Bookseeker Literary Agency

Introducing authors and publishers.


Introducing Michael Shand

Michael Shand 300Michael Shand is a Scottish playwright and author. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife Sara, his son Charlie, and a couple of crazy cats. And we are pleased to welcome him to the circle of authors represented by this agency.

Between 2006 and 2015 Michael completed thirty plays, many of which were produced in festivals throughout Scotland by That’s Lunch Productions. His forte and preferred medium of expression is Scottish vernacular, and he says that his works “tend to highlight the wickedness of human nature and mankind’s inherent instinct for survival.” Several of his plays have been shortlisted for awards and in competitions, and his one-man piece Depravity won an Arts Trust for Scotland Award.

His new novel, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, which the agency will be presenting to publishers later this year, tells of what happens when someone drops a bag full of money on top of three unsuspecting homeless people, sheltering from the rain under a bridge in 1990s Edinburgh. Kidnap, violence, murder, and betrayal happen, in a helter-skelter of action.

Readers of John Banville will recognise the novel’s introspection, and those of Irvine Welsh the barbarity and humour. It rubs shoulders with the works of Ian Banks and Kate Atkinson, and readers of either would enjoy it.

Watch this space for more news about Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. Publishers who would like to get in touch in advance of our official promotion – and get in first! – please feel free to do so.

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News in the New Year

Time for some news. This time of year is very often the doldrums for literary agency work and publishing in general, so it’s good to have snippets coming in.

Our client Marie Marshall always has several irons in the fire. Mainly she’s a poet and a poetry editor. Every four months she produces an e-zine called the zen space, which features haiku and other short forms of poetry. The Winter 2018 Showcase there has just been published, and is full of wordsmithery from all over the world.

The artwork for this particular Showcase has been provided by Canadian artist Millie Ho. You will remember that Millie did the cover artwork for Marie’s novels The Everywhen Angels and From My Cold Undead Hand. A click on the image below – a detail from one of Millie’s illustrations – will take you to the latest Showcase at the zen space.
Bunnyman

The previous update here gave news of the short movie Lose Like A Human, created by Luka Vukos and Fergus Doyle. Borrowfox – an innovative rental platform, stocked with state-of-the-art camera and film equipment from leading rental companies and private users, from which borrowers can use the best equipment for the lowest prices, while lenders can make money from unused kit – interviewed Luka and Fergus for their blog. The interview makes interesting reading, taking these two creators through the stages of making a movie on a shoestring. Click here to read it.

Borrowfox pic 2

Luka Vukos (right) on the set.

Our client Carmen Capuano is racking up five star reviews from readers for her novel Split Decision. Here’s one of the most recent:

Split Decision, essentially a coming-of-age novel, is both brilliant and brutal – brilliant in its execution and brutal in the sensitive subject matter it explores. The decision Natalie makes impacts on many and she is not the same person at the end of the story as she is at the beginning… It is the second book that I have read by the author Carmen Capuano, the first being Ascension, a dystopian thriller. Although the subject matter is completerly different, I found the story just as engaging and thought- provoking.

The plot begins in a shoe shop where best friends, teenagers Natalie and Stacey are shopping. The new pair of shoes which Natalie purchases – in a style which is way out of character for the sensible teenager, can be viewed as a metaphor for both her step into adulthood and what subsequently occurs. Natalie is soon called upon to make a split second choice and her decision heralds a chain of unexpected and shocking events.

The author does an excellent job of depicting the trials and tribulations of the teenage years and how they effect existing and new relationships: a time of burgeoning sexuality, when we strive to forge our own identity, sometimes putting us in conflict with our families who find it difficult to come to terms with their offspring entering adulthood. The balance between protecting their children whilst allowing them the freedom to grow is often a difficult one and I felt that the author touched on this in a sensitive fashion. I certainly identified with Stacey and Natalie from memories of my own teenage years and recognised how easily events could take the path they did.

The characters, the young people and the adults, were all very believable and the author is to be congratulated on using the events to illustrate their personal growth and changing family dynamics. The plot is cleverly and expertly written and certainly had me guessing and questioning my own preconceptions and prejudices. All in all a super read…

 Split

A belated Happy New Year to everyone – writers, readers, publishers, film-makers, colleagues, and friends – from Bookseeker Literary Agency.


Losing at chess, winning at film.

