A Change of Scene

Dear All,

We would like to make you aware that the DHH Literary Agency blog is now continued over on the agency’s official website.


If you’d like to visit it please do follow this link.




Thank you for your time,

DHH Literary Agency

Harry Illingworth promoted at D H H Literary Agency


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David Headley, managing director of D H H Literary Agency, has promoted Harry Illingworth from associate agent to literary agent with immediate effect.

Illingworth will be tasked with aiding the agency in the development of its science fiction and fantasy list, which he is currently “actively building”.

Illingworth, who along with Headley also works for Goldsboro Books, has been at the company for nearly three years and in that time has helped the company build its growing profile by promoting the agency’s blog and utilising social media. He has been “hands on” in helping Headley with his list of authors whilst dividing his time between the companies. Headley and Illingworth also recently sold Mark de Jager’s debut fantasy novel, Infernal, to Del Rey UK.

Headley said: “With Harry’s passion for genre fiction, the agency directors feel that the time is now right to make a step forward and promote him to actively build a high profile list of science fiction and fantasy authors.”

Illingworth said: “I’m thrilled to be in this position and can’t wait to help D H H grow our genre list. Science fiction/fantasy is my passion and discovering and working with authors from start to finish is a dream come true. Whilst I’ve got a few projects currently in the works, I can’t wait to get started on building up an exciting list of talented authors.”


Follow Harry on Twitter: @harryillers

Submit to Harry: hi.submission@dhhliteraryagency.com

The Promise of Publication by Alison Bruce


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In the weeks running up to the launch of a book I think I reflect on that book in a different way to at any other time. The point has passed when any changes can be made but, it is too soon to know how it will be received; maybe this ought to be the nerve wracking bit, but it isn’t. For me it’s probably when my thoughts on being a writer are their most clear.

My latest book, The Promise, will be released on 4th February and is the sixth in a series. That’s far enough in to know where the series is heading and to look back on its origins, it’s also a good time to consider its strengths and pitfalls.

The Promise alison bruce

The first thing to confess is that I never set out to write a series. I had one idea for one book, it wasn’t a police procedural but the story of a woman anonymously calling an incident hotline to tip them off about a murderer. Part way through I realised that I did, in fact, need a police officer to follow up on these leads and created DC Gary Goodhew as an incidental character. He slipped into a second chapter, then a third. By the time I completed the final pages I was crying, partly in relief that I’d actually reached the end, partly through exhaustion as it was my third night with no sleep, but mostly because I had grown attached to Goodhew and couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to him.  As I wrote those last few hundred words I decided that I needed to make him the lead character in a series.

In the first book, Cambridge Blue, Goodhew is twenty five years old, he’s the youngest DC at Cambridge’s Parkside Station and working on his first murder investigation. I liked the idea of following a character from the start of his career. Many of the crime novels I read early on seemed to ‘reset’ the characters at the end of each story, but I find it hard to believe that there wouldn’t be a cumulative emotional effect from each difficult case and Goodhew does change over time. This is also why each book in the series has become darker than the last.

Luckily for me Gary Goodhew has endeared himself to many readers who have loyally followed him through some disturbing cases and have been waiting for him to be put through new traumas in the sixth instalment. And it is precisely that which is the beauty of writing a series. The longer story arc allows the reader to experience better paced and more emotionally complex character development, and from the writer’s point of view there is the opportunity to gain a readership that is loyal to the series rather than just the writer. At the launch of my fourth Goodhew novel, The Silence, I suddenly realised that a high proportion of the guests were people I didn’t recognise – and not because my patient friends and family had abandoned me after loyally turning out for the three previous launches – but because people had turned out for Goodhew.


Just as I’m glad I chose Goodhew as my protagonist I’m also relieved that I chose to set the books in Cambridge rather than a fictitious town. There is a long tradition of inventing locations for novels but there aren’t many situations when I can see an advantage to this. Many readers are attracted to locations they know and Cambridge has worldwide renown. I could never invent somewhere as diverse and still make it believable. I spend time walking around the areas of the city that I choose for each book and end up with a view of the city that’s very personal to the way I see it.

