. (If you aren’t tracking what you read every year, I encourage you to do so! It’s a lovely form of journaling, and sites like Goodreads make it very easy.)
What’s your favourite romance novel of all time?
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. (You’ll see from my choices that I’m a total Anglophile—many of my all-time favorite books are by British authors!)
Apart from your own authors, which book have you enjoyed the most in the past twelve months, and why?
Oh my, I’ve read so many wonderful books in the past twelve months! So as to not go on and on, I’m forced to categorize and limit myself to only four: For romance reads, my favorite has probably been Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley. For “I was so completely charmed” reads, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. For big, literary, all-consuming-no-sleep reads, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. For mysterious and stressful reads, The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Read, of course! But also hike, binge the latest Netflix or BBC show, and play games with friends and family.
If you could describe your working day in just three words, what would they be?
Read, problem-solve, repeat.
Thank you Abby and Helena.
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