Saturday, January 26, 2013

7 Questions For: Literary Agent John Cusick

John Cusick joined Greenhouse in January 2013 after several years with a small New York agency, where he began as an assistant and rose to be an agent with a fast-developing client list. As well as being a YA author in his own right, John is a sought-after speaker on writing, both at writers’ conferences and via webinars.

You can read his blog here:

For more information, check out my friends Natalie Aguirre and Casey McCormick's wonderful blog, Literary Rambles.

And now John Cusick faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

That’s a tricky one. To answer honestly I have to break them into categories, like the New York Times bestsellers. In children’s literature, Norton Juster’s Phantom Tollbooth and Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting are genius. My all-time favorite is Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. My favorite book for grownups is Ada or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov. It took me two reads to understand any of it, and I’ve since reread it more than any other book except The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which takes second place. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is third.

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

I have a weakness for movies about writers and artists. Amadeus and Wonder Boys are both up there. I’ve had many favorite movies over the years, but nothing comes close to the pure bliss I experienced seeing Jurassic Park in theaters as a kid. For T.V., Mad Men is brilliant, the reboot of Battlestar Galactica was amazing (Politics! Religion! Robots!), and on the other end of the spectrum, I’m down to re-watch Black Books anytime.

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

My ideal client works hard and writes a ton. He or she handles rejection like a champ, and is always striving to improve. I feel some kind of bond with all my authors; connecting on a personal level is vital for a positive professional relationship. I like to joke around too, so a sense of humor is a bonus (I feel like I’m filling out a personals ad!).

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

I’d love to see a middle-grade series for boys set in a truly original fantasy or sci-fi world. I love page-turners, whether they’re adventure or contemporary romance; anything fast-paced is up my street. I like high sci-fi, but I’m especially interested in stories set in our contemporary world with a sci-fi or fantastical twist. Think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I love horror and suspense. I’d be interested to read a sprawling, romantic historical. Tolstoy for teens.

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

I love championing fantastic authors. I love listening to that little voice saying Holy cow this is really good!  I love spotting things I know a certain editor will flip for. And of course, the best moment is calling a client with an offer. Oh man, I wish that feeling came in chewable tablets, I really do. My least favorite part is having to part ways with a client or a house. Sometimes despite everyone’s hard work and best intentions, the fit just isn’t right. It’s always painful, but a necessary part of the job.

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)

1). Write a ton of books. It’s important to experience projects, a lot of them, from conception to completion to revision to re-revision. Writing endings changes how you think about first chapters, and starting from scratch teaches you where you’re going. Write good books and bad books, short books and long ones. But write as many of them as you can.

2). Don’t try to be a normal, balanced, sane individual. You’re a writer. Give in. This is what you do and it makes you crazy and obsessive and it often means the dishes are piling up and your hair looks like a forest fire and you’ve missed six dentist appointments. Oh well. Give over to it fully. Be a maniac. It’s worth it.

3). Have as many people read your stuff as possible, from friends to writing groups to strangers on the internet. It’s important to get a mix of constructive and not-so-constructive feedback. It will improve your craft and thicken your skin.

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

Definitely my all time favorite: Nabokov. From his interviews and biographies, he seems like the kind of guy who could talk about Russian literature, bad television, and the best place to grab a cup of coffee in Vienna, all in the same breath.  The one downside, I’d be so nervous he’d think I was boring!


  1. Great interview. I loved learning what John is looking for and his advice to writers. He's definitely on my list of agents to query for my upper MG fantasy.

  2. Yikes! Forgot to say love the new look of your blog. Perfect.

  3. Wonderful interview. I really liked the advice given. :)

  4. This was such a fun interview. John is not only an amazing agent and writer, he's an incredible, caring person. Loved this: "Don’t try to be a normal, balanced, sane individual. You’re a writer. Give in." ;)

  5. I'm giving in John! Love this! I will no longer resist. I am Writer, hear me cry! :)


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