Madeleine Milburn: What I’m Looking For

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I’m the Director of Madeleine Milburn Ltd and 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 hook.

 

When a really special book comes along I feel it from the moment I start reading, I look for a strong 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’d love to find a psychological thriller with an unusual concept – something that immediately gets under your skin as you realise how easily it could happen to you. There has been a slew of these books of late, with marriages you recognise, in homes so familiar you feel you’ve been in them before. But there’s still new ways of approaching this genre, and I’m excited to see what’s to come.

 

I’m also seeing a trend for quirkier narrators who surprise you at every twist. 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 psychological suspense and crime writers, I’d love to find a big, sweeping love story that just wraps me up and takes me in. Something sad and beautiful that I keep thinking back to long after I’ve turned the last page. Publishers keep telling me they are looking for inspirational stories that offer escapism. An epic story with a strong female lead is something I’d very much like to find.

 

I am also very interested in high concepts and true stories that work particularly well for Film & TV.  In terms of non-fiction, I look for interesting stories that will inspire others. I also want to represent a new inspirational self-help book akin to The Secret.

 

Ten of my favourite books

In the Woods by Tana French

One Day by David Nicholls

The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Eeny Meeny by M.J Arlidge

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Killing Floor by Lee Child

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

The Magus by John Fowles

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

 

Ten of my favourite shows

Crime drama The Fall

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 Catastrophe

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