2017-11-30 03 Lose Like A Human

Paul has recently spent some time on the set of Lose Like a Human, a short film made by Neon Eye Productions in Edinburgh, some of the cast and crew of which are pictured above. It is the debut film from director Luka Vukosavljevic (right). The film stars Sarah Meikle and Jamie Begg as the Chess Players, and Cara Lynch (centre) as the Singer. Paul was given a non-speaking part as the ‘Match Man’. The film has a number of surreal touches, but its serious core is the contemplation of Artificial Intelligence.

Luka and Paul have been discussing Luka’s other possible projects, which include scripting and directing a film set in Yugoslavia in WW2, and taking over the script-writing for the screen adaptation of Marie Marshall’s short story Axe. We’re looking forward to the release of Lose Like a Human – wrap came on 30th November, and we’re told that the footage looks good.


P’kaboo Publishers – an update

pkabooMany of you will know that this agency has had a long-standing relationship with P’kaboo Publishers in South Africa. You may also have noticed that we removed all links from this web site to P’kaboo and to its sister publishing house Honeymead, shortly after the death of Iain Rossouw, along with some details of our relationship. The two main reasons behind these actions were firstly that the links to their web sites did not appear to be currently active and led nowhere except to an error notification, and secondly we were not sure what decisions were going to be made about the future of both houses.

Rather than intrude into what is still a very traumatic period for the Rossouw family, we decided to wait for a word from them. Recently Iain’s widow Lyz, who was the senior partner in P’kaboo, posted some news on her personal blog, to the following effect:

The web site is down, in fact, since January of this year, due to a server inconsistency and a subsequent dispute that remains unresolved. Other pressures mean that the dispute is not currently being taken any further, and indeed when I contacted Lyz privately we discussed the possibility of her looking for a different platform to host the house’s web site.

P’kaboo is currently ‘on hold’ as a publishing house. All P’kaboo’s current titles are still available through third parties however, notably Amazon, and the intention is to relaunch the publishing house as soon as the way becomes clear.

We wish Lyz and her family all the best, and look forward to seeing a revitalised P’kaboo in due course.


Joshua Gamon – a new force in fantasy writing!

Joshua Gamon 700 7

… steps Joshua Gamon – a new force in fantasy writing!

Readers who enjoyed Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere will find themselves enthralled by Joshua Gamon’s The Brothers Thanatos. In a fantasy that journeys from the crowded streets of Bombay to a soot-laden London, to Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, to Edinburgh, and to Hell and back again, Max Thanatos and the spirit of his dead brother Charlie encounter fallen angels, Theo Hardeen the brother of Harry Houdini, the vile Aleister Crowley, and even the Devil himself. They battle abhorrent horrors, witch-hunters, the police, and all-comers in an attempt to save Charlie from eternal damnation.

The novel does not drop pace once, and it is this agency’s privilege to represent the author, Joshua Gamon, and to offer The Brothers Thanatos to publishers. It is going to be a best-seller!

Publishers – get in touch with this agency as a matter of urgency, to be first in line for this manuscript!

Joshua has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the prestigious University of Edinburgh, and it’s easy to see why. The Brothers Thanatos is his debut novel, though he has been involved in the creation of several works of graphic fiction before striking out on his own. That goes some way towards explaining why this new novel is so visual, evoking almost cinematographic scenes in the minds of readers.

Having tracked Joshua Gamon down to his current whereabouts, we put some questions to him..

Q: Firstly, who is Joshua Gamon? Where were you born, where did you study, where are you now?

Joshua Gamon 250 6A: I am thirty-eight years old, born in New Haven, CT, and of Russian and British descent. My mother is an artist, my father is retired. I have a BS in English Literature from Towson University, which is mostly known as an actor’s school. I was also awarded an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh in 2014, which is one of the most famous and lauded universities in the world. I left Scotland to move back to Florida to take care of my mom, which is where I am today. In the past, I once taught English in South Korea, starred in a documentary about the USS Indianapolis on the History Channel, built robots with Motorola and competed them on a national level, was almost trapped in a cruise ship fire, and am currently working as a novelist for children and adults.

Q: What started you storytelling? What gave you the impetus to put pen to paper, and when did you first start to take yourself seriously as an author?