Writing a series has worked well for me but with every upside there must, unfortunately, be a downside too. I guess most writers have more ideas than they ever have the time to write. I think of plots that won’t work for Gary and scenarios that can’t happen in Cambridge, I can’t switch to another era or tackle the kind of crime that doesn’t involve the police. At this point there are other books I know I’ll write, but I’m not leaving Goodhew behind yet…

I write in a shed in my garden, it’s cold in the winter but if I put the heating on I doze off, so I sit with my legs in a sleeping bag, wearing hat, coat and blankets, and type wearing fingerless gloves knitted by my friend Claire. Other friends gave me shed warming gifts too: a mug carrying the slogan, Don’t worry about my browsing history – I’m a writer not a serial killer, my Post-it Notes shaped like  corpses and the Agatha Christie mug mat that was delivered in an evidence bag. To one side of the desk is a book shelf containing copies of the Goodhew novels. At some point this week I’ll be adding number six to the collection as I continue to work on number seven. I know Goodhew better than all but one or two real people, I know he’s fictitious but, at the same time, have to admit that he’s great company and my workplace and everything in it has come about because of him.

So I’ll be sitting in my shed with all six books beside me and reflecting on how it feels to be at this point in the series. Of course I hope Goodhew’s fans enjoy The Promise, and of course I hope there are new readers who discover the series for the first time but, most of all, I think I’ll take a moment to toast Goodhew and all the adventures we’re having.

You can order The Promise here

Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alison_Bruce

Abi Elphinstone on Sky News


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D H H Literary Agency client Abi Elphinstone was talking about fairy tales on Sky News last night. Last year Simon and Schuster Children’s UK published Abi’s debut novel, The Dreamsnatcher, and the sequel, The Shadow Keeper, is published on 25th February.

You can see a clip of Abi talking about fairy tales here:

Calling All Great Writers by David H Headley


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It is a new year and I am looking for exciting new clients. I have been thinking about some of the books that I wished I had represented and I thought that I would share them with you so that you may get an idea of the kind of books that I am looking for.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

I love this book so much. It’s about turning the ordinary of every day life into the extraordinary, and universally meaningful. Rachel Joyce really understands humanity and has got to the heart of human relationships and that need for fulfillment. (I might actually start crying as I write thinking about it again). It’s about the small moments in life that we all experience, which change the course of our existence. I remember sitting down to read it, it took me five hours and I didn’t move from the moment I started to the moment I finished.

I’d love to see books like this in my submission pile. Stories about ordinary people where the emotion of the story and the shared human experience elevate the story into something beautiful.


Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett

This took me a whole weekend to read but for a 900 page book that’s quite quick. Ken Follett has this skill of telling an amazing story without making you feel like you’re reading a long book. I’d go as far as to say that this is like reading a thriller but it’s a sweeping historical novel. Again, it’s about very small people who make a very big difference. It’s one of the best historical novels I’ve ever read and I can see why it’s become a national treasure.

Like Pillars of Earth I’d love to find a book that brings that contemporary thriller feel to an historical story and gives a great sense of the motivations and internal realities of the people.


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday

This is another book I read in one sitting (there’s a theme here…). It’s about belief and wanting to make things happen (which ties into Pillars of the Earth now I think about it). This is a love story between a man and his country and it’s about the lengths people will go to achieve the impossible and the power of collective belief in something. As the reader you’re invested in the characters’ motivations and justifications for what they want to do and you’re right there with them, rooting for them to succeed. It’s absolutely brilliant storytelling.

I’d love to see something that absorbs me in a character’s quest as wholeheartedly as this did. I want to feel like I’m there, believing they can achieve it against the odds and celebrating with them when they do. I want to be completely transported to the world of your characters.


Before I Go To Sleep – SJ Watson

On the 3rd September 2010 I sat down to read a bound manuscript for a book which was to become one of the biggest selling psychological thrillers of recent times. I remember the exact date because I remember exactly where I was, and again, I read it in one sitting. The voice is incredibly compelling and I needed to know what was going to happen to this woman who couldn’t remember who she was, where she was, where she was from or where she was going. The story was exciting – there’s no better word for it. The reading experience was thrilling.

Psychological thrillers are big news right now, they may not continue to be as big as they are but they’re one of those perennial genres which are always published and always popular so I don’t think they’re going away completely. But, to succeed the story has to do something new and surprising and the writer has to be able to conjure a unique and engaging voice. That’s what I want to see.


If you think your book would appeal based on what I have written I’d love to hear from you. Please do follow my submission guidelines and I look forward to reading your work.


