Today, I have the privilege of giving you a look inside KT Literary Agency with an interviewMSWL (Manuscript Wish List) can be found here . Hilary is on Twitter at: @HilaryHarwell
KT (Kim Tomsic): Hi, Hilary! Thank you for e-meeting with me and for agreeing to answer my “fast five” questions.
HH (Hilary Harwell): You bet! I’m happy to share. Thanks so much for having me.
KT: Question number one, the oh-so-important ice breaker: Imagine it’s Saturday night and you MUST sing karaoke. There’s no backing out—the very life of your agency depends upon it; the life of your pet waiting at home depends upon it! What are you going to sing? (and by the way, what kind of pet is waiting/or do you wish was waiting at home?)
HH: Oh boy, I think I’d have to sing (rap?) some old school hip hop – a little Biggie or De La Soul perhaps? If I was forced to actually sing (for my cats’ lives), many of you would be in tears but I’d be yowling to the Lumineers. Their song Angela, specifically.
KT: Yes! I love that you chose a Denver-based band! Okay, moving on--luckily for querying authors, KT Literary’s website features query tips and the opportunity for authors to submit their query for public review and feedback. Examples make the rest of us wiser! (Readers, if you’d like to climb inside Hilary’s mind, you can read her very specific feedback AT THIS LINK) Since we have no query as part of this interview, what are the fast-five pieces of advice you can offer authors about successful querying?
HH: 1. Make it concise and clear –edit and pare it down as much as possible 2. Make sure you give enough plot for the reader to understand what your story is about without giving the ending away 3. Personalize if you can – and by this I don’t mean, ‘I see from your website you’re open to YA.’ I get this too often and it doesn’t add to the query. I’d prefer to see you’ve done a little homework and that you have a specific reason for querying me. Otherwise, just skip it. 4. Choose 2 good comps – show me where your project will sit on the shelf and that you understand the industry. 5. Hook me! Make me care enough about your protagonist’s plight to want to read the opening pages. This includes what’s at stake if your protagonist fails. It’s a challenge, but if you can execute and provide a solid query and good opening pages, I’ll definitely be requesting more!
KT: Amazing advice found above!!!
KT Question three: I am a huge fan of Freaky Friday and any Freaky Friday-type book (like The Swap by Megan Schull). If you could have a Freaky Friday moment with any literary character, whose shoes would you step in and why?
HH: Honestly? Kaz Brekker aka Dirtyhands. I adore him and would love to crawl inside his shady little mind.
KT Question four: How do you divide your time between wearing your two hats—writer and agent? Also, it seems I opened this interview boldly claiming that you are an editorial agent, is that true? Lastly, what are books on craft that you recommend? (Yes, I’m sneaky—I just asked three questions, but who’s counting?)
HH: I am an editorial agent – I love partnering with authors to develop their projects as much as possible. I try to provide open-ended feedback (lots of questions and what ifs) that help authors engage and come up with their own solutions to the suggestions I make. After all, it’s your baby.
Craft books? Definitely The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. Another favorite is Stephen King’s On Writing. Oh, and Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kidlit.
As far as managing my time, at the current moment my own writing has taken a bit of a back seat while I build my list at the agency. It’s not something I’ll ever let go of completely, but my passion for representing the work of others has my full attention.
KT Question five: What’s the difference between an agent and an associate agent AND what do you hope to find in your slush pile?
HH: An associate agent is basically the same as a junior agent. It’s the title given to a person who’s just getting started at an agency. A full agent is someone who has a longer tenure, but specific titles and the weight they carry can vary from one agency to the next.
Right now, I’d love to see some original dark fantasy – a la Leigh Bardugo and Maggie Stiefvater’s THE SCORPIO RACES. I love atmospheric horror and thrillers – please, please make me sleep with the light on. Beyond that, I’m always looking for stories told from diverse perspectives, am LGBTQ-friendly, and am hungry for these types of projects.
KT: Hilary, thank you so much for taking time for this interview!
Hilary’s blog can be found at: https://haharwell.wordpress.com/
Hilary’s query tips: https://haharwell.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/query-tip-clarity/
HOW TO QUERY HILARY:
“I’m now open to queries, so please send me all your lovely middle grade and young adult projects. I have a penchant for fully-developed characters who leap off the page and into my heart (even if they’re not always the most lovable), for tightly plotted stories that show me new ways to look at the world, and for elegant prose. It is incredibly important to me to find stories told from diverse perspectives so that more children and young people can find themselves inside the pages of the books we help create.”
Hilary’s query guidelines can be found here.
I love when agents list books they love. Here’s Hilary’s reading list:
Books she loves: The Hate U Give, Exit Pursued by a Bear, Frost Blood, Caraval, The Diviners, The Blackthorn Key, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Out of My Mind, The Thickety, Anna and The French Kiss (and ISLA and LOLA), Open Road Summer, The Duff, We Were Liars, The Night Gardener, Rules for Stealing Stars, Salt to the Sea, The Wrath and The Dawn, The Scorpio Races, A Curious Tale of the In-Between, Seraphina and the Black Cloak, The Grisha Trilogy, I’ll Give You The Sun, Splendors and Glooms, A Snicker of Magic, The Graveyard Book, The Mysterious Benedict Society, An Untamed State, The Bourbon Thief, The Girl on The Train, Crank (anything by Ellen Hopkins)
Old Books she loves: Bridge to Terabithia, The Hobbit, Black Beauty, The Black Stallion series, Hatchet, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Westing Game, James and the Giant Peach, THE BFG, IT, A Wrinkle in Time, The Secret Garden
Picture Books she loves: The Giving Tree, Dragons Love Tacos, The Day The Crayons Quit, Sir Pancake and Lady French Toast, Journey, What Do You Do With A Problem, The Secret Staircase, The Three Questions
Movies she loves: The Neverending Story, Willow, The Princess Bride, Usual Suspects, Reservoir Dogs, Silence of the Lambs, Tommy Boy, Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, Braveheart