A Little Life, All Involved, Anthony Ryan, Asking for It, Cormac McCarthy, David Headley, David Mitchell, Del Rey UK, DHH Literary Agency, Fantasy, Harry Illingworth, Pierce Brown, Rebecca Levene, science fiction, Submissions, YA
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.
Read more about Harry
I’m vocal on twitter and you can find me: @harryillers