In other news…

invictus-hbr-frt-v8e_rgb

It’s been a lovely autumn, with the release of Mike Carey’s film The Girl with all the Gifts, which stars the amazing Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close. Other hightlights include:

Simon Scarrow’s new book entered the Bookscan charts at number 6. This particularly exciting story involves Macro and Cato having to defend a silver mine against native rebels.

The paperback of Claire North’s The Sudden Appearance of Hope comes out in January, so save your Christmas vouchers for this one! It tells of the strange existence of a woman everyone forgets, and is a jaw-dropping essay on social media.

Anne Perry’s next Christmas story, A Christmas Message, is out now: the perfect gift. In this one, Narraway and Vespasia journey to the Holy Land. Convinced they’re being followed, and taking a holy fool under their wing, they travel to a mysterious dinner in Jerusalem.

Mike Carey is developing some new TV series, and has started adapting his latest book, Fellside, as a feature film. He’s about to start his next book, too.

Kay Sexton has won the Woollongong Short Story Prize, and I’m just launching her debut novel.

Kitty Ferguson has updated her biography of Stephen Hawking, in celebration of his 75th birthday in January. Better ask Santa for more book vouchers!

Emma Adams wrote a short audio play for visitors to the Bronte Parsonage, as part of the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Bronte season.

Lots more in the works!

Daniel

It’s with enormous regret that we announce the departure of Daniel, who’s decided to resign from the agency and leave the publishing industry.

Daniel’s talents extend themselves to other pursuits in life besides being an agent, and we wish him well. We regret that there hasn’t been a way to continue to accommodate his clients.

What does Brexit mean for writers?

845ad8b516d69f7012f616fb26f85c75

While the dust has far from settled, following this enormous bombshell, I thought I’d risk some speculation.

The film and TV industries have been clear that they think it’ll be more difficult to get finance, and that fewer British and European films and programmes will show up in each other’s territories. For the next couple of years, I think we’ll see polarisation between low-budget domestic product, and material which looks as if it’ll be successful internationally. So, anyone who can write good scripts that cost very little and can be shot here, and more Harry Potter.

We might see some unexpected alliances, too, as co-production partners.

The publishing industry has also been clear it thinks Brexit is disastrous. In particular, the US and UK may war over English-language books exported to Europe. If the Americans can get cheaper editions into Europe, the UK publishers will lose many thousands of sales. In response, I think publishers will try and protect their incomes by putting even greater pressure on authors to agree to World rights deals.

It’s never been easy to make a living in this business, but the next few years will call on our best entrepreneurial and creative skills.

Meg

Not Finishing Books

old books

In Latest Readings Clive James, a writer whose brilliance, wide-ranging literary tastes and seriousness some of us have appreciated too late, reads back through books that amused, interested, inspired or frustrated him in his earlier days. James has a playful turn of phrase those of my generation recall from his TV career and his musings on literature are very enjoyable. This, in turn, got me thinking about those books we put down due to lack of time, impetus, disinterest or disgust. Is this acceptable? Late in life James finds new meaning in the writing of Joseph Conrad, reads back or remembers Twentieth Century novel sequences- Olivia Manning’s Fortunes of War Trilogy and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. Books put down long ago are read again and James revels in the greater appreciation and understanding his maturity gives them.

James also laments the loss of books sold on or lost. His collection ran to tens of thousands – not a suitable number for a dying writer and his family took action to relocate his office from London to Cambridge. Many are bought, some covertly, for a second time. James hides them from his wife and daughter having discovered that his terminal illness is slow in reaching its inevitability.

This got me thinking about books I have either failed to finish or have given away over the years – artefacts that disappear from life. Indeed, James’ own Cultural Amnesia is one I proudly bought in hardback and never really appreciated or read in full. It was sold on with little thought and I’d love to read it now.

I recently found my crumpled Flamingo edition of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. A book which frustrated me to the extent that I vowed to rip it up or throw it at my bedroom wall. I never reached the end but the book survived. That is ok. Maybe I’ll read it again one day.

