Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ask the Industry Expert: Literary Agent, Josephine Hayes

It's time for another one of Helena Fairfax's agent interviews, and today Josephine Hayes of the Blair Partnership has kindly stepped into the spotlight. Many RNA members may remember Jo from the Lancaster conference, where she held one-to-one sessions.
Thanks for coming over to the RNA blog, Jo, and for taking the time to answer our questions. 

Please tell us a little about the Blair Partnership and how you came to join.
helena fairfax, jo hayes, blair partnership
Neil Blair founded The Blair Partnership in 2011 with a vision to transform the traditional notion of a literary agency into a new type of company to help people manage their creative ideas and IP in a more strategic way. From brand and rights management to creative development we offer the essential mix of expertise that clients need to realise their creative ambitions and unlock opportunity. We work with a range of talent from debut writers and creatives, to people with established careers and platforms, including J. K. Rowling, Sir Chris Hoy, Frank Lampard, Maajid Nawaz and Pete Townshend. I joined the agency at the end of 2015 after spending 5 years at the Bell Lomax Moreton Agency where I represented a diverse list of children’s fiction clients, memoir, and adult fiction. I am still looking for a range of fiction, but predominantly YA and commercial women’s fiction.

What do you enjoy most about your role as literary agent?
I enjoy the variety of the day-to-day and the thrill of picking up an unsolicited manuscript and realising there’s something really engaging and exciting about it and not wanting to put it down. But most enjoyable of all is letting an author know you have received an offer of publication for their work.

How was your experience of the RNA Conference?
It was a really great day – I was well-looked after and I met lots of really interesting and imaginative writers, all with really varied and unique ideas.

Are there any specific plots or themes you would love to find in your slush pile?
I’d love to find a modern historical fiction submission with a romantic twist, sent against a turbulent background e.g. a new Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

When you open a submission from the slush pile, what’s the first thing you look at? (Query letter? Opening paragraph? Synopsis?)
I first look at the query letter to get an idea of the writer’s background, and if they’ve had an interesting career, or previously received any notable awards for writing or creativity. This is then followed by the sample material, and if I like the writing, last of all I’ll read the synopsis to see how the rest of the story unfolds. If it’s an engaging plot I’ll request the full manuscript.

What’s your favourite romance novel of all time?
One Day, by David Nicholls

Apart from your own authors, which book have you enjoyed the most in the past twelve months, and why?
Life after Life, Kate Atkinson – really beautifully written historical fiction with a unique concept

I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh – utterly gripping psychological suspense with a great twist

Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healy – again, a really well-written book from an interesting and relatively un-tapped perspective of a protagonist with dementia.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Read, run, cycle, tennis, go to the theatre – all sorts!

If you could describe your working-day in just three words, what would they be?
Intense, exciting, rewarding

It's been lovely getting to know you, Jo, and fascinating to find out more about your role with the Blair Partnership. Thanks so much for dropping in!

About Helena:
helena fairfax

Helena Fairfax writes contemporary romance novels and sometimes branches out into romantic suspense when she’s in the mood for danger. Subscribers to Helena’s newsletter receive a free copy of Palace of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense novella set in the mysterious and romantic fictional country of Montverrier.

Thank you for another of your most interesting interviews, Helena.

If you would like to be interviewed for the RNA blog please contact us


Francesca Capaldi said...

Interesting interview. Thank you Jo and Helena.

Janet MacLeod Trotter said...

Yes, interesting and useful - what the RNA does best!

Rae Cowie said...

Interesting to hear what you're hoping to find in submissions, Jo. It was lovely to meet at the RNA conference and the feedback you gave was so helpful. Thanks for giving up your time.

Rhoda Baxter said...

Interesting and informative interview! Thank you Jo and Helena.

Anita Chapman said...

An interesting interview, Helena and Josephine-thank you.