Today’s 7 Questions are with Leslie Owen, actor, writer and literary agent, so of course we had many probing and deep questions for her to consider, including her taste in sandwiches and how she feels about dressing up dogs.
1. How did you become a literary agent? Were you a writer first?
I first published at 16, but I wrote the first story I remember writing at six. My mother claims I wrote before then. I was a stringer for several newspapers, wrote my own sports column, and had a New England Press Association Pass at 16. I graduated from university with a degree in writing and English Lit, and instead of going to Brown for grad school, got a job as an editorial assistant at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in NY. Then I was hired by Henry Morrison, Inc (agent to Robert Ludlum, David Morrell, et al) as a PA and became director of foreign rights & a junior agent. I was still writing, short fiction and libretti, involved in the opera world. I’ve always worked in publishing until I moved to Florida and started teaching. Now I do both. And write.
2. What do you look for in a submission, what advice would you give to desperate, erm, aspiring authors?
I’m looking for something that excites me, something I know there’s a market for, something I know I personally can sell. I’ve repped both adult books and children’s books, so it’s just a matter of finding the right clients. I’m a boutique agency, very small, still getting started. I have about 10 clients, almost more than I can handle without help. Advice? Write a good story. Good stories will always sell. Work on your craft, read widely, network. Traditional publishing is always 3 years ahead, so anything trending now is already over.
3. Someone said you do a spot of acting, what’s that about then?
I started working in the world of opera when I was still in university, in order to write libretti. I took play-writing classes from Edward Albee and learned the theatre from the ground up. I’ve done props, lights, sound, tech, stage managed, directed, and lately, I’ve been performing with First City Shakespeare, a Shakespeare troupe here in Pensacola which supports our sister organisation, one of the oldest teen Shakespeare companies in the US, Southeastern Teen Shakespeare. Just got done with 32 performances of our Halloween show, which is our biggest fundraiser for Setsco. I’ll be writing for 24 Hour Theatre next.
4. Do you have a writing project at the moment? Tell us about it?
I’m finishing my third novel, The Mortal Part, with 25,000 words or so to go. It’s the story of Scottish actor Sir Hugh Ross, 72, who comes home from the market and the gym one Monday to find that his beloved husband, actor/jazz singer Jonathan Weir, 58, has died in bed, from complications of diabetes. The story follows the first year of Jewish mourning for Hugh (Jonno was a practicing Jew), from sitting Shiva to the unveiling of the headstone.
5. What are you most proud of?
Currently? When I said hi to Jane Yolen at DragonCon — it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen her — she told me that children’s books needed me to come home. In general, though, I think I’ve gotten some really good writers and books published, and my children’s science book, Pacific Tree Frogs, was a top ten pick in Canada.
6. How do you feel about pet couture?
My little sister dresses up her three dogs and two of her cats. I think it’s weird, but her photos are always amusing. I own a Bengal and value my limbs. The most my Border collie ever tolerated was a bandanna after her grooming. My other cat, Ole, was a feral rescue, and he’d probably hide under the bed for the rest of his life if I put a costume on him.
7. Describe your ideal sandwich.
An honest-to-goodness Reuben from Katz’s Deli in NYC. We do have a local deli that makes a good cream cheese, lox, tomato, red onion, and capers bagel (sesame seed).