Those with a large reading pile – for example literary agents – face a Sisyphean task in getting through a reading list. There are submissions – solicited and otherwise, first drafts from clients, further drafts, edits in response to the agent’s editorial comments, trade articles, newspapers and review columns, websites and published books which are sent or need to be read to keep up with the market. Do emails belong to this group? This volume poses a problem even for the most dedicated reader. The bedside pile grows until it swamps furniture.

Over the years I left left unfinished books by Sebastian Faulks, Murray Bail, Henry Miller and too many others to admit. I left the Sebastian Faulks novel on the roof of a car and drove off – actually glad to see the back of it. I have left untouched books bought or given to me by writers as varied as Javier Marias, Donna Tartt and Bernardo Atxaga. Dickens’ Selected Journalism has defeated me a dozen times. It seems to bring on bouts of sleep or distraction. Selected Writings of William Hazlitt fell by the wayside long ago. At the same time I have read too many Maigrets, Mankells, Larssons, waded through too much average later Philip Roth and read some books many times over as guilty pleasures.

I have come to believe that leaving books unfinished is ok. Clive James has made me realise that they can be read further down the line in life and probably read better. I need not allow unread spines to psych me out, as they’re trying to as I write this blog (Call It Sleep by Henry Roth). I recently picked up a book I love: The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane. I feel an affinity for this book, especially the essay Holloway that deals with an area of Dorset I know well. Yet on re-reading it I realised I’d hardly read it at all – perhaps only two chapters and a few others scantily. The book has been part of my life for ten years and I have recommended it to several people. This realisation made me understand Clive James’s point that it is the quality and understanding of the reading that counts. Don’t let your reading list dominate you, as you’ll fail to do it justice if you feel intimidated by it. A book, an article or a blog will receive the reading it deserves in the end. The size of the pile should not be significant.

Daniel

A Ki Christmas

Image

What’s our holiday reading this year?

Meg:

I’m reading some clients’ work (a couple have just delivered some exciting new projects). The non-client book on my bedside table right now is Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. It’s not something I would have sought out, but a friend insisted I read it. I’m enjoying how evocative it is, how it makes me experience a very particular time and place… and how well his unfeasibly long sentences work.
The book I’m giving several friends for Christmas is Frances Hardinge’s The Cuckoo Song, which was a wonderful discovery this year.

Daniel

We are away this Christmas and I am taking Deep South by Paul Theroux, whose writing I always find interesting. As we’ll be in Majorca I am also taking Wild Olives: Life in Majorca with Robert Graves. Graves settled in Deia in 1929 and was absent for 10 years during the Spanish Civil War. This is a wonderful memoir by his son, William, of the family’s return to Deia in 1946 and life with this great polymath. Graves’ legacy is clearly evident in Deia today.
A book I’d like to receive this year is Trunk Books- The Art of Smallfilms- The Work of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. A wondrous illustrated book on the genius of two gentlemen who lived locally to my home.

And in other media?

Meg

It’s the run-up to the voting for the BAFTA awards, so I’m bingeing on movies right now. I love watching as many films as I can fit into one day, although after a week of this it makes you a bit funny in the head. Special favourites this year include Carol, Brooklyn, Suffragettes and Ex Machina. The new Charlie Brown movie also gets a big thumbs-up for honouring the original material while making it feel fresh.

Daniel

In other media I’ll be catching up on the Swedish crime drama Beck, starring the understated Peter Haber and adapted beautifully for television from the books by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall.
Film wise I’ll be forcing my other half to finally watch the original Star Wars trilogy so that we can go and see The Force Awakens in January. I also have rediscovered the George Stevens film Shane and will be giving it a close watch. It’s a film in which much of the narrative goes unspoken and is much more than a ‘Western’ which it is often referred to as. It’s an absolute classic and I understand now why it was shown in English literature classes at school.

And what Christmas tales do we treasure?

Meg

For me, Christmas is about big long classic movies. What will it be this year? So often, we get served up The Sound of Music, which I had a troubled relationship with (is there enough insulin in the world to cope with so much sugar?) until I saw it again as a grown-up and noticed its vein of cynicism. This year over the break there’s Gone With the Wind, whose qualities are often overlooked. It’s such a good tale of coming to self-realisation that I find it a salutary reminder never to underestimate my own occasional blindness.

