Literary Agent Sarah O’Halloran’s Wish List

I started at the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency last month and now that I’ve mastered the coffee machine I thought it was high time I let you know a little bit more about the kind of books that excite me.   

I’m looking for upmarket commercial fiction, reading group fiction, accessible literary fiction, children’s and YA as well as accessible non-fiction. Across all genres, I’m drawn to strong, unique voices and stylish, distinctive writing.

As a reader I have quite catholic tastes and the list I’ll be developing as an agent will reflect that. This mightn’t sound like terribly helpful information, but it does mean there is very little I definitely won’t consider!

I’m actively looking for reading group fiction: something with a compelling story that addresses issue or ideas that will resonate with the reader long after they’ve finished the book. Some great recent examples are A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY by Carys Bray or ELIZABETH IS MISSING by Emma Healey. I also love ambitious stories about the way we live now like THE INTERESTINGS by Meg Wolitzer. I’m also drawn to love stories written in thoughtful or interesting ways like THE VERSIONS OF US by Laura Barnett.

I’m also looking for great psychological suspense like APPLE TREE YARD by Louise Doughty. I’m a huge fan of unreliable narrators and I loved THE DINNER by Herman Koch. 

I also venture into the mysterious world of literary fiction. I love plot-driven writing and I have a fondness for dark themes and unlikeable characters! Rob Doyle’s wonderful debut novel HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN, a dark and gritty story set in Dublin full of sex, drugs and violence is exactly the kind of edgy literary fiction that appeals to me. I’m also a massive fan of John Burnside for his bleak, haunting vision and the poetry of his writing. I would love to find a great gothic-style ghost story; a modern-day THE TURN OF THE SCREW would be perfect.

With middle-grade, teen and YA fiction I’m drawn to contemporary stories with an authentic voice. I’m a sucker for a fabulous story about the joy and heartbreak of first love and I love poignant, moving books like the wonderful MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTLEPIECE by Annabel Pitcher. On the other end of the spectrum, I loved WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart, a compelling story about a family with a dark secret. I would love to find some wonderful sophisticated literary YA. And like every YA agent I would love to find a British Rainbow Rowell!

My non-fiction list will focus on accessible history, memoir and biography and well as pop-psychology, pop-culture and maybe even a little pop-science. I really enjoyed both THE EXAMINED LIFE by Stephen Grosz and DO NO HARM by Henry Marsh, so if you’re a budding psychoanalyst or brain surgeon, I’m the agent for you.

As a brand new agent I’m actively looking to expand my client list with exciting new authors of fiction and non-fiction, so please do get in touch!