NCWGF 2016 – An Interview with Philippa Milnes Smith from LAW Literary Agency

I’m Philippa Milnes Smith from Lucas Alexander
Whitley we’re quite a wide-ranging literary agency in terms of people we
represent so for instance we represent Nigel Slater in cookery, Sophie Kinsella
best-selling YA and adult women’s fiction writer, John Simpson, Jeremy Bowen if
you’re looking at the sort of political journalists and then I represent
Phillip Reeve, fantasy, and whose series Mortal Engine is going to be made into a film by
Peter Jackson that’s our exciting news this week. I represent Chris Radel who’s
the children’s laureate and he’s both a writer and illustrator and for me one
of the exciting things happening I think is that Illustrated text not just text
with that kind of use of word and pictures for a broader audience not just
young children and picture books but for older kids and I think more for adults
is coming in and i think that’s changing some of the texture of narrative so
they’re all I think quite a lot of interesting things happening in input
publishing from that point of view and you’re very lucky if you can both write
and illustrate and I think it gives you a particular way of creating a book but
yes sometimes you know you have good partnerships between people Phillip Reeve and Sara McIntyre it’s a very dynamic pairing of very different
talents in some ways and those who worked in the UK they work very well
internationally and I think it’s probably important to say that we are
always looking for things that are we hope we’re going to be really successful
here but also they’re going to sell in other languages against sell around the
world, maybe become great stage plays maybe become great films, television and
we’re very active in that area so storytelling crosses many different media I think. I think i think with a manuscript it’s often about voice when you start
and often when you you know go back to meet some of the kind of great classics
a lot of the time it’s that first sentence or that
first paragraph that can be really arresting and an individual voice, a unique voice that comes across, but really it’s kind of something that comes out of a book
almost that grabs you and says we’ve got to read on you’ve got to find out what’s
going to happen, so certainly looking for voice looking for interesting ideas into
interesting concepts characters that you find completely irresistible and that
can be from any kind of different reasons I like people who are experimenting
sometimes with text, doing something slightly different and you know we’re
looking for things that on some levels may be kind of commercial genre, crime
continues to go from strength to strength and women’s romance, if it’s something
different something quite new psychological thrillers people have been
talking about for the last couple of years they don’t show any sign of
abating and then we’re always thinking what is next what is different or more
to you and you know it when you see it it’s not always easy to describe so I’m
looking for the thing I haven’t thought about a lot of the time. I think the first
thing I would say is that I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the
pitching and the projects people are talking about and the commitment they’ve
already put in you know in both the sort of writing,
thinking about their work, in some cases thinking outside further outside that
about what is it like to be an author or will I have to think about social media
and they’ve obviously responded to what’s been in the conference so far so i think
that’s good people talking something that fantasy and we’ve been talking in terms
of their pitching about how do you present a fantasy world and you’re
talking to someone they’ve not been there they’ve not spent their heads and
imaginations not being in that world how do you get that across how do you
find a thing about that so I think that’s been the kind of useful thing
getting people to not forget the basics so how long is your book, who is it for,
so some of the simpler things and making them talk a bit about themselves
sometimes in relation to their work in a widely chosen to write about this when
it’s something maybe with a more realistic base you know do you have a
relationship with a sort of material and so getting people to think about
themselves as the writer and their relationship. There are obviously two
things there’s one if you’re doing a verbal page you’ve got to kind of paint
a word picture for them and you’ve got to be able to do that quite quickly so i
think it’s often a test of whether someone really can see their own fantasy
world 360 degrees and certainly in kind of pictures I get and manuscripts I get
at work, I spend a lot of time just finding holes in things sort of I can’t
really see that I’m not clear, are we on this planet, are
we on another planet or on the moon, are we in the past or in the future so
it’s not an easy thing to do and I think the thing is you wanted to get across in
their voice it’s not like tick these boxes and then I’ll get what you’re
talking about and again with a great fantasy novels read the opening and
you’ll know whether you’re there you know whether you’re in planning in a
where it’s Narnia or whether it’s George RRR Martin or whatever or Terry
Pratchett different textures different places.

Stephen Childs

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