Saturday, August 21, 2010

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Amy Boggs

Here is Amy's official bio from the Donald Maass Literary Agency's website:

Amy Boggs joined the agency in 2009. She is looking for fantasy and science fiction, especially urban fantasy, paranormal romance, steampunk, YA/children's, and alternate history. Historical fiction, multi-cultural fiction, Westerns, and works that challenge their genre are also welcome. She worked previously for the Beth Vesel Literary Agency and is a graduate of Vassar College. Please email her at with a query letter and the first five pages pasted into the body of the email.

Amy Boggs was recently promoted to Contracts Manager. I had the good fortune to meet Amy at the Midwest Writer's Workshop. We talked about our mutual love of The Duff and science fiction/fantasy and all sorts of other cool stuff. She showed me her ereader and how she reviews manuscripts She told me about her client’s upcoming book and she was so excited and passionate about it you would have thought it was her book. Anyone who can get Amy to feel that way about their project is a lucky person indeed.

And now Amy Boggs faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Ha, start with an impossible one. I'll follow the other agents' lead and concentrate on MG.

* Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - These stories were my childhood, and I simply would not be who I am without them. They made me more confident and renewed my love for children's books just when I was hitting an annoying "I'm too good for that kids' stuff" stage of my teenagerdom. Plus they are fantastic stories! I can always pick them up, open to any page, and instantly fall in love again.

* Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner - I didn't read The Thief until I was 18, which means for 7 years the book was out there and I was oblivious. I try to make up for it with my adoration now. The Thief was so good that when I found out there was a sequel, I refused to read it for years. I didn't want anything to possibly tarnish the wonderfulness of the first. When I heard a 3rd book in the series had come out, in hard cover, with a complete reissue of the other two with shiny new covers, I figured that the sequel had to be somewhat good. It was. And the 3rd was even better (dare I say, even better than TheThief?). The 4th came out this year and was fantastic. This series is an absolute must-read for any writer. If not for the stories themselves, do it for the point-of-view. MWT is the Goddess of POV.

* There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom by Louis Sachar - The only book on the list which I actually read when I was in the intended MG reading bracket (I still have my beat-up old paperback from 3rd grade). I also loved Sachar for his Wayside School stories, and later for Holes (at which point I discovered his other work and I have yet to find one I didn't love). But this book stands out. I can't tell you what my younger self loved about it, but my current self could wax eternal about the gender and violence issues, the realistic portrayal of elementary school social interactions, and the deft handling of the question "how does a 'bad' kid come from a good home?"

Honorable Mentions: The Big Splash, The Castle in the Attic, The Boys Start the War/The Girls Get Even, Bunnicula, My Teacher is an Alien, Chronicles of Narnia

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

Movies: All my favorite movies have one theme in common: story-telling.

* The Fall - This is both light- and heavy-handed storytelling at their best. Our POV character is a little girl, so much of what is happening in the anchor story is over her head but an unwinding mystery for the audience. And then there is the story our stuntman tells the little girl. Astounding visuals aside, it really highlights the fact that each story must have two things: a teller and a listener. Together they create the story; it cannot exist without one or the other. Good lesson for writers.

* Stage Beauty - What makes a story, who can tell a story, what happens when people no longer want to hear your story. Plus complicated gender issues, and one of the best final lines ever (up there with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow's).

* The Brothers Bloom - I'm a bit of a sucker for con stories. And a con story where the con artist isn't so much focused on the con as creating a story? Yeah. Love.


*Firefly - I love westerns. I love space. I love snarky rebels. Any questions?

*Soap/Golden Girls - Since they were done by the same creative team, I'll count them as one. Just sheer brilliant writing. The scenarios get crazy hilarious, but they always know when to pull it in and focus on the humanity.

* Being Human - The only currently-running show on my list, the premise might sound like a bit of a joke but it is brilliantly executed. Also, I can't think of any other show that has ever let one of their main characters become such an utter monster and yet still manage to pull sympathy from me. It also has the only werewolf transformation I've seen that actually seemed painful; the boy can scream.

Honorable Mention to The 10th Kingdom, House, Supernatural, Castle.

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

Excited, passionate, brilliant, funny, patient, open to critique, eager to revise, and eager to write.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

I tend to prefer works with a fantastical bent. I love being taken into new and fantastic places, and as a kid I was wild about works that took me on an adventure (that I would then reenact with friends). This sense of adventure is possible without the fantastic as well, like the wildly inventive Big Splash or the realistic portrayal of "the kids I wasn't friend with in school" that Sachar specializes in. But really all I want is a fun and engaging plot set in a vividly drawn setting filled with uniquely wrought characters. That doesn't sound too hard, does it?;)

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is delving in deep with clients, helping them push their work to become something even greater than it already is. My clients are thoughtful, intelligent people who love talking about writing, so the back and forth with them always gets my head and heart racing.

My least favorite thing is nothing is every finished! I know this is true for any work, but knowing that you are never shelving the "last" book or responding to the "last" query gets a bit Sisyphean sometimes.

I enjoy the tasks themselves, just not quite the unending nature of them.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Be daring. It's far better to fail spectacularly than to stay safe and achieve "meh." Push your stories beyond the boundaries of what makes sense, make your characters do things that they would never, ever do. Of course it is then up to you to make those plots and actions seem perfectly logical, but by writing big you'll surprise the reader and yourself.

Note: While this advice can be applied to many things in life, it doesn't apply to queries. Keep those simple and straightforward, and let your book do the wowing.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Well, I never choose living writers because there's always a slim chance I could talk with them someday, so I'll go with Agatha Christie. I utterly devoured her books in middle school, and after reading her autobiography, I was convinced we would get along famously. I'd love to test that theory. Plus she's a brilliant storyteller, so I would definitely be entertained.


  1. I loved There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom! I haven't read that in years so now I definitely want to re-read it!

    Great interview. I especially love the advice to "Be Daring" (except with queries!). It's something I need to remind myself how to be. :)

  2. Great post, as usual.

    Amy Boggs looks like a great agent. I love her reading list!

  3. Amy is with the Donald Mass Literary Agency? That's damn impressive! What a wonderful agency it is; so many of my favourite authors are represented by agents from Donald Mass :)

    Thanks for taking the time out to do this blog, Amy!


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