Monday, June 10, 2013

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Christa Heschke

Christa Heschke graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children's Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively looking for picture books, middle grade, young adult and new adult projects and is currently building her list.

Established in 1928, McIntosh and Otis, Inc. is a full-service literary agency located in New York. It represents a broad range of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including many bestsellers, literary icons, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners. In addition to representing the subsidiary rights for its own clients, McIntosh and Otis, Inc. also represents the sale of subsidiary rights for Louisiana State University Press and University of Nebraska Press.
McIntosh and Otis, Inc. is committed to working with writers to develop their careers. Our agents are able to provide detailed and substantive guidance to our clients throughout the publication process.

Follow Christa on twitter @ChristaHeschke.

And now Christa Heschke faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

This is a tough one…. it’s hard to narrow it down as I’ve always been a big reader (probably not too surprising considering my line of work:). Growing up some books that stand out in my mind are The Hobbit (Tolkien), Into The Land of the Unicorns (Bruce Coville), Pride and Prejudice (Austen) and The Fear Street series (R.L. Stein). I was big into series as a kid, I also read The Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew and The Boxcar Children among others. More recently, on the adult side, I fell in love with Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. And now I have so many new favorites from my wonderful clients that I simply can’t pick one!    

Whoops, that’s way more than three, isn’t it?

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

I would definitely consider myself an avid moviegoer. It’s another great way to see a story unfold besides the written word. Movie favorites are The Lord of the Rings (entire trilogy as one), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (hilarious!) and my ultimate children’s favorite The Little Mermaid. TV wise I’m a fan of Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries, and Awkward among others. These are just current favorites. If I were to go back and think about all the TV shows I’ve ever watched it’d be a longer list: I’d have to add Veronica Mars, Buffy and The X-Files to start.

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

My ideal client is someone who realizes I have their best interests at heart and trusts my judgment, but also is comfortable enough with me to share their ideas. It’s a partnership! If you have an editor in mind for a project I didn’t mention, tell me.  You’re having trouble with your revision? Give me a call. I am here to help my clients every step of the way. I don’t want them ever to feel that they are bothering me. An ideal client will also be open to revision and new ideas. I know it can be hard to re-work a project you’ve given everything to, but if in the end it makes it more marketable while also maintaining your vision that’s a win, win! Ultimately, every writer has to revise in a way they feel comfortable.

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

I am especially looking for contemporary young adult and all types of middle grade projects (fantasy, adventure, humorous, realistic). I’ve always been a fan of fantasy (as you can probably tell from my earlier answers) but any fantasy project I take on, especially in YA, has to really stand out from what’s currently on the shelves. The YA market is pretty saturated with fantasy, paranormal and dystopian. In my opinion, it will always have a place, it’s just a bit harder right now. But beyond genres, I’m really just looking for a story with a great hook and compelling voice with characters you come to care about (even if it’s loving to hate them).  For YA, I’d love a Veronica Mars-esque mystery (for MG too), thrillers, fun and/or heartfelt contemporary and horror (think Anna Dressed in Blood, The Archived or something reminiscent of The Fatal Frame video game series--creepy and eerie, that stays with me. Not so much gory or violent).  I would love to see someone do what the show Awkward has done for TV for books---something humorous, genuine and relatable. No matter the genre, I’m a big fan of books with some kind of romance, even if it’s more in the background.

I’m less picky when it comes to middle grade as I’m really trying to build this part of my list. I’m interested in girl and boy books and, of course, those that encompass both audiences. Middle grade mysteries and adventures are always fun, but I’d be interested in receiving some great “growing up” stories as well.

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

I really enjoy being an Agent. I get to come into work and do what I love every day. It’s a wonderful, collaborative experience working with writers, helping them to develop their craft and watch them grow from book to book. At McIntosh and Otis, we look to represent writers for their entire career. We’re a full service agency--- I handle audio, foreign rights, and film/TV/stage on top of print and electronic rights for our children’s clients. These subrights are a great source of extra income and I’m always actively looking to sell them --it’s always a great day when we get to bring an offer to our client’s attention!

Honestly, I can’t really think of a “least favorite thing.” There are of course ups and downs, but that’s the case with anything you do in life. You can always learn and grow from less pleasant experiences and that, to me, is a good thing. I guess I’m just a very positive person and I’m persistent so when one thing doesn’t work out I look for other ways to go about it.

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)

Write what you love and have to get on the page and keep at it! Don’t let rejections keep you from accomplishing your goals. Finding an Agent and then an Editor is a process---it’s all about finding the right person who clicks with you and your work and sometimes it takes awhile to find this person. Remember, some of the most prolific writers got dozens of rejections before being published. A rejection doesn’t mean your work isn’t good, it just means you haven’t found the right fit yet. Take any criticism/feedback you receive and use it to your advantage.

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

Hmm….this is tough. There are so many authors I’d like to meet and pick their brain. I would have loved to meet J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit is one of my favorite fantasy books and The Lord of the Rings are up there too, of course. I would just like to learn what the process is like for writing an epic fantasy of that caliber. You not only create characters and story but an entire living and breathing world. I think some people underestimate how much work goes into world building and creating an engaging fantasy project. Not to mention, Tolkien created his own languages—it’s amazing to me. I had a secret code with one of my best friends in middle school, but an entire language? That’s quite a feat. I would definitely ask him to teach me Elvish!  

As for someone current, I’d have to say Patrick Rothfuss because The Name of the Wind is amazing and he just seems like a cool guy.


  1. Great interview. I love Land of the Unicorn and Game of Thrones too. So excited Christa likes middle grade and fantasy. I'm definitely adding her to my list when I get ready to query.

  2. Wonderful interview, and excellent advice!

  3. Fabulous interview! Thanks so much!

  4. I love to hear from agents who stress the collaborative process. That is a great thing for aspiring authors to hear. Thanks!


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