From New York to Adelaide
Some big names will head to South Australia for RWA’s annual conference in August, including Esi Sogah and Sarah Younger, coming all the way from the Big Apple. We interviewed the pair in the lead-up to our annual gathering.
Esi Sogah, senior editor at Kensington Publishing
Have you been to Australia before? If not, what are you expecting?
I haven’t! I’ve wanted to go to Australia for years and years, so I’m incredibly excited (as is my father. He’s been giving me tips pretty much non-stop.) I’m definitely looking forward to exploring some of the cultural institutions. I love art, dance, and theatre, and I hear Adelaide is just bursting with culture. I’d also like to learn more about the history of Australia, so I guess all this means is I’ll be heading to a lot of museums. And if anyone has tips on avoiding the legendary insects I’ve heard about, please let me know!
What will you be doing at the conference?
I’ll be participating in panels as well as holding a workshop. The main thrust will be our changing roles in this new ‘digital age’ of publishing and how everything old is new again. I’m also looking forward to what are sure to be delightful parties. I love getting dressed up!
Will you be taking pitches? And tell us the kind of stories you’re currently looking for.
I will be taking pitches! I’m definitely looking for romantic suspense, as well as romantic mysteries (so, like suspense, but less violence, more fun). I’d also like to see more historical romance in ‘unusual’ settings, as we say. For general fiction, I really like ‘book club’ books—novels that tackle big issues in interesting ways and leave you thinking about your life in a new way.
Are there any romance fiction trends you’re predicting for 2016 and beyond?
I’m seeing a lot more romance with a lighter tone and I think we may see a return of the romantic comedy—though it might not be called that. But I think the pendulum is starting to swing away from the dark, angsty days of paranormal romance and New Adult. I think this is what drove the explosion of contemporary romance over the past few years, and as editors look for different types of stories within that genre, light-hearted plots and witty voices begin to break through.
Tell us about some of the projects and authors that have currently got you excited.
I’ve got so many that I love! One that I’m especially excited about is a series with [Aussie] Alli Sinclair. She’s already published two books in Australia, and the first one, Midnight Serenade, came out in the US in July. The series is three women’s fiction novels, each featuring a different kind of dance and a generational family story. It’s exactly the kind of fiction I love.
I’m also really excited about a series launching in April 2017 by Alyssa Cole. Set during the American Civil War, the first, An Extraordinary Union, tells the story of Elle, a freedwoman who goes back into slavery to serve as a spy for the Union, and the Scottish agent who becomes her partner in espionage and love. Each book in the series takes place during one year of the war and they’re just fantastically written while bringing to light stories that don’t often get told. As you can see, when it comes to my historical fiction, I love rich detail and big themes.
I’ve also got a really delightful erotica series, set at a kinky dude ranch! The first book, [Delphine Dryden’s] Ride ‘Em, is on sale now. So my list really runs the gamut 🙂
New York is the pinnacle of the publishing world. What’s it like to be a part of that scene? An average week?
Ooh, boy. It can get pretty crazy. I’m lucky to be at Kensington, where editors are really encouraged to spend their time editing manuscripts and reading submissions. But that doesn’t mean we don’t also have meetings with the art, marketing and sales departments; plenty of emails; copy to review; contracts to negotiate; and the myriad other things that go along with being an editor.
The strangest part of being based in NYC is that few authors are, so most editor/author relationships are digital or over the phone. I had an author I’d worked with for almost eight years before we met in person! So you have to get pretty good at understanding your writing tone, and I spend a lot of time making sure what I’m trying to communicate to my authors comes across. And, yes, we do get to have fun lunches with literary agents and attend fancy parties every once in a while, too.
What can you be found doing when you’re not working? We hear you’re partial to theatre!
It’s true. You’ll most likely find me in a theatre: Broadway, Off-Broadway, converted church, outdoors—I love it all. If not there, then honestly, I’m probably on my couch. Netflix gets quite the workout in my apartment! Also Acorn.tv. Basically, if it’s a mystery, British, or historical—or even better, all three—I’m watching.