Submit to David: Submission@dhhliteraryagency.com

Follow David on twitter: @Davidhheadley

The Secret to Christmas Shopping by Amanda Jennings


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At this time the spectre of Christmas shopping looms for many. Advent has been counted down in ‘shopping days ‘til Christmas’. Shops have lost their collective minds as festive madness takes over. Now, I have to confess, I am not a good shopper. I suppose over the years, and out of necessity, I’ve become adequately proficient, but I’m certainly not what anyone would call a natural. Genetics short-changed me. My mother is a shopping genius. She wakes up on a shopping day with an inner glow. Excitement pervades the air around her. She will tread the crowded pavements with a spring in her step and move easily in and out of unfeasibly warm shops that play Slade on loop. She will smile without a hint of Inner Fear at the pouncing shop assistants and sigh happily as she breaks to drink coffee and tick off the things on her list she has successfully bought. When she later returns home, laden with bags of lovingly chosen gifts, she will bid a cheery hello and answer ‘yes, I had a super time’ when someone enquires cautiously after her day. Me, on the other hand? Well, suffice it to say I need a decontamination zone to recover in – a darkened room with an intravenous gin drip would do nicely – after a day of Christmas shopping.

But in my advancing years I’ve found a way to deal with my Christmas shopping. Admittedly, a part of this involves sitting in my pyjamas and trawling the online shopping mall from the comfort of my home. But even I need to venture out and immerse myself in a little bit of Christmas cheer – I’m not totally devoid of festive spirit – and for this I have found the answer. A book shop.

Ahhhhhh, and breathe.

From the moment I step inside and leave the clamouring crowds and the flashing lights and heady smell of commercialisation behind me, I am swathed in a feeling of calm. The assistant won’t pester me or hassle me. He or she will look up and smile, say hello, then lower their head and let me continue. They know that I know I can ask for help, for recommendations, for guidance. But they also know that a significant part of the joy of shopping for books is the browsing. Being alone and peaceful. Running the tips of my fingers along the spines and over the covers, waiting for something to catch my eye. Something that brings the person I’m shopping for to mind. Something perfect.

Books undoubtedly make the best presents and within the walls of a bookshop lies a book for everyone. You can choose a book to suit an individual’s interests or passion. You can show people you respect their tastes or views. You can share books you’ve enjoyed and write messages inside them saying ‘I adored this and know you will too’. And later, on Christmas day, during that period of sated peace beyond the feasting, you can cast your eye around and watch your loved ones reaching for their new books – that autobiography, that beautiful coffee-table book, that novel you so enjoyed – and feel a warm sense of satisfaction. Then, some time on, when the book is read, the gift will be enjoyed all over again, and the person you shopped for might drop into conversation ‘by the way, I read that book you gave me for Christmas and I absolutely loved it. What a brilliant choice. You’re so good at buying presents.’ And then you can smile to yourself…

Wishing you all a very peaceful and bookish Christmas.



Pre-order In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings from Goldsboro Books

Follow Amanda on twitter: @MandaJJennings

Four Favourites for 2015 by Broo Doherty


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I find this time of year both exhilarating, full of anticipation of a chaotic family Christmas, but wistful as I reflect back on the year just gone, the people whom I’ve lost and the people less fortunate than me who are going to be spending Christmas in difficult surroundings.  But it is also a time to consider the four most impressive books I’ve read this year, each very different, but each memorable in their particular way.

The first, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, is a stunning novel which records the meaning of friendship and the value of unconditional love. At times cruel and heart-stoppingly brutal, it is a story that will live with me for years to come.  I haven’t read anything quite so affecting for years.  Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It is another book I won’t forget – powerful and raw it records the long-term effect of a gang rape on a young Irish girl’s family with extraordinary directness. Not for the feint-hearted, and aimed at the YA market, it is a book that took me out of my comfort zone, but it was a journey well worth taking. I’m late to the party as far as Kate Morton is concerned, but I read The Distant Hours and couldn’t put it down. Evocative and atmospheric, it is the beautifully observed story about one girl’s quest to unearth her mother’s past life and it really delivers. The warmth of this author’s storytelling, combined with the love of her characters, is the defining feature of this writer, and in my humble opinion, she deserves all the accolades she has received.  And lastly for something very different: the powerful and utterly emotional wreck-inducing Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, the experimental novel that confronts life, love and grief. Very different, highly original and utterly absorbing.

So four books, all different, but all powerful in their own right. What I realise, though, is that the defining feature of them all is the warmth with which their creators deal with their characters.  It is that love for the protagonist which makes these novels – and that ultimately defines what I look for in a novel.  They have taken me to places I would never normally experience in my day-to-day life, but they have opened my imagination to a place beyond – and that has to be the art of true storytelling.

Happy Christmas… and happy reading.


You can send your novel to Broo: BD.Submmission@dhhliteraryagency.com

Read more about Broo Doherty

Follow Broo on twitter: @BrooDoherty

All I want for Christmas by Natasha Bardon


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We’re delighted to have a guest post on the D H H Literary Agency blog from Natasha Bardon, Deputy Publishing Director of Harper Voyager UK. We’ve long known Natasha as one of the strongest forces in SFF publishing, she works with everyone from George R.R. Martin to Robin Hobb to Joe Abercrombie. Today we’re thrilled to host her warm and moving post about all she wants for Christmas. 


