Tuesday, July 31, 2018

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Reiko Davis

Before joining DeFiore in early 2016, Reiko Davis was an associate agent at Miriam Altshuler Literary Agency for four years. She grew up in Kansas City, received her BA in Comparative Literature and Art History from Brown University, and is a graduate of the Columbia Publishing Course.

Reiko’s interests are varied, but she is particularly drawn to adult literary and upmarket fiction, narrative nonfiction, and young adult and middle grade fiction. Above all, she wants to discover books that surprise and move her with their irresistible characters and language.

She loves a strong narrative voice; smart, funny heroines; narrowly located settings (especially towns in the South and Midwest); family sagas; darkly suspenseful novels; and stories of remarkable friendships or that explore the often perilous terrain of human relationships. For children’s books, she is actively looking for young adult and middle grade fiction—whether it be contemporary, historical, light fantasy, or simply a story with a timeless quality and vibrant characters. She would love to see more #OwnVoices manuscripts from writers of color. For nonfiction, she is most interested in cultural, social, and literary history; fascinating tours through niche subjects; narrative science; psychology; guides on creativity; and memoir.

And now Reiko Davis faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Wow, this is always a tough question. Since I’m being interviewed for a middle-grade blog, I’ll focus on my favorite books while I was growing up:

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (the entire series)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

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

Cool Hand Luke
Bend It Like Beckham
Good Will Hunting

Television Shows:
The Handmaid’s Tale
Gilmore Girls
Pride and Prejudice (the BBC mini-series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle)

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

I like to think that all of my clients are ideal clients! In my experience, clients who are communicative about how I can best support them, open to editorial direction, fiercely committed to their art and to establishing strong connections with their audience and the literary community at large, goes a long way.

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

Innovative, gripping adult literary fiction and memoir, heart-driven middle grade fiction, and compulsively readable YA fiction. I love working on projects that give me a fresh perspective on the world, a culture, or a timely issue. Books by underrepresented voices, including writers of color, immigrants, women, and the LGBT community. Books that aren't afraid to tackle big questions or important emotional truths, and do so through remarkable storytelling. In these difficult times, I want to discover books with a heart that foster empathy and connection above all else. And, at the risk of sounding like a language snob, the quality of writing at the line level is essential for me.

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

I love that there are many different roles I get to step into as an agent. I’m never bored. I’m an editor, a strategist, a cheerleader, a confidant, a mediator, a spin doctor. I get to work on both the creative and business sides. There’s nothing more gratifying to me than discovering an incredibly talented writer and then guiding him or her through the publishing process, until one day I’m on the subway and spot someone reading that writer’s book, or I’m in my local bookstore and see the book perched on a shelf, waiting for the next person to fall in love with it for the first time like I did. It feels like magic, even though I’ve had the privilege of overseeing its development each step of the way.

My least favorite thing is thing is the hurry-up-and-wait part of my job. It requires a lot of patience.

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 so many books. Study the writers you admire who came before you. Support and learn from the writers you admire who are in the trenches alongside you. Build connections with your book-loving community. Participate in conferences and workshops if you’re able and truly enjoy those things. Choose an agent who shares a vision with you and will help you thrive creatively. Read more. Understand that rejection and being told no is just an inherent part of the publishing business and that shouldn’t deter you.

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

Virginia Woolf. It would be beyond cool to get a more intimate glimpse of her brilliant, slightly terrifying mind.

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