Saturday, November 20, 2010

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Katie Grimm

Katie Grimm joined Don Congdon Associates in 2007. She is interested in vivid literary fiction, transportive historical fiction, up-market women's fiction, cohesive short story collections, lurid mysteries and thrillers with exotic settings, high-concept young adult, and middle grade and children's with heart and humor.  Most importantly, she hooked by fiction with emotional resonance and longevity, and in her opinion, this requires an authentic and fresh voice, relatable characters, and a twisting plot that keeps her intrigued.  For non-fiction, she is looking for offbeat narrative non-fiction, European history, pressing cultural issues, memoir with distinct voice, religion from a historical or sociological point of view, narrative science and medical, multi-cultural, illustrated, and counter-culture.

Don Congdon Associates, Inc. represents over one hundred active authors and many authors' estates, as well as a substantial backlist. The agency is a member of the AAR and has been in business since 1983. Many of its authors have appeared on best-seller lists, and have won numerous awards, including: Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award winners Russell Baker and Edna Buchanan; recipient of the National Book Award Ellen Gilchrist; New York Times Best Seller Kathryn Stockett; James Thurber Prize winner David Sedaris; winner of an Edgar and Grand Master of Horror awards Richard Matheson; and Ray Bradbury, who has received numerous awards including the National Book Foundation’s 2002 medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters."

As always, for more information about Katie Grimm or other literary agents, I recommend consulting my friend Casey McCormick's truly excellent blog, Literary Rambles as it's one of the best resources for writers around.

And now Katie Grimm faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

I’ll try to stay to recent MG and YA:

CHAOS WALKING Trilogy by Patrick Ness – The series is built around the construct of everyone being able to hear the main character’s thoughts, and this forces a unique emotional honesty between the characters and the reader. The 3rd book recently came out in the US, and I was so pleased that the series came together in such an elegant and satisfying way.

SHIPBREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi – Bacigalupi pushed my imagination into overdrive by creating a very specific world of rusting tankers and crew bosses rather than borrowing from familiar templates. I was impressed how the novel further built on the palpable atmosphere with an emotionally satisfying story about morality and growing up.

HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour – We talk about voice and recreating the teenage experience, and this novel accurately explores the thorny feelings of being anyone (not just a teen) in an intense emotional situation. When done poorly, these type books can come off as cloying or one-note, but here LaCour explores the issue of suicide with deft realism.


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

My sense of humor is a jumble of too much Seinfeld, Golden Girls, Absolutely Fabulous, Arrested Development and 30 Rock.

For consistently good storytelling and rich characters, I turn to The Wire and Mad Men. I also love House for being such a disagreeable genius.

And just to completely confuse you, I hold a candle for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Departed, Gladiator, and Cabaret.

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

Self-awareness – most positive qualities of an author/client stem from a good sense of self, like being able to accept criticism and effectively communicate. Also, an ideal client has endless enthusiasm for what they do – the excitement authors bring to the project needs to extend from the agent, editor, marketing, sales team to booksellers, librarians and yes, readers. Authors should imagine themselves as the spark that will ignite us all and start a chain reaction.

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

I’ve focused on MG and YA here, but I also represent adult literary, up-market women’s, mystery/thriller and narrative non-fiction. Across all genres I am looking for something that has a high concept hook with the emotional resonance to have staying power. As incongruous as this may seem, I’m looking for more horror and gore in both children’s and the mystery/thriller department. I’m also always on the hunt for more historical fiction across all genres from the early modern period and beyond – there are so many meaty events and points of view in history that have yet to get the literary treatment.

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

My favorite thing is being able to bring new voices to a hungry audience. Nothing is more exciting than reading a book that changes my worldview or ignites my sense of wonder, and I just want to put a copy of it in everyone’s hands. My least favorite thing is being the bearer of bad news – either if an editor has passed or I am just not connecting with a re-write or submission, the disappointment an author feels is not lost on me. It’s the hardest part of the job because we all want to fall in love with a project together.

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)

Read every day. Write every day. Success in this business isn’t a happy coincidence. And remember that your writing voice is just that – you need to find a pitch that suits you and practice, practice, practice.

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

J.R.R. Tolkien – I’d love to talk to Tolkien about the mutability of language and his thoughts on how stories both grow out of and impact the human experience. I also sometimes think I’d be a philologist in an alternate universe (not just to carry on the Grimm name!), and of course I am a huge LOTR fan too.

1 comment:

  1. What an informative interview--thanks! Now I have a question: what is "up-market women's fiction"?


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