Hayley Steed: What I’m Looking For

Actively looking for: commercial and book-club fiction across all genres including contemporary women’s fiction; uplifting love stories; upmarket general fiction; high concept novels; grounded sci-fi; speculative fiction; gothic novels; horror; feminist reads; magical realism; tense crime and thrillers; cross-genre books; true crime and compelling memoirs, non-fiction focused on sport and female voices.

I’m looking for commercial and book-club fiction and non-fiction across all genres: women’s fiction, crime, thriller, grounded sci-fi, narrative non-fiction, true crime and memoir. I handle the book to screen adaptations for the agency, so I’m always looking for potential in this medium too – great concepts, compelling writing and, most importantly, commercial promise.

In women’s fiction, I love a contemporary, feminist, funny read like How Do You Like Me Now? by our own Holly Bourne or In at the Deep End by Kate Davies. I also love something incredibly romantic that completely sweeps me up like Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls. I don’t want to see any women being saved by men, rather women saving themselves and each other – and if they fall in love, that’s a bonus. I also love a dark comedy like Nina is Not Okay by Shappi Khorsandi or a coming-of-age in the vein of Ladybird. My favourite writers in this area include Jojo Moyes, Jodi Picoult, Dorothy Koomson and Cecelia Ahern.

I adore general fiction and the more upmarket end of commercial novels, such as authors including Celeste Ng, Sally Rooney and books like Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid that capture me with their characters and never let go. If you can create a character, or characters, who stay in my mind for weeks on end, it’s definitely a book for me and I love a character driven novel in any genre.

I’d love any fiction which is casting a light on our society too – think The Handmaid’s Tale, The Power, or pretty much any episode of Black Mirror. I’m not as keen on fantasy but am looking for these more grounded, relatable worlds with an edge. I’d also love to find novels that explore the more romantic side of speculative fiction, including magical realism as per The Time Traveller’s Wife. I love cross-genre writing like Sarah Lotz and Sarah Pinborough who explore a supernatural side to thrillers, and I’d love to find some speculative fiction, or light sci-fi, akin to The Martian, The Fireman or The Girl With All the Gifts. I’m also on the hunt for a great novel featuring witches, preferably something fun and contemporary, but I’m open to all takes.

I inhale thrillers, be it psychological suspense, or fast-paced action, but along with this darker side of fiction, I’d love some more gothic novels like The Silent Companions – bring me spooky ghost stories, creepy tales, along with the more sweeping atmospheric gothic fiction. I’m also keen to find some horror – both realistic and supernatural. My ideal find would be a social commentary horror like Get Out, or something similar to Stephen King.

I’m a huge sports fan and would love to see any non-fiction in this area, particularly around women in sport in any capacity. One of my favourite books is Eat, Sweat, Play by Anna Kessel and I’d love to find more in this vein. I’m also looking for narrative non-fiction and memoir, extraordinary stories from ordinary people, intriguing careers I’d love to know more about, as well as a stand-out true crime in the vein of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark or The Fact of a Body.

My top books:

Normal People by Sally Rooney
In at the Deep End by Kate Davies
The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
The Three by Sarah Lotz
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
Weightless by Sarah Bannan
Educated by Tara Westover