Welcome to the next in our series of Curtis Brown 120 blog posts, these blogs include exclusive interviews with authors, agents and publishers; writing tips; industry insights – and much more besides.
This week, the Curtis Brown 120 team caught up with CB’s very own Felicity Blunt. Felicity represents a wide variety of brilliant authors from the Daphne du Maurier estate to Rosamund Lupton, Renee Knight, Tammy Cohen and Curtis Brown Creative alumna Laura Marshall. Read on to find out what advice Felicity has for her younger self and for aspiring authors …
What was the first book you sold?
It was Rosamund Lupton’s Sister, which was bought by the lovely Emma Beswetherick of Piatkus. We were all great believers and advocates of the book but what happened on publication was incredible, life changing and transformative. And gave me an utterly unrealistic impression of how publishing a book worked…!
What’s your favourite debut novel?
See above, Sister and Rosamund are both so deeply embedded in my career and both still reflect so much of what I look for in a debut writer. But also, To Kill a Mockingbird. I loved that book as a teenager and still do.
If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
My professional self? As a young agent I was always so nervous of doing the wrong thing but you only ever have your instincts – and it starts with what you like and want to sign. You can’t take something on because you ‘think’ it should be big because of trend or another author’s success etc. You just have to follow what you love and that passion will be the cornerstone of your representation. I think also don’t be afraid of a disagreement, but always offer the other side respect even when pushing your point. That respect is what will allow you to work collaboratively together after the issue is settled!
My personal self? Enjoy every minute.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Keep a diary / note book– all those thoughts you have that are random in the moment can be so significant on the page. It’s also really hard to remember the weather in June when it’s October. Or what it’s like to be 20 when you are 40. Or even 23. Everything changes, time passes, what you put to paper has a permanence that memory doesn’t.
Always, always edit your work exhaustively. You must interrogate it. Do this on a hard copy also. It makes you read the book in a very different way and you WILL see things you have previously missed on a computer screen. Be okay with taking time away from it also, distance can be so so helpful.
Stop looking at your phone. If your head is permanently down you are observing nothing.
Which book do you always recommend to others?
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Both novels experiment with time in the most amazing, inventive and revealing ways. Time is so often ignored as the constant that must be addressed in novels. It’s crucial to pace, to moving the story on and to how you want your reader to understand your story. There are so so many different ways to manipulate or use it to your advantage as a story teller.
What is your pet hate in submissions?
Erm, bad writing?!
Who is your favourite fictional hero/heroine?
Scarlett O’Hara. She was shameless. A true survivor.
What was the last book you read?
About 7 submissions. But I’ve just started Beautiful Ruin by Jess Walter.
What book is totally overrated in your view?
Genuinely don’t think I have an answer to this. Just because I don’t like something does not mean it is overrated because millions/thousands do. Reading is utterly subjective. That’s it’s pleasure.
What’s your guilty reading pleasure?
Not sure I’ve ever felt guilty for reading! I’d happily read anything. I’m genuinely not snobby about books. I’d romp through a romantic novel and then dive into a classic.
What do you think will be the next trend in publishing?
Diet books? Speculative historical? I don’t pretend to know. I think when a publisher decides to make a book an event book and puts everything behind it then they can absolutely make a bestseller, and in doing so they can create a tentpole in whose slipstream other books can be published and in so doing we have a trend. But I suppose I am wary of trends. As when you talk of Du Maurier, Heller, Atwood etc I’m note sure you think of them as part of a trend. My hope is that we as agents can help find writers we can allow to be individual.
What are you actively looking for at the moment?
Good stories, well told. I love speculative fiction, I love literary fiction, I love commercial fiction, I love YA/Crossover, I love thrillers, I read anything and everything and my list reflects that. It’s my greatest joy in what I do.
To find out about the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize, click here.
To read more Curtis Brown 120 blogs, click here.