Trees are ablaze, apples are sweet, air is crisp, and for me, fall spells fiction. My to-read pile is as deep and inviting as the leaf pile on my lawn, with Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton, an ARC of Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs and Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety. Reading good books makes me hungry for new projects. Very hungry. It’s not unlike having a tapeworm. So e-mail me your queries, attach your first chapters, and know you have an interested audience. My tastes are wide ranging—recently I’ve liked The Forgiven (shades of Paul Bowles and Laurence Durrell) the twice Bookered Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, Ann Patchett’s glorious State of Wonder and J. Courtney Sullivan’s intergenerational tale, Maine, whose characters were as real (and prickly) as folks I know.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always on the lookout for smart nonfiction, but today’s post is an open invitation to the novelists among you. I do represent polemics on my nonfiction list, but I am suspicious of novels conceived to further an obvious agenda—whether political, humanitarian, or spiritual. When a query letter begins cause first, story second, I worry. In the framework of a novel, it seems to me that readers care about characters and not issues, and nothing is worse than a story inhabited by sock puppets, each rehearsing the arguments of their author. I am a fan of historical fiction, characters that travel to far flung settings, first person narration, and rueful humor (think Lorrie Moore).
I’d love to see a well-turned spy thriller, a literary fantasy along the lines of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians or Susanna Clarke’s masterful Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, or a novel that plumbs the relationship between sisters (I have three) . I have trouble with high fantasy and space opera—my knowledge of the genre is just too shallow–and I am too lily-livered to linger much with horror, serial killers or kids in peril. So with those few caveats, drop me a line. I’d love to see my inbox ablaze with fiction!