There’s something quite magical about visiting D H H Literary Agency & Goldsboro Books at Christmas. The lights go up in the window, the books are bathed in a warm, golden light as night creeps in at around four and there’s a hushed silence between customers entering and leaving the shop – an exhalation, not of Christmas cheer, though that of course is there in abundance, but of Christmas calm.

It’s much like those closely guarded and precious moments you stumble upon on Christmas day. Moments such as making the tea before anyone else is awake, or just before Christmas dinner when the table is laid out, crackers un-pulled and everyone happy to wait, just for a moment. That’s exactly how I feel when wandering down Cecil Court: scarf, hat and gloves firmly pulled over the extremities. You stand outside that golden window feasting on the hints of what you’ll find inside and you pause, you take a moment, you enjoy the anticipation of stumbling upon a world that will be all your own – that is yours for the taking.

Christmas Carol Ann  window


You enter the shop and off you go, meeting agents, authors and customers alike. So though I could list off all of the books that top my Christmas wish list, what I’m wishing for most this Christmas is time to appreciate the moments we all take for granted. Not the main events (they get all the attention), but the moments before something really wonderful happens; before you discover your new favourite book, or before you walk into Goldsboro and find one signed by the very hand that wrote it.

Merry Christmas,



You can follow Natasha on twitter: @NatashaBardon

Visit www.goldsborobooks.com

What I’m hoping for this Christmas by Harry Illingworth


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At DHH Literary Agency, we’re all about finding talented authors and nurturing their career. Personally, I love the editorial process and work from start to finish with authors to find them a home in the difficult world of publishing. I learn everyday from my mentors David Headley & Broo Doherty. I assist David with all of his authors and we have a very strong relationship and work fantastically as a team. Recently we sold Mark de Jager’s debut novel, Infernal, to Del Rey UK. It is a dark and thunderous fantasy debut. The reason for this article is to tell you about what it is that I am looking for in submissions this Christmas, but also to tell you about my taste as a reader, so that you might get a better sense for what I’d love to land in my inbox.

I am predominantly looking for genre fiction, preferably on the adult side, (although I love YA and will happily also look at it, but certainly with a slant towards adult). Science fiction and fantasy is what I love. Some of my favourite authors are Joe Abercrombie, Pierce Brown, Anthony Ryan, Cormac McCarthy and many more I’ll go on to mention, and many more I won’t have the chance to. I love epic fantasy, in fact I love all fantasy. I like it dark and edgy, or grimdark as it is commonly now referred. Violence is no problem for me, I welcome it, though it doesn’t need to be gratuitous. I love a quest, and morally dubious characters. Abercrombie nails all this as his adult work is violent, yet darkly humorous, and his current YA series is also one of my recent favourites.

I like to get lost in big secondary worlds, anti-heroes and dangerous and dark arts. I like high-concept novels like Hugh Howey’s Wool trilogy and Claire North is magnificent, and I also love literary sci-fi type literature like Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. It was my favourite novel of 2015. I only recently discovered Ted Chiang’s work but he is pure class, and I’d also love to see some unique space opera stuff come my way. This year I’ve also loved The Hunter’s Kind by Rebecca Levene, her Hollow Gods series is outstanding, and YA crossover books like Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes and Francesca Haig’s The Fire Sermon have been very strong.

I also like to be made to laugh. Science fiction and fantasy doesn’t have to be serious and I don’t confine myself to the above. I just want to be entertained, Scott Lynch being a great example. Although I have to say I do love a strong, angry voice, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, and his protagonist Darrow, being the perfect example. It is one of my favourite trilogies ever and finding something like that would be a dream. For me it is all about a strong hook and great writing that immediately affects me; that is bold and won’t allow me to stop reading. A truly fascinating, memorable protagonist is a huge thing, but it’s not just about the protagonist, but the supporting characters as well. And I know that’s what everyone says. To an extent, everything has been done before, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done again in different ways, I’d love to find something that makes what it is it’s own. Of course I’d like to find something that’s never been done before, too. But doesn’t everyone?

My taste is not confined exclusively to these genres, and many novels cannot be simply categorised. I love novels that cross genre boundaries, like Station Eleven, and anything by David Mitchell. The Shore has been a standout novel this year. Yet like the aforementioned it crosses genres, with a speculative edge. I’ll even be completely honest and say that my two total favourite books this year haven’t even been ‘genre’ books. A Little Life and All involved blew me away, for so many different reasons it could be a blog post of its own. Finally, I can’t write a wish list blog without mentioning Louise O’Neill. Asking For It is not only one of the best I’ve read this year, it is essential, and her writing is class. It is sharp, brutal and contemporary. Again, just what I’m looking for.

