Manuscript Wishlist: Camilla Wray

As it’s the beginning of a shiny, fresh new year we thought we would get our fantastic agents to write up their manuscript wishlists for 2015.

We’re kicking things off with what Camilla Wray hopes to find in her lovely slushpile…

#MSWL If I could wish upon a storytelling star…

As agents we’re always looking for what I secretly think of as business mind wants; stories that fit trends (in publishing and culturally), fill gaps in the market, are natural steps forward from bestsellers, or stories and characters that fall into a publisher’s wish list. These are what our agent minds keep an eye out for and what we then often have to fight tooth and nail to represent.

However, also creeping alongside these wants are our heart’s greatest wishes; characters, settings and stories we’d personally fall head-over-heels in love with and would kill to find as readers, even though they might not be what’s en vogue right now. For me, this is why #MSWL is so exciting – I can already hear the beat of my heart’s wishes thundering away. A way to find your dream book? YES, please!

For #MSWL there are three manuscripts across fiction I’d absolutely adore and crave to find. They are career goal finds in a way but whenever they’re ready to cross my path, I’m ready for them…

One: Soldier, Soldier

You may not remember this TV programme but growing up I was obsessed with Soldier, Soldier. The drama, characters, and idea that life and death can live so close together really fascinated me.

I would absolutely love to find a modern day story or series that touches on how it really feels to be in the armed forces; for a soldier who’s had to watch their best friend be changed forever by war, for the husband or wife who can never really understand, for the child whose parent has lived for stretches of a time where every decision could kill them only to come home and be faced with decisions about dinner, washing and what to watch on TV. It’s the real life grit, tears, hopes, devastation and laughs that I feel deserve the chance to be part of a fiction series.

I recently had the amazing luck to start watching Grey’s Anatomy after our brilliant Rights Executive, Emma, told me to give it a try, and in a sense this is what I’d love to find based around the armed forces. Perhaps set in a barracks following a group of people – soldiers, friends, husbands, girlfriends, lovers, sons etc – and the reader really learning what it’s like to be them. In a sense, also like how Jilly Cooper took a village and we obsessively followed her characters; warts and all. As readers you believe these people are real and live everything as they do, you become addicted to finding out everything about these people and the life they live which is so different from yours.

Two: Animal drama for all ages

When I was little I adored listening to my Dad read Colin Dann’s The Animals of Farthing Wood, and Robin Jarvis’ The Deptford Mice. Although an animal obsessive (at eight, I covered all four walls of my room in ripped out National Geographical Magazine pages) they equally intrigue and, if I’m honest, scare me. Do we really know what they’re thinking, or what they’re actually doing when we’re watching (or not watching)?

It’s so easy to view animals from a human point-of-view and so instinctively we push our homosapien assumptions and emotions onto them; but what is it really like to be the little mouse with a stump of a tail that lives on the Turnpike Lane underground tracks? (sadly I ask this question too many times).  Or the little scrawny pigeon with a melted right foot that is always the last to get any food? (Did you know people actually put acid on buildings that erodes away pigeon’s feet? Or that pigeons mate for life and always live where they’re born?)

I really think we’re really ready for a new big scale animal drama adventure series and would absolutely love to find this. Something that either creates a whole new world around everyday animals or creatures; or takes something like wild animals in cities and shows us things we’ve never thought of before, a social hierarchy whilst telling a brilliant tale readers of all ages can become obsessed with.

Three: Sliding Doors…

Ever since the film Sliding Doors the idea of ‘what if’ has been an obsession. We make little decisions every day without thought, but what would have happened if we’d gone left instead of right? Would we have met someone – the one – and left everything else behind? Or would we have been faced with a huge catastrophe that would change our lives forever? It’s a really simple idea that has so much power behind it and I’d love to find a story that follows this idea. Perhaps two storylines running parallel following the same character(s) if they’d gone left that day, or right, or back, or forward, or just stopped…

It doesn’t just have to sit in women’s fiction; a thriller with this angle could also be mind-blowing. We’d have the same crime, but would it be the same outcome? It’s this manipulation of fate and time that really excites me and, as we’ve seen with books like One Day, I think there is a huge appetite for stories that take something simple like one day a year, or one decision, and shows the reader what could have been.

NB: To quickly touch on ‘business mind’ wants, we could rattle away about this for hours and it really deserves its own blog slot down the line. But, as a whole, I think the key is to look around, push yourselves to think as a reader living and breathing today, and then push harder and slightly outside the box. What’s on the charts today? Is it a surprise sell, or does it fit into a trend? How long has this trend been in our lives? What would you love to read and are finding it hard to put your hungry mitts on? These are all a great place to start.

Check out Camilla’s twitter feed for more @CamillaWray

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