Actively looking for: character-driven debuts, original voices, quirky storytelling, uplifting fiction, high concepts, fascinating viewpoints. Epic stories with big universal themes, issue-driven crime, dark fast-paced thrillers and mysteries, fear-inducing suspense, moral dilemmas, fiction that mixes up the genres. Thought-provoking stories, emotional journeys, inspirational stories, love stories, narrative memoir, writing I cannot put down.
I’m the Director of Madeleine Milburn Ltd and an Agent, and I have a voice-driven list: I work across all genres for all ages, 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. Anything that feels topical.
Aside from finding new crime and thriller 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.
I’d love to represent some more literary fiction – Sally Rooney, Maggie O’Farrell and Hanya Yanagihara are all favourite authors.
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
Normal People by Sally Rooney
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
Ten of my favourite shows
Crime drama Apple Tree Yard
Netflix series The Sinner
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
Danish series The Bridge