Q and A with October’s speaker, agent, Sarah O’Halloran of the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency

1/Please give us a brief biog.

Sarah O’Halloran is a brand new literary agent working at the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. After completing a BA in History from the LSE, Sarah began her career working with the agent Norman North at The Agency (London) Ltd. She then moved to Dublin to study for an MA in Literature at UCD. She returned to London where she worked at Curtis Brown and then the Marsh Agency before joining Louise Allen-Jones Associates as a literary scout where she worked across all markets.

Sarah is looking for upmarket commercial fiction, accessible literary fiction and psychological suspense, as well as contemporary children’s and YA. She is also establishing the agency’s non-fiction list, with a particular focus on history, popular culture, biography and memoir. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction she’s looking for strong, original voices, distinctive, stylish writing and powerful storytelling.

2/What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on two exciting debut novels. The first tells of a violin maker called Grace whose clandestine affair is exposed after an accident on the Paris metro, and follows her as she puts the fragments of her life back together again with the help of two unlikely friends.

The second is a dual narrative story that explores the complex relationship between a mother, Iris, and her daughter Emily as Iris starts to suffer from dementia, and is set partially at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the 1980s.

3/What do you look for in a submission?

In the initial cover letter I look for professionalism and for someone who has taken time and effort in their submission.

I’m actively looking for upmarket commercial fiction and reading group fiction that combines an engaging, entertaining plot with an exploration of bigger themes. In literary fiction I look for distinctive voices and edgy writing, and I like dark themes and unlikeable characters! I would also love to find a modern THE TURN OF THE SCREW. In YA, teen and middle-grade I’m drawn to contemporary stories and authentic voices. Again, I like slightly grittier writing but I’m also a sucker for a great love story.

4/What top tips would you give an unpublished author?

Do invest time in your submission package. You’ve spent a huge amount of time working on your manuscript so make sure you do it justice.

 

5/Finally, what three authors (dead or alive) would you invite round for tea and cake?

I currently have a grand total of three clients so I’m going to dodge the question and invite my three authors!

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