It was great to catch up with April’s speaker, agent Hattie Grunewald of Blake Friedmann, this week for some quickfire Q and A.
1/Please give us a brief biog.
I graduated from University of East Anglia in English and Creative Writing in 2013 and went to work at Blake Friedmann, where I’ve been ever since. I became an agent at the start of 2016 and have been gradually building my list of writers. I’m also a keen poet, and my first pamphlet was published by Nasty Little Press.
2/Why did you decide to become an agent?
My creative writing degree involved a lot of workshopping, and I realised quite quickly that I loved the process of developing the work of writers around me as much as (if not more than) I loved writing myself. When I started interning at Blake Friedmann, I realised quickly that an agency is the perfect place to nurture talented writers and develop their careers, and that’s what made it a perfect job for me.
3/What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently very excited about a Mental Health workout guide by my client Mark Freeman, and I’m editing two exciting debuts – one a young adult sci-fi novel, and one a gripping psychological thriller. I’m also helping our agency prepare for London Book Fair, where I’ll be meeting with editors and pitching books from all Blake Friedmann agents, so it’s very busy.
4/What are you looking for in a debut author?
For me, the characters are a huge selling point – I want to believe in them instantly, and see in them something that isn’t cut from the mould but is also very recognisable and genuine. And I want a compelling plot – something that immediately hooks me and makes me want to read on. At the moment, I’m particularly looking for great women’s fiction – I love a perfect love story, intricate family dynamics and something that will make me laugh and possibly cry at the end.
5/What three top tips would you give an unpublished writer?
1) Read – there are so many great books out there, and the more you read, the more you’ll be exposed to other people’s styles and the more naturally your own prose will start to flow.
2) Share your work and get used to listening to and incorporating feedback – finding a workshop group will be very helpful, as they won’t flatter you or pull their punches.
3) Don’t take rejection personally – there isn’t a single book that pleased everyone who read it, so just because an agent or editor rejects your work, it doesn’t mean the work is bad. It probably just means they’re not the right person for your book – and why would you want to work with the wrong person?
6/Finally, what three writers – dead or alive – would you invite round for tea and cake?
Dorothy L Sayers – she’s my absolute favourite writer and role model, one of the first women ever to receive a degree in the UK, witty and smart and sensible. Margaret Atwood – I love her novels but I possibly admire her poetry more, and I’ve always wanted to meet her. George Eliot – because she’d get along so well with the other two, and also because then I could tell my mum I’d had tea with George Eliot.
Join us on April 19 for an evening with Hattie Grunewald, all details here.
Just one place left on our Fiction Concept Refining & Proposal Writing Workshop, all details here. Members get a BIG discount!