It’s time to meet our third and final member of the Darley Anderson Children’s Book team – agent Clare Wallace! Clare has headed up the children’s agency for a number of years now and is on the lookout for new talent to add to her glittering list. Read on to find out what she looks for in a submission, her manuscript wish list, as well as to get a little insight into her journey to becoming an agent.
First of all, what is your role at the agency?
I represent children’s fiction (all ages), illustrators, and a boutique list of adult fiction. Broadly, this involves talent spotting, editorial/portfolio development, match-making authors and illustrators with publishers, deal-making and author/illustrator care. It’s my job to support and champion the authors and illustrators on my list so that they can concentrate on doing what they love while the Agency takes care of the rest – like negotiating terms and contracts, translation and dramatic rights, and chasing payments etc.
How did you get into Publishing?
Late and with difficulty! I always wanted to work with books and was always a naturally commercial, rather than literary, reader. But, truthfully, I didn’t have any connections to the publishing world and found the idea of moving to and living in London quite overwhelming. I didn’t have the confidence to do it when I finished university. I had lots of other jobs, including proof-listening to audio books, working as a freelance research assistant for Cardiff University and helping international students with their written work, but none of it was what I wanted for a career. So, after completing a master’s in creative writing at Bath Spa, as part of their anthology launch, I got to meet lots of agents and asked them if I could apply for work experience. One said yes, and two have since become great friends. That night changed my life! I got my toe through the door of a literary agency, and one opportunity lead to another. Full disclosure though – I worked for free, or for very little, for six months. It was a scary time financially. I also applied for probably hundreds of jobs in publishing which resulted in only three interviews. Luckily for me, the place I interviewed successfully at was Darley Anderson (at the age of 28). We all talk about this all the time, but it’s true that while talent is extremely important, perseverance is crucial.
Which book changed your life?
This is such a hard question. I don’t know. Alongside books there were comics and magazines. The Beano (Ivy the Terrible and Minnie the Minx were my heros) and then Bunty (I wanted to be Roz from The Comp). I remember being read One Hundred and One Dalmatians by my dad, as well as Treasure Island, and I adored them both. These two books, for the first time, truly sparked my imagination. Every time I heard dogs barking at twilight I wondered what message they were passing on and for a while I obsessively made treasure maps (dipping them in tea, of course). I loved Watership Down, and it was the first ‘big’ book I read on my own – I can still remember that sense of achievement. I also read and reread Back Home by Michelle Magorian and wished I was as courageous as Rusty. I was fortunate to have been surrounded by characters and words, and taken to the library, throughout my childhood. Later, in my early twenties, I was profoundly moved by The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (the only adult book I have ever reread) and astonished by The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. So many stories will have shaped the reader, and person, I am now.
What’s on your manuscript wish list?
Another tricky question. It’s hard to be specific because honestly, I don’t always know what I’m looking for until I find it. Like my colleagues, I’m also very much looking for underrepresented writers and illustrators. Character is key and I want them to stay with me long after I finish reading. I am a sucker for a standout voice, and a strong concept/big hook. And I need some pace within the storytelling. I have been searching for a love story that truly makes me feel like a teenager, and in the flush of first love again, for years. The search continues… Similarly, I never tire of stories about friendship and the things that hold them together or pull them apart. I love a speculative twist, or a survival story, and a bold ‘what if?’ question. I like submissions to make me laugh or cry. I’m keen to find some horror, either for MG or YA. I’d love to find a fantastic MG adventure and enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, as well as narratives about contemporary life. I’m open to non-fiction too and would like to explore that more. But really, what I really want, is an amazing reading experience. I am a reader first. I have just finished reading The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski, And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando and Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart. I wanted to press all three of these brilliant titles, for different reasons, into the hands of others.