We were delighted to catch up with Ella Diamond Kahn and Bryony Woods, LWC April Live speakers and agents of the newly formed DKW Agency.
1/Please could you give us a brief biog of yourself and Bryony.
Ella Diamond Kahn: Prior to co-launching DKW in 2012, Ella was the Assistant Agent for the UK at Andrew Nurnberg Associates International Literary Agency for three years, working with both adult and children’s/YA authors. She has an MA in Publishing from University College London and a BA in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic from the University of Cambridge. She was Chair of the Society of Young Publishers in 2011 and has also volunteered as the SYP’s Events Officer and Treasurer.
Bryony Woods: Before co-founding DKW, Bryony spent two years at the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency, where her experience ranged from picture books to contemporary fiction. She has previously worked as a specialist bookseller and spent two years in the library sector. She has an MA in Publishing from University College London and a BA in English Literature from the University of Reading. She held the post of University Liaison Officer for the Society of Young Publishers in 2010.
2/Could you tell me what you are looking for at the moment?
EDK: I’d like high-concept, plot-driven books with exceptional voice, engaging characters and intriguing settings: books that take you to new, richly imagined worlds, unusual times and far-flung places. I’d love some strong, original historical fiction at the moment, whether it be suspense, romance, time travel or anything else, and I’m also looking for accessible science fiction and fantasy.
BW: I’ve always said that it’s impossible to know what I’m looking for, but I’ll know when I see it. Generally, I love anything that’s quirky, dark or different, with beautiful prose and vivid characters. Gothic novels, fairytales and ghost stories are particular soft spots of mine.
3/What are you working on at the moment?
EDK: I’m in the process of finalizing a deal for a fabulous YA thriller by David Owen, who was the first client I signed at DKW. It has an action-packed plot and a spine-tingling voice – think 1984 meets The Knife of Never Letting Go. I’m also preparing to go on submission with my client Vanessa Curtis’s heartbreaking YA novel about a young Jewish girl in Riga, Latvia during World War Two, and working on final edits for my client Chris Lloyd’s adult crime novel set in Catalonia. And, of course, I’m always reading submissions on the hunt for talented new clients!
BW: I have several very exciting projects in the pipeline at the moment, including a deal I’m currently finalizing for two beautiful YA coming of age novels by my client Virginia Macgregor. Virginia has also just completed a wonderful, quirky and heartbreaking novel for adults, WHAT MILO SAW (think Curious Incident meets The Hundred Year Old Man), which I’m preparing for submission. I’ve also just finished editing a fantastic debut novel about teenage superheroes which I know several publishers, both here and in the US, are VERY excited about. And my latest client, A E Rawson, is working on a very dark, fairytale-inspired psychological thriller which I’ve just started editing and which I’m thrilled to be working on. Meanwhile, I’m always on the lookout for new and talented writers who are bursting with great ideas.
4/Finally, please could you give our members five top tips for unpublished writers?
1. Don’t be put off by rejection – taste is subjective and you have to develop a thick skin.
2. Be professional and targeted when approaching agents – we want to see that you’ve done your research, that you know a little about how agents and publishers work, and that you’ve followed our guidelines and chosen to approach us for a reason.
3. If you use social media, make sure your online persona is friendly and approachable so we can get a sense of your personality – but keep it professional too!
4. Keep writing and experiment to find your writing voice – if you don’t get anywhere with a project, put it to one side and try something new.
5. Read widely!