The reason I tell you all this is so that you see how varied my taste is. I read very widely, and I hope you’ll see the kind of thing that I’d love to find in my inbox when you come to submit. I’m happy to read anything, but the more I can help you understand my taste, the better for everyone. If you think my novel might be right for me, I’d really love to hear from you.

You can submit to me at: HI.submission@dhhliteraryagency.com. Please do follow our submission guidleines.

Read more about Harry

I’m vocal on twitter and you can find me: @harryillers

Writing Fantasy – Making Monsters and Magic Mesmerising by Cassian Hall


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I love great fantasy and great science fiction, my favourites the great epics that I spent much of my youth reading and rereading; Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert to name a few. Fantasy and certain kinds of Science Fiction pose a very particular challenge to the would-be author, above and beyond other genres.

Its all about the world of a story. If a writer starts by placing us in 1940s London, then most of us will have a set of images and knowledge which we immediately bring to the narrative, we might imagine the Blitz, rationing, small children being evacuated or looking through rubble for bullet cases, silhouetted bombers flying over St Paul’s and so the list goes on. The author can even prompt our memories by referring to historical facts we once knew, and so we rediscover this partially familiar world within the context of their story. However, Fantasy writers, and certain kinds of Sci-Fi, have a very different starting point.

In most cases, the story plays out in a universe or world very different from our own. If an author is setting their work in a different universe, then they have given themselves the task of communicating that new world and the rules that come with it, to us the reader. We may have very little frame of reference, if a story starts in the Zaniful Galaxy of the 26th dimension, we really are starting from scratch! Will the characters be human? What is their planet like? Is it like ours or is it completely different? Is the physics the same? If they jump do they fly? How do they communicate? The questions are endless. So the author, not only has to introduce us to their protagonist, give us a sense of their dilemma or quest, but they have to give us all the rules that govern that quest, or at least enough to give it meaningful context.

Some authors have been amazing world-builders, Tolkien being the prime example, creating histories and languages that are not even strictly needed for the telling of the story. Others, such as Stephen Donaldson, create the world around the character story that he wants to tell, starting with an ending and reverse engineering it. The result is still an amazingly colourful and detailed world that we can visualise in our minds eye, but the process is different. Philip Pullman’s excellent, ‘His Dark Materials’, did something slightly different again. He set it in our world but different, so our questions become concerned with those subtle differences, although at least we know that our geography is correct!

What does this mean for our new fantasy authors? It means there is no one answer, but they have to arrive at a world that has internal logic that matters to the central quest of the protagonist. If the central character is striving for the hidden magic of flight, then it is likely he or she lives in a world where flight is completely unknown or talked of only in fairytales or ancient texts. The hero is striving for a dream, and the rules of that world align with the hero’s quest.

Fantasy is about dealing with aspects of humanity that require metaphor to delve into. Good versus evil, light versus dark, rural versus industrial, order versus chaos, God versus science, belief versus doubt and many more. They are real world issues that can be ideal fantasy subject matter. Most of the world’s ancient tales are fantasy, a distillation of stories that lose anchorage in material reality during centuries of retelling, but retain an essential truth in metaphor.

As authors set out to write fantasy, they need to know what the quest is, what the metaphor is, and be able to communicate the rules of the world that will govern that quest. They need to develop that character as they develop the universe around them. What is the order of the universe that has become disrupted and needs to be realigned by the hero? Or perhaps we have a hero that is unwittingly going to throw that world off its axis and deal with the consequences. The possibilities are many, but character and world go hand in hand, in a way that far exceeds other genres.

The author also needs to remember, and have a big sign above their desk, that the reader knows only what the author tells them. The exception is if they are referencing universes already known, such as the many authors who have created Tolkien-esque worlds, providing a shortcut for the reader to understand setting. Without that shortcut, the author is going to have to get that world from his head onto the page in order to successfully contextualise their story.

Give the reader enough knowledge of the world to understand the actions of the characters. That is the holy duality of fantasy writing. Get it wrong and you have characters hanging in a limbo of half constructed reality, or a detailed world devoid of character. If you get it right then you can really transport the reader to another world and take them on that journey with you, and stimulate an endless fascination with the world that has been created.


Read more about Cassian here.

Follow Cassian on twitter: @cassianhall

Submit your novel to Cassian: cassian.hall@dhhliteraryagency.com