Madeleine Milburn: What I’m Looking For

Actively looking for: character-driven debuts, original voices, quirky storytelling, high concepts, fascinating viewpoints. Epic stories with universal themes, issue-driven crime, dark fast-paced thrillers and mysteries, fear-inducing suspense, moral dilemnas, genre fiction, fiction that mixes up the genres. Thought-provoking stories, emotional journeys, inspiring stories, love stories, writing I cannot put down.


I’m the Director of Madeleine Milburn Ltd and an Agent, and I am building a voice driven list: all genres, both literary and upmarket commercial.  I’m always on the lookout for new writers, the key thing for me is a unique voice and a strong, compelling protagonist.

When a really special book comes along I feel it from the moment I start reading, I look for a concise covering letter and then I look for a gripping and unforgettable voice: a narrator who is going to pull me in and never let me go.

I’m seeing a trend for quirkier narrators. Whether they’re unreliable, struggling with illness, mental-health issues, memory loss or social awkwardness, protagonists are becoming more and more lifelike and with that, more and more relatable to readers. I fell in love with the heroine in Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine as soon as I started reading it – she’s a bit of an oddball who tends to say exactly what she’s thinking and struggles with appropriate social skills, but she’s such an endearing character too.

I think the different ways in which a story is told can be really interesting, for instance Laura Barnett’s The Versions of Us moves between three different versions of the same story. I’m looking for unique ways of telling stories, particularly given the new ways we absorb information on social media.

Aside from finding new crime authors, I’d love to find more upmarket women’s fiction for instance a big, sweeping love story or a contemporary look at modern life.  I would definitely like to find an extremely emotional read but also some more uplifting fiction, something that offers hope in the challenging world we live in.  Publishers keep telling me they are looking for inspirational stories that offer escapism.

I am also very interested in high concepts, true stories and true crime that work particularly well for Film & TV.

Ten of my favourite books (excluding my authors!)

I am I am I am by Maggie O’Farrell

The Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

One Day by David Nicholls

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

The Magus by John Fowles

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

 

Ten of my favourite shows

Crime drama Apple Tree Yard

American comedy Transparent

Two Brothers Pictures The Missing

British Comedy series FleaBag

Satirical series Black Mirror

HBO series Olive Kitteridge

British crime drama Happy Valley

American political drama House of Cards

Danish series The Bridge

Sitcom Motherland