Saturday 24 May 2014

An Agent’s View of Submissions.

As part of the blog tour for The Mystery of the Exploding Loo, I am so pleased to welcome the author, Rachel Hamilton’s agent, Luigi Bonomi onto the blog. Luigi is one of the founding agents of the LBA Literary Agency. Today he is on the blog to talk about discovering Rachel’s book and why he loved it so much.
As an agent, I spend substantial amounts of time reading manuscripts of all kinds from unpublished authors. I receive a lot of submissions by email, and I also judge several different writing competitions every year, in all kinds of different venues, which is how I came across Rachel and her children's novel, The Case of the Exploding Portaloo.  People always ask what I'm looking for, but it's not as simple as that. I didn't sit down in my big grey armchair last February thinking, I'm really looking for a middle-grade novel about a genius kid whose scientist father disappears in a freak toilet incident. When you open an attachment sent by an author, or turn over the first page of a manuscript, there's just no knowing what you may find. Even after nearly 30 years in the business, I still find this incredibly exciting. It's like opening a Xmas present and not knowing what's inside - will you truly love it or just say you do; does it fill your heart with dread or make it leap and want to shout out loud? It's a very personal thing and very visceral - you feel it deep down. In Rachel's case my heart leapt from the very first paragraph - it's all about the voice, in the first instance. Is the voice of the novel attention-grabbing, and does it convince as the person it's supposed to be? And that's what hooked my attention in Rachel's writing - the absolute confidence and conviction of the voice of a 12-year-old, right from the first page. We're right the in the middle of the story and in the head of the main character. If it works, it feels effortless - but it's extraordinarily hard to do. Rachel did it brilliantly and seemingly effortlessly. It's also very funny, and I don't know if I can possibly convey to you how hard it is to be funny. There are very few comic novels published these days, and if you look at the long list of authors I represent you'll see very few writing comic fiction. We do, though, receive quite a few comic submissions and I must admit my heart sinks when I see them. It's probably even harder to be funny for children, as they're the harshest critics and can sniff out anything too calculated or artificial a mile away. But Rachel's novel made me really laugh, and it made my then 11-year-old daughter laugh when I showed it to her. It was clear that I had been lucky enough to find something pretty special - the kind of thing that makes an agent want to get out of bed in the morning. Rachel and I worked together on the novel and she was a dream author - extremely open to ideas, even to the point when I proposed changing the gender of one of the main characters! She was a consummate professional and I can't tell you how rare and refreshing that is in our business.  In May, almost exactly 18 months after I first read an extract from The Case of the Exploding Portaloo, it will be published in the UK, by Simon & Schuster. This is a pretty fast trajectory, by publishing standards, and I simply can't wait - I'm so confident that the children who are its intended audience will love it as much as I did, and for the very same reasons!
The Case of the Exploding Loo is on sale now.
To find out more about Rachel Hamilton:

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