A: When I was young, I tried to emulate the things I loved the most. The first time I saw David Bowie on MTV, I wanted to be a singer and failed famously. Then I tried to play the guitar like Johnny Marr from The Smiths. But then a friend gave me a copy of Dragonlance Chronicles as a birthday gift, which was a fantasy trilogy collected in this one thousand page book. At the time, I wasn’t a reader. But he made me promise to read a little bit at a time. And I kept that promise, and I finished the book over the following summer. When there was nothing left, I started to write my own stories. But they were small, private affairs. When the internet came about, the world opened up. I got into comics, wrote a few, and even had a couple published years later in college. And just a few years ago, I wrote a television pilot for the BBC’s Writer’s Room, and made it into the top ten percent. But, ultimately, it was not sold. All of those experiences were just flings. Once I graduated from University of Edinburgh, I decided to put it all on the line and write.

Q: The Brothers Thanatos seems to occupy a spot somewhere in the field of ‘factasy’ or ‘magical history’, with its much of its action taking place in recognised locations, and with a certain amount of real characters. Where would you position it in literature yourself?

A: Good question! The novel flirts with many popular conventions of horror and science fiction and alternate history, but it’s not aloof with its identity. I see the sub-genre ‘urban fantasy’ spring up a lot, and that’s how I would probably categorize The Brothers Thanatos. But I were to put my own spin on a sub-genre, it would be more akin to pulp fantasy, for it embraces that literary period.

Q: Fantasy fiction is a ‘hot’ genre at present with a lot of writer jostling for top spot. What makes The Brothers Thanatos a contender?

A: I think people are going to be quite surprised by the book. On the surface, the fans of the genre will sate their hunger on the fantastique with its magic, ancient societies, and Lovecraftian monstrosities that slither in the shadows. But the true meat of the story, the part people will really sink their teeth into, is the tortuous journey of Max Thanatos; a man so broken, so utterly lost in despair over the death of his brother, they’ll probably wonder if I’m a sadist in real life! But I’m not. Honest. But this is certainly a world of blood and grime, violence and sorrow. If anything, it channels the spirit of the currently very successful movie Logan, as it’s about a man at the end of his adventures.

Q: Part of the action of The Brothers Thanatos takes place in Edinburgh, here in Scotland. What attracts you about ‘The Athens of the North’? What makes it fertile ground for the setting of a fantasy?

A: I often believe I was born in the wrong century. I always felt drawn to the interwar period of Great Britain, where the traditions of the past were colliding, sometimes violently, with modernity. To me, Edinburgh encapsulates that juxtaposition. At the top of the hill rests the ancient castle, and exactly one mile away is the very modern Parliament building. There are cemeteries next door to cafes. You even have North Bridge that literally and figuratively connects the older city with the new. Edinburgh is a steampunk capital, a medieval world populated by black cabs and power grids. It is majestic and dirty, gothic and modern, dark and serene. To me, it’s a second home. I had to pay my respects.

Q: The novel is written in third-person, but I notice there is a very strong protagonist. Do you identify with Max Thanatos? Are you ever tempted to identify with a character in your fiction? Do you write a strong main character to entice your readers to identify with that character?

A: To me, story is character, character, character. A novel can have a great plot and brilliant action sequences, but if you’re not invested in the characters, then there’s really nothing at stake. It’s more fun to root for someone, to hate or love someone. This is ultimately a story about brothers Max and Charlie, and I am not kind with their lives. I always found myself drawn to frail, broken characters, and these two men are made to suffer dearly. But that also means they have that much more to overcome. I didn’t want to make it easy for them, and that is the allure of their characters. I will say there is a lot of myself in Max, the doubt, the insecurities, but there is also some of myself in Charlie as well with his unbridled optimism. But the beautiful thing about literature is how the readers project themselves onto the characters. Once they read the novel, I would love to hear what they find.

Joshua Gamon 200 4Q: What’s your writing discipline? Do you sit down and write for a set time each day, or do you write as and when inspiration comes?

A: I recently read an article about Stephen King, how he writes two thousand words a day, which didn’t seem like a lot to me until I tried it and failed. But this also comes from a man who has been writing two novels a year for the last forty years, big, meaty books. King is a literary savant. So the real question, to me, was not the daily word count, but how many words did he erase to get there? For me, I used to edit as I went—but that was a waste of energy. For anyone who writes, creating is exhausting enough. Editing is its own beast. Then one day, a professor told me to first get it down, then get it right. It was solid advice. Writing is, after all, rewriting.

