A chat with agent Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency...hosted by Kat Ross
1. What made you want to be an agent?
I'm an attorney with a background in creative writing, magazine editing and communications, so it brought together my strengths and everything I love to do.
2. What advice would you give aspiring authors? OR What elements are MUST HAVES in a story you’d ask to see more of? What makes you go the next step to wanting to acquire?
It depends on the genre, but in fiction I look for plot-driven tension and suspense, plausible motivation, complex and imperfect characters and at least one truly sparkling sentence on each page. For nonfiction I'm looking for the same elements -- together with excellent research and a compelling issue or story to explore. Aspiring writers most need to be courageous. Not just in their writing but in living their lives.
3. Besides basic grammatical errors and writers sending stories in genres you don’t represent, what are most common problems with the submissions you receive?
There isn't a strong market for a lot of what people seem to want to write.
4. What’s on your wish list? AND/OR What have you seen too much of?
I'm mostly looking for narrative nonfiction, as well as sports and science books. Also I'm always on the lookout for clever young adult fiction. I'm seeing way too many YA fantasy narratives that all look too familiar.
AND NOW FOR SOME DARKLY DELICIOUS QUESTIONS....
1. All time favorite villain?
A tie between Kurtz, Edmund (King Lear) and O'Brien from 1984.
2. Last book that made you cry / laugh hysterically?
I just read an unpublished ms called "Napoleon's Hairdresser" that sends up the historical romance genre and had me rolling on the floor.
3. Guilty pleasure?
4. Top three books you’ve read in the past year that were not from one of your clients?
The Sleepwalkers, by Christopher Clark; The Death of Bees, by Lisa O'Donnell; The Elements of Style (an annual read).
5. Meal/Dessert/ Drink of choice?
The ceviche at Cafecito, on Avenue C in Manhattan.
6. Favorite Place You’ve Ever Visited
Kalgin Island, Alaska.