Madeleine Milburn: What I’m Looking For
Actively looking for: character-driven debuts, original voices, quirky storytelling, high concepts, fascinating viewpoints, tightly plotted fiction with shocking twists and secrets. 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 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