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Welcome To 2k9 Agent Interviews Part I, with Stephen Fraser and Catherine Drayton!

Today starts our 2k9 agent interview series! First up are Stephen Fraser, of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency and Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management. Stephen reps 2k9er Rosanne Parry, and Catherine is Lauren Bjorkman’s agent. So a hearty 2k9 welcome to both of these fine agents and thank you for letting us all get to know you and your tastes a little better!

Stephen Fraser joined the Jennifer De Chiara agency in January of 2005. Prior to this, he was an editor for Simon and Schuster and more recently the senior executive editor for HarperCollins. He is a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont and received his Master's Degree in Children's Literature at Simmons College in Boston, MA. During his time as an editor he worked with a large variety of creative talents and continues to do so now as a literary agent. He has written many children’s book reviews for The Christian Science Monitor, Five Owls, and Publishers Weekly, and is a popular speaker at conferences.

Catherine Drayton graduated with a degree in Law from the University of Sydney and worked as a copyright and defamation litigator in Sydney for four years before moving to the United States in 1995. She had a brief stint as a literary scout and then joined Richard Pine in 1998. She represents both fiction and non-fiction writers and has had considerable success with books for children and young adults. Her clients include New York Times bestselling authors and a number of internationally successful writers. She represents Markus Zusak, Dr. Leslie Baumann, John Flanagan, Andrew Blechman, John Bailey, Rebecca Sparrow, James Valentine, Peter Hartcher and Elizabeth Hickey, amongst many others.

And now for the questions and answers!

What kind of writing do you represent?

Stephen: I represent all kind of writing, from picture books to chapter books to middle grade to young adult. I represent some nonfiction, as well.

Catherine: My great love is the border zone between adult and young adult. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak is the perfect example of a book that is read by both teenagers and adults. In the upper YA market I tend to more literary, potentially award-winning novels but in the tween-middle-grade stories I’m a big fan of humor. I don’t like heavy fantasy, but look for books like “The Ranger’s Apprentice” series by John Flanagan or “Hush, Hush” by Becca Fitzpatrick that have a real teenager in a magical world. In the adult market I am drawn to smart commercial women’s fiction and to novels that show me a part of the world that I may never have a chance to visit.

Tell us your dream project. What would you like to see more of?

Stephen: A dream project is a first novel by someone of extremely good talent who as not sent his or her work to any other agent! I actually had this happen!

Catherine: My dream project in any genre has a wonderful imagination, a wry sense of humor, a distinctive, vibrant voice and memorable characters. I’m passionate about publishing books that will inspire teenagers to read and only want to take on those authors who are reaching for the stars.

Describe your reaction to Roseanne’s book (Heart of a Shepherd)/Lauren’s book (My Invented Life) the first time you read it.

Stephen: I love Rosanne Parry’s novel, Heart of a Shepherd. It was titled Stories from the Home front at the time. I thought it had genuine feelings and authenticity. And of course it was so current.

Catherine: What struck me about “My Invented Life” was how pitch perfect Roz’s voice was for a teenage girl. She’s sassy, slightly crazy and has a wonderful imagination. When she dreams of slipping bovine growth hormone into the petite cheerleaders Gatorade I knew I wanted to represent this book! I also loved the fact that there’s a message of tolerance and not being too quick to judge others but it is delivered with a light touch.

Are you taking on new clients?

Stephen: While I don’t need any more clients, I am always looking for the next great thing, meaning a great book and a talented writer.

Catherine: Yes – but only the best!!

What do you look for in a query letter?

Stephen: I don’t really care that much about query letters. I suppose I’d like to see if someone has been published before and what else they are working on. I’d rather read a few pages of their book, however, and this makes – for me – the query letter to be superfluous. Either the writing is good or not.

Catherine: The query letter is very important to me. I want to know that an author has done their research and knows what I represent and why their book would be a good fit for my list. Then I look for imagination – a plot that is unusual, creative – and the ability to pitch the book in one paragraph. A brilliant query letter is very persuasive!

If an aspiring writer asked you for a list of five must-read YA or MG fiction books, what would you recommend?

Stephen: That’s hard to say. I adore Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat (in the Dangerous Angels series); Jack Gantos’ Joey Pigza books; Holes by Louis Sachar; Seedfolks and Whirligig, both by Paul Fleischman; Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan. For starters, Maybe Missing May by Cynthia Rylant.

Catherine: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. “The Anatomy of Wings” by Karen Foxlee. “How I Live Now” by Meg Rosoff. “If I Stay” by Gale Forman and “Ranger’s Apprentice” by John Flanagan.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Stephen: The hardest part is probably not getting the attention of publishers for a book (or author) I think is fantastic. Sharing the enthusiasm is part of the job and when there is no response, it is sad. But you don’t give up!

Catherine: Getting through the reading!

What is the best part?

Stephen: There are two things: finding a great new book (or author) and then calling to tell them you have sold their book!

Catherine: The thrill of calling an author to tell them that a publisher has made an offer for their book!
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