Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lucienne Diver of the Spectrum Literary Agency

It’s a well known fact that any author worth their salt would sell their soul to get an agent alone for five minutes. Well, a soul might not have been exchanged, but Morgan O has come up missing. If you see her, please tell her Jmo is sorry and to wear plenty of sunscreen. It’s hot down there.

The Morgan Diaries, well half of them, are proud to welcome into our palatial offices well known literary agent, Lucienne Diver of the Spectrum Literary Agency. Her clients are a veritable who’s who of the romance world. Jasmine Haynes, Rachel Caine, Patti O’Shea, and Marjorie M. Liu are just some of her clients. To say we are pleased to have her with us to today is an understatement.

TMD: Welcome to the Diaries, Lucienne. If there’s anything you need, please let us know. Excuse the smell of brimstone, Morgan O is horrible at house keeping and I’m so sorry she couldn’t be here today. She was so looking forward to meeting you.

Yeah, you keep saying that while trying to pull the pitchfork from your sittin’ cheeks, Jmo. Doesn’t he look cute wiggling like that? Hi Lucienne!

Lucienne: I love the smell of brimstone in the morning, so there's no problem there. Hi, all.

TMD: In the literary business a lot of attention goes to the authors and publishers. Could you tell our readers what part agents play in the publishing world?

Lucienne: If I had to choose one word to describe what we do it would be "facilitate." We work with an author to hone a work before it goes out on submission to give it the best chance to catch an editor's eye or, even better, start a flurry of bidding. We negotiate, aggressively market subsidiary rights (like film, television and translation) that have been reserved to the author. We make nag calls to keep things moving on everything from submissions to contracts to checks. We keep editors apprised of what authors are doing for other publishers if they write for more than one so that no one steps on anyone's toes and the most can be made of all opportunities. Agents also keep their contacts fresh and their ears open for new promotional or writing possibilities and put people in touch with each other so that things happen.

TMD: Did you always want to become an agent?

Lucienne: Actually, I was either going to become an editor or a forensic anthropologist. I applied to jobs in publishing and to graduate school. Publishing got back to me first. I started as an assistant at Spectrum Literary Agency fresh out of school and loved it so much that I've never left.

TMD: I’m sure our readers who are authors would love to hear what are some of the criteria you look for when reading a manuscript of a prospective client?

Lucienne: First and foremost, I want something fresh. A completely different angle or take on something, a fantastically quirky voice or just one that's so lovely it pulls me in. Pacing and plotting are also important. It's so disappointing to read something you love only to have it fall apart because no new twists and turns arise as the novel goes on or it just loses steam. I love a wonderful story well told.

TMD: Most of your clients seem to be in Romance, but you also have a few outside the genre. Do you find the range of clients available to you keeps the job interesting?

Lucienne: Absolutely. I'd actually say that about a third of my clients are in romance, a third are in fantasy/science fiction and a third are in mystery/suspense and mainstream. I'm a voracious reader. I love being able to handle so many different genres that each remains fresh for me.

TMD: Being readers as well as writers, we have authors we would just die if we got the chance to meet them. As an agent, who are some of the authors you’ve had a chance to meet or have yet to meet who have left you speechless?

Lucienne: Before I ever went into the business, way back when I was still in college, I met Roger Zelazny. I dropped my pen as I was asking him to sign my books. I dropped my books when I met Donald Westlake, who was absolutely charming and quipped, "That's funny; I've always considered myself light reading." After that, I'm not sure I spoke so much as blushed. I've gotten better since then.

TMD: On the same line, who would you love to represent if you ever got the chance?

Lucienne: Oh no, that way lies madness. I can list some of the authors whose works I find time to read no matter how crazy busy I become, like Laurell K. Hamilton, Janet Evanovich and J.K. Rowling. I also love Sharyn McCrumb, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Stewart, M.M. Kaye, Agatha Christie, Susan Andersen, Robin Hobb, S.J. Rozan, Aaron Elkins, in no particular order. The list could actually go on forever. My bookshelves are triple stacked because of my love of books.

TMD: With so many up and coming authors out there both in print and epublishing, how closely do you look at the epublishing world for prospective clients?

Lucienne: Honestly, I have so many submissions coming in to me that I don't have time to go looking for more, though I'm always reading the queries and partials that arrive, hoping for something intriguing.

TMD: Do epub credits give prospective clients an edge? How much does writing experience go toward catching your eye?

Lucienne: Writing experience may convince me to read an extra page or two, but it's always the writing and the storyline that make or break a submission for me.

TMD: Many authors view epublishing as a training ground for a career in print. In your experience how many e-authors actually make it into print and go on to become productive in the field?

Lucienne: I have no idea about the statistics, but I have three authors on my list who started out with epublishers.

TMD: If you could offer one piece of advice to an author before submitting to an agent, what would it be?

Lucienne: Don't rush a submission out the door. Workshop, revise, hone. Remember that you're competing with a lot of other writers who will be doing the same and most of us in the industry are so busy these days that we don't have time to nurture a diamond in the rough.

TMD: What is hotter? A sizzling romance or Florida humidity?

Lucienne: Absolutely a sizzling romance. The latter won't keep me up late, late at night!

TMD: It is a short time and well honored tradition here at the Dairies to ask one totally goofy question before you leave and since my contract for Morgan isn’t up for another ten minutes, here goes:

Everyone of us has a little vice to get us through the day. Tell us one of Jasmine Haynes vices.

Lucienne: Every once in a while she needs a dose of dark chocolate and port. Don't we all?

TMD: Thank you for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed your stay. While Morgan O smothers the remaining embers in her hair, and before you go, is there anything looming on the horizon our readers should be looking forward to from your clients? Come on. The brimstone smell is getting stronger and that means Morgan O doesn’t have that much time before it’s back to the fires of literary hell or edits. They’re both basically the same thing.

Lucienne: Fans of Marjorie Liu's Dirk & Steele books should be sure to check out her new urban fantasy series from Ace starting in July with the THE IRON HUNT. It's going to be every bit as phenomenal as the cover suggests.

BTW Jmo, you owe me a haircut and a pound of flesh, bwahahahahahaha-*cough* MO


Jasmine Haynes said...

Dark chocolate and Port is to die for!!!!

Great interview, Lucienne. You're always a fountain of information. And the best agent in the world! Not that I'm biased or anything.

Jasmine Haynes
The Fortune Hunter, in stores now

Morgan O'Reilly said...

You? Biased?


Don't believe it for a moment!