But my approach to writing is chaotic. There would be days where I would just toil over a single paragraph. Other times, I would slap down pages of new content, only to erase it all the following day after coming up with a better way to tell it. I would love a passage, hate it, and omit the work only to bring it back again. The worst days involved me sitting on my couch, questioning every word of the manuscript. But I rarely work from an outline. I let the characters surprise me. I’m not for jotting down notes while sipping tea in a café. I’d rather spend that energy on the book. When I do dialogue, I first have to understand how each person sounds. Sometimes I would envision famous actors playing the parts. I find it does help. You just have to be fearless to write. During those dark times, at the trough of the process, I just reminded myself there was someone out there who wrote Sharknado. If you believe in your work, someone else will, too.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

A: At the moment, I have a few projects in the works. A friend from university and I are developing our second children’s picture book about a rabbit who decides to quit being a rabbit. The story is done. And from what I’ve seen from the illustrator, I’m very excited about this book. I think it’s going to be something special.

As for me, I’m currently writing the first draft of my next book, which is about a young rider in the Pony Express and his perilous journey across the Utah Territory. After The Brothers Thanatos, I wanted to compose a shorter, light-hearted adventure about a boy versus nature, to cleanse the palate, if you will.

Afterwards, I have a swashbuckling novel that imagines a conflict between Robin Hood and King Arthur and his Round Table. But since I am a stickler for historical authenticity, it also involves a lot of research.

Q: When you read a piece of writing by another author, what stands out for you? What do you admire most in another author? Equally, what features of literature today do you dislike?

A: I’m a terrible reader. Can I admit that? When I’m writing, I close myself off to nearly everything. I don’t want to be influenced by someone else’s fiction. But, in the past, my heaviest influence as an adult was probably H. P. Lovecraft. I love sensory details in writing, but the man was an artist of mind-creeping, dripping atmosphere. A true master. Another man who wrote beautiful, haunting prose was William Peter Blatty, who just recently passed. I think everyone should read The Exorcist.

Intrigued? Want to know more? Itching for a look at the manuscript? Get in touch with us at bookseeker{a}blueyonder.co.uk now!

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Header art detailed from The Passenger by Joshua Gamon and Adrian Sibar.

 


Spy week comes in from the cold…

2017-04-22 11b Spy week

Paul writes: Edinburgh Spy Week is an annual event, run and hosted jointly by the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh, the National Library of Scotland, Filmhouse, and Blackwells, in conjunction with the Institute for Advanced Studies and the Centre for Security Research at the University. It really ought to be more visible, and I will certainly be keeping my eye on the ball for next year.

This year’s events included a season of John le Carré films at the Filmhouse, and a series of talks and events at the NLS, the University, and Blackwells. Presenters and participants included spy-novellist Aly Monroe, historian Niall Whelehan, intelligence expert Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, author Henry Hemming, and former MI5 officer and whistleblower Annie Machon. The final session at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures was on the 22nd of April (despite what it said on the screen – see above), when the topic for the afternoon was ‘Spies on TV’. Joseph Oldham, Associate Fellow in Film and TV Studies at the University of Warwick, took us on a tour of the changing face of TV spy drama, from Danger Man and The Avengers via Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to The Night Manager. He even mentioned Adam Adamant – but not Callan! It was anyhow a presentation that made the audience appreciate the subtle and not-so-subtle changes that TV spy drama has undergone over the past few decades.

2017-04-22 12b Spy week Zinnie Harris

Zinnie Harris

Most enjoyable was an interview with playwright and scriptwriter Zinnie Harris, who worked on episodes of Spooks. When prompted by a short question, Zinnie launches into long answers which, notwithstanding a rapid delivery, are crystal clear. It is amazing how she can get across so cogently what the experience of writing a TV script is like, compared to creating a play from scratch, or adapting a work for the theatre.

The final hour of the afternoon was a presentation and question-and-answer session on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, with Penny Fielding, Simon Cooke, and David Sorfa from the University, joined by Joseph Oldham.

What is the future for the the genre of espionage – in literature and popular fiction, on film, and on TV? Or indeed in computer gaming, graphic novels, or any other medium? Are there any new writers out there who can think outside the box of Smiley ‘tradecraft’, Bond CGI, or the hi-tech hacking of Homeland, or use such elements to novel effect? Or is the whole genre a dead-letter-box where no one picks up the half-empty packet of Gauloises or notices the chalk mark any more? I wonder…