Daniel

For nostalgia I often read Dickens’ Christmas Stories around this time of year but I prefer Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. This is a perfect short story of a young boy, Buddy, and his close friend who is also his much older cousin and their yuletide habits. The two are sadly removed from one another by time and circumstance. It’s an exercise in moving, symbolic concise writing, sentimental, brilliant on friendship which crosses boundaries and truly beautiful.

IMG_4969 (1)

Hard at work!

As some may have noticed, we’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front. We bought another agency back in April, and have been paddling hard like the proverbial duck while attempting to look serene.

The easiest part of the process was doing the deal with my agent friend. She was great and furnished me with all sorts of information: spreadsheets of current licences, contact details, email addresses of royalty departments and so forth. Granted, the deal was on the basis that the agency couldn’t accommodate a large number of new clients – not with the level of attention we like to give.

What I’ve learned in the process:

1. Agents carry a very large amount of information in their heads. You think you’ve put everything down on paper, but it’s a whole nother thing to come along as a newcomer to this information.
2. Some people need telling twice. Some people are still trying to send money to the old agency. There will be people I have to remind more than twice, I can already tell.
3. You have to take the time it takes to establish good relationships. This applies to the new clients as well as new co-agents and publishers. It’s well worth it.
4. Change makes everyone anxious. Of course.

We’ve worked out who needs what tax forms, who’s writing what and for whom, and what money hasn’t arrived. It’s also been important to work out the new clients’ preferences in style of agenting, from the ‘professional only and don’t ask me about my new dog’, to the ‘I’d quite like an opinion on everything I’ve ever written’, to the ‘I miss old-fashioned publishing lunches and I’ll be really happy if we can linger till four in the afternoon talking about old friends and bad books’.

A few things have gone by the board lately, which we should apologise for. We haven’t been as responsive as we’d like to submissions, in particular. But everything’s now getting back onto an even keel. Still paddling hard, though.

We’ve been busy!

Emma Adams’s play Animals got great reviews. London City Nights said: “As funny as it is relevant… with its willingness to get weird, creative and disgusting it hit all my critical bases. A winner.” Plays To See said: “The horror of the play lies in its plausibility, and its potential as the future of our society. The play is never excessive, always purposeful in its movement: the cruelty of the Sandwich Circle’s cannibalism is balanced against the cruelty of the Utility’s enforced euthanasia. And perhaps we may find ourselves a little uneasy at the play’s comedy, which is full and rich in its conception.”

Richard Askwith was a finalist for the Thwaites Wainwright Prize for Running Free. He didn’t win, but was in excellent company. It’s an incredibly evocative and interesting book.

http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/running-free-a-runners-journey-back-to-nature/9780224091978

Mike Carey’s dramatization of his book The Girl with all the Gifts starts filming on Monday with Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close.

Brian Daniel’s play Where’s Your Mama Gone is running at the Hen and Chickens Pub: a unique perspective on the Yorkshire Ripper, and the collateral damage to the families of the victims:

http://www.londontheatre.co.uk/londontheatre/news/ltg15/wheresyourmamagone14652.htm

Sean Hutson has a new novel out at last – Monolith – and Caffeine Nights will be re-issuing his backlist with bold new covers. A triumphant return of this iconic writer.

http://www.caffeine-nights.com

Anne Perry has a new novel out in hardcover. Corridors of the Night is a ‘Monk’ novel about the dawn of blood transfusion – a particularly compelling addition to her canon.

https://www.headline.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781472219473

Simon Scarrow’s latest book is published on 4 June. Hearts of Stone is a moving novel set among the Greek Resistance fighters in World War II.

https://www.headline.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9780755380244

Catherine Webb, writing as Claire North, has a new book out. Touch is described by Kirkus as “A dark thriller that asks readers to imagine whom they would be if they could be anyone. Literally.” and concludes, “The high stakes and breakneck pace of the plot will draw readers in, and the meditations on what it means to be human and to be loved will linger long after the last shot is fired.”

https://www.littlebrown.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9780356504599</P.