Sarah E. Younger, agent at Nancy Yost Literary Agency
Hello, have you ever been to Oz before?
I have not been to Australia before and I’m thrilled to be headed down later this year. I’m expecting lots of friendly faces and great conversations. (Along with some fabulous wine!) I’m also looking forward to checking out traditional tourist-y sights, because why not?
What will you be doing at this year’s conference?
I expect that I will be quite busy! But the mini list that I can rattle off the top of my head includes, of course, meeting with my clients, and with some of Nancy’s/NYLA’s local clients, taking pitches, doing a workshop, and participating in a panel. And if that doesn’t fill up my time, whatever Amy Matthews and Linda Brown (the organisers who I met at our Romance Writers of America national conference last year in NYC), ask of me…as long as I get to sleep at some point.
Will you be taking pitches? And tell us the kinds of stories you’re looking for right now.
Yes, I will be taking pitches. I quite enjoy taking pitches because you never know what exciting new project will come along. I’m looking for all kinds of romance projects. I’m not sure what’s at the top of my romance wish list at the moment, so I hate to say ‘I’ll know it when I find it’, but again I’m open to all varieties.
I’m also looking to add more women’s fiction to my list, in particular cross-generational stories that highlight relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren. I think that there is something special about that bond, and would love to read something that makes me laugh…and cry. But to find out even more about my tastes and what I represent, feel free to check out my page on our agency’s website, http://www.nyliterary.com.
Are there any romance fiction trends you’re predicting for the future?
This is a hard one, but I think that for a while some were saying historicals were down. I have always loved historicals—in fact, they were my first romance love and they got me my job with NYLA—but I think that they are, and will be, making a resurgence of sorts in the next few years. Also, I think that there is going to be a shift away from straight-up contemporaries to contemporary with something else to hook readers, so the subgenres are going to come into play. And then, I think, and hope, that the diverse aspects that colour our own lives will make themselves even more present in the fiction works we read.
Please tell us about some of the projects and authors you’re most excited about currently.
This might be the hardest question you’ve asked and it’s not because I’m lacking in excitement. It’s because I have too many options, and to be quite frank, I’m a little superstitious and I don’t want to jinx any projects that I’m getting ready to go out on submission with. However, I will say that I’m very excited to be working with my ladies from Australia and New Zealand, Ms Bronwen Evans, Ms Angela Bissell and Ms Bronwyn Stuart (all of whom I’m hoping to see when I head down later this year). And if that doesn’t satiate your curiosity on what I’m excited about, feel free to check out my Twitter feed @seyitsme.
What’s it like being part of the New York literary scene?
I hate to pull back the curtain on Oz with this answer, but I find my week to be consumed with emails from authors and editors, the sorting royalty statements and reviewing contracts, and in general, working out ways to solve any problems that arose over the previous week/weekend. We all work long hours, and most of us are doing it because it’s an industry that we’re passionate about.
However, I will say that yes, we do have exciting moments when a book launches or hits a list. And you really can’t quite compare the feeling one gets when I get to call a debut author to tell them that a publisher has offered on their work. And the work lunches are usually quite fun and enlightening, though I will say those lunches do not happen every day. But, all in all, it’s really not how they depict it in the movies, or even on cable TV—at least as far my experience goes. There are no cigars and very rarely does one find themselves with a tumbler half-full of whiskey or other strong spirits.
What can you be found doing when you’re not working?
Well, I grew up on a horse farm, so once upon a time my answer would have been out riding or at least in the barn. But now that I’m in the city, if I’m not working and/or work-reading, I’m usually enjoying a stroll through Central Park, walking my way down the halls of museums that are becoming more and more familiar, going to movies or concerts, reading for pleasure, and last but not least, enjoying a nice meal with friends and family.
If you haven’t booked for the conference but would like to, there’s still time, but it’s running out fast. Hie thee to the RWA Website and book now!