Monday, November 17, 2014

Brooks's Adult Wish List

Hello, all! I believe I'm primarily known as an agent who works on picture books and middle grade and young adult fiction. It might surprise some of you to know that I work in adult fiction and nonfiction as well, and I'm actively looking to expand my list in those categories.

Now, as the first anniversary of my joining the Bent Agency approaches, I thought I'd take some time to share with you my wish list of adult projects I'd love to take on as I continue building my roster of children's books.

During most of my teenage years, the vast majority of my reading picks for pleasure were high fantasy novels (some of my childhood favorite authors were Lloyd Alexander, R.A. Salvatore, Margaret Weis, and Tracy Hickman), and I've retained a strong interest in the genre and its subgenres. I'd love to work with an authors of high fantasy epic with strong world building like George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire or Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicle, contemporary fantasy like The Magicians by Lev Grossman and American Gods by Neil Gaiman, or historical fantasy like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke or The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

I'm a particular fan of projects that fit into the "speculative thriller" subgenre: novels with a ticking clock and a strong fantasy/sci-fi/horror element. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley is one of my favorite examples of this subgenre, as is the recently released We Are Not Good People by Jeff Somers. Oh, and if someone writes literary horror like Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box or Horns, please drop me a line!

For contemporary fiction, I love a good character/cultural study, as found in Adelle Waldman's skewering of literary elites in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., or in Carol Rivka Brunt's heartbreaking look at 1980s New York City in Tell the Wolves I'm Home. Like many other readers, I was a big fan of Gillian Flynn's psychological suspense novel Gone Girl, but I'm an even bigger fan of her darker work, like Sharp Objects.

If you can keep me guessing with a literary or historical mystery like Arturo PĂ©rez-Reverte did with The Club Dumas or Caleb Carr did with The Alienist, we're going to be good friends. A pet project I'd kill to work on would be set during the Affair of the Poisons in Enlightenment France. The story could incorporate fantastical elements or be straight historical.

In nonfiction, I am primarily seeking projects that are historical, cross-cultural, or humorous. Reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States was a life-changer for me, and I maintain a fascination with true crime like Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah or anything involving organized crime in America. Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests is one of my favorite nonfiction reads of the past decade. (If you haven't read it, go buy the updated version today!)

I'm selectively considering memoir and biography projects that are transformative, explore of universal connections in new ways, or bring to new light some previous era or historical person. Travelogues are a person pleasure of mine as well, as I am a former Peace Corps volunteer and my wanderlust still flows strong. Some recent examples of what I mean here are Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan, Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin, and just about anything by Bill Bryson.

I'd also love to work on a book that deals with advice or pop science, or essay collections (a recent favorite is Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist), but these would require a strong (or growing) platform on the part of the authors.

So there you have it: some of my favorite adult reads, and the adult categories and genres I'm most focused on incorporating into my list in the near future. This in no way implies that I will be stepping away from all the wonderful children's book projects I currently work with. After all, I'm still looking for the next Roal Dahl, Rainbow Rowell, Andrew Smith, Holly Black, and Tim Federle. It's a busy, fascinating, fun life, reading all these books!

Anyway, I look forward to seeing your submission in the near future! And if anything I've outlined here is unclear, or you have further questions, you can reach out to me on Twitter. I'm always up for a quick chat!


  1. I t's funny, but the realistic/historical YA I'm tossing around the market now started out as an adult book that was aimed at the Oprah audience; I finished it, but it fought me all the way trying to morph into a YA historic thriller... I finally gave in, dumped about a third of it, (parents contemplating What It All Means, etc.) and came out with a scary-fast and funny ride. (Not legal for the street, but good luck trying to flag it to the curb to write a ticket!) Strange how these things work out sometimes... Kevin A. Lewis

  2. I've got an Epic Fantasy all polished and ready to go... but I'm in the process of pitching another book (Regency Romance with magic) to agents. As it's considered unprofessional to pitch two different projects at the same time, I assume you're in no rush when it comes to acquisition? (Who knows? My RRwM might strike the right note for someone else and this would become a moot moment.)

    I'd love to pitch my Fantasy to you. Looks like it might be a while.

    What are your thoughts on Fantasy projects with strong Romantic elements? That's what I tend to write.

  3. Holy rolling armadillos! Perfect timing. Thanks for posting this. I just happen to know an epic fantasy author (me) who is querying. I shall hie me to the site.