Interview with literary agent, Carrie Plitt, judge of 2020 First Chapter Comp
For today’s interview, we welcome Carrie Plitt. Carrie is a literary agent and also a director at Felicity Bryan, and we’re delighted to have her judging the 2020 First Chapter Comp. Carrie is actively building a list of authors, with a focus on debuts. The books she represents range from the very literary to those you might read in a book club. Besides excellent writing, she is often drawn to novels that have unique voices, are portraits of complex characters, examine relationships, are coming of age stories, or capture the zeitgeist. She is always on the look-out for writers from underrepresented backgrounds. Carrie hosts a monthly books podcast and radio show called Literary Friction, which has featured authors including Sally Rooney, Olivia Laing, Gary Younge, Viv Albertine, Karl Ove Knausgaard and Ottessa Moshfegh.
So, Carrie, tell us, when you receive a 3 chapter submission, what gets you excited enough to then ask for the full MS?
For me it’s a mixture of an original voice – someone who really understands how to work with language and make it new – and a command of storytelling.
Writers repeatedly hear from agents they submit to that you like it but you didn’t love it enough, how does a MS make you love it when you have requested and read the whole thing?
This is such a difficult question to answer! I can see why this is so frustrating for writers – because in the end taste is so subjective. For me, the test of whether I LOVE something is: will I want to read this a number of times, and talk about it for years to come? If the answer is no, then I’m probably not the right agent for it.
When reading the shortlisted first chapters what’s going to make a story stand out for you?
Again, originality is key here. Does the writer have a particular way of expressing him or herself that seems different and exciting? But I will also be looking for the three chapters that make me desperate to read on.
What types of writers and novels are you looking for to build your list?
I’m looking for literary fiction, book club fiction, and some literary crime. I love books that are psychologically complex and those that capture the zeitgeist. I think the list of authors below gives a good sense of the kind of thing I’m likely to love.
When you’re reading for pleasure not work, who are your favourite authors?
It’s very hard for me to pick favourites, but some authors whose work I read and enjoyed recently are Sally Rooney, Elizabeth Strout, Deborah Levy, Jenny Offill, Esi Edugyan, Rachel Cusk, Tana French and Paul Murray.
Thanks, Carrie! Some great insights there, and worth considering for writers hoping to impress in the 2020 First Chapter Comp!
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