20 May 2019

Katie Brown: ‘I’m looking for a fresh, captivating voice’

by Curtis Brown 120 Curtis Brown 120

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 asked commissioning editor at Trapeze, Orion – Katie Brown – about her path into the publishing world, the types of books she’s looking for now and the advice she has for writers …

What was your route into publishing – where did you start?
I started out as a publicity assistant at Riot Communications, a small arts and culture agency set-up by two former Penguin employees. It gave me a broad insight into different areas of publishing – adults and children, fiction and non-fictions, prizes and charities as well as books and authors – and I loved the variety it offered in terms of my day-to-day work. I then moved in-house to Headline, where I spearheaded campaigns for Neil Gaiman, Mary Berry, Sarah Winman and Eowyn Ivey. After two years, I decided I wanted to make the move into editorial, and I am now commissioning editor for fiction at Trapeze, Orion.

What was the first book you commissioned?
Somewhere Close to Happy by Lia Louis, a glorious novel about a woman who receives a letter from her first love, dated the day he disappeared 12 years before. It’s this wonderful heart-wrenching mystery, that’s funny and depicts friendship in all its honest nuance, but I also loved the exploration of social disparity, poverty, the disenfranchisement of the young, and mental health.

What’s your favourite debut novel?
Oh god, can anyone actually answer this?! If put on the spot I’d have to say The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I adored the dark magic and glamour of it, and the feeling of never having read anything like it before. My other, more obvious one, would have to be Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Read more.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read widely and as much as you can,  but don’t compare yourself. Write as often as you can, regardless of how hard or difficult you find it. Know that finding it laborious to get words down on the page does not make you a bad writer.

Which book do you always recommend to others?
Depending on the person and their tastes (I know this isn’t one but these are all books I constantly recommend!)

A Mad World, My Masters by John Simpson

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (obvs)

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (double obvs)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

A Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by  Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

What is your pet hate in submissions?
Comparative titles that don’t make sense!

Who is your favourite fictional hero/heroine?
Death in Terry Pratchett’s discworld series.

What was the last book you read?
Technically a submission but the last book I read for pleasure was Folk by Zoe Gilbert / last book I listened to on audio was The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.

What book is totally overrated in your view?
I don’t know about overrated but I certainly won’t ever be reading Jordan B Peterson’s book.

What’s your guilty reading pleasure?
I never EVER feel guilty about reading anything, and no one else should either.

What is your prediction for the next publishing trend?
Crime books that aren’t as dark and don’t focus on a murder etc, but rather centre around ‘victimless’ crimes. Something that basically merges the uplit trend with the appetite for a crime caper.

‘Millennial Lit’ – books like Queenie, Normal People and Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love have established a platform and I think we’ll see more fiction especially like this, especially in the commercial sphere.

What are you looking for in a debut?
I am quite voice-led, so with all my books I’m looking for a fresh, captivating voice.

In terms of genre, I have a few things I’m looking for:

Reading group historical that tells me something new and has a fresh premise, perhaps around a true historical event.

Something with a hint of magic that firmly sits in the reading group area of the market.

High concept crime.

Find out about the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize.

Read more Curtis Brown 120 here.

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