Thursday, May 21, 2015

2 Agent Kurestin Armada of PS Literary Talks Voice, Tea, and Originality

Kurestin began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city's thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction. She can be found on Twitter at @kurestinarmada.

What is it about a manuscript that excites you?

The million dollar question! This is always changing and hard to pin down, but I think the biggest draw for me is the clarity of the character’s voice. When I forget that I’m reading a story written by a person, and instead believe that I’m being told a story by the main character, I’m completely hooked. Strong, believable characterization can cover a multitude of sins in a manuscript, and it cannot be edited in afterwards if it’s missing. I can help a manuscript along, and the editor can make it absolutely shine, but we can’t insert a compelling voice for your characters.

What is on your wish list?

It’s hard to pin down my wish list at the moment, because I want to be surprised. I think there has recently been a strong trend of retellings of various stories, and many have been very excellent, but now it’s time for some weird, very original stories.

What are some of your favorite authors/books and why do you love them?

 I love everything Nick Harkaway has done, because his books always have this element of humor and fun even while his characters face danger and very real consequences. I really enjoy John Scalzi’s work for the same reason. That fun element is extremely important to me, even when the world is an extremely dark or violent one.

I also love sweet romances, like the one in EVERYTHING LEADS TO YOU by Nina LaCour, and strong, loving friendships like those in VIVIAN APPLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Katie Coyle, and THE RAVEN CYCLE books by Maggie Stiefvater.

What are some things you love to see in a query?

I love when people get down to business in the query, and focus on the book! That may sound obvious, but I get a lot of queries that tell me everything except for what the book is about. That’s all I care about when I’m first reading a query! Someone who clearly knows what their own book is about and can tell me about in a very clean, concise way is my favorite kind of query-writer.

What are some of the worst things you've seen in a query?

People who say they saw one of our rules (for instance, no attachments unless requested) and ignored them on purpose. People who skip the query entirely, and just start with the story. When the query isn’t even written by the author, or is composed entirely of reviews from other people. All of these things will get a query instantly put in the “no” pile for me. Most other things though, like pitching a genre I’m not currently looking to acquire, won’t stop me from reading the query and giving it a chance to interest me.

Are you an editorial agent?

I am, yes. As I read the partials and fulls I’ve requested, I’m constantly making mental notes on how to make the manuscript more effective. There are always places where the descriptive details can be more engaging, where the characters can pop off the page a bit more, and where the action can be tightened and sped up (or drawn out for the sake of tension!). 

Character, world, or plot?

Character is king, absolutely. Next is the world, and then finally the plot. Of course all of these things need to come together, but the plot is the thing that can be edited with the most ease, in my opinion.

Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices?

Tea! I was given a giant electric kettle for my birthday, and I use it constantly. I also have a huge weakness for beautiful yarn, since I knit a lot. And of course now that it’s beautiful and warm outside, you can find me out in the sun drinking mimosas on weekend afternoons.

What genres are you drawn to most?

Science fiction and fantasy are the top two for me. I read and work outside of those genres, but those are the ones that are the closest to my heart! Contemporary LGBT YA novels are a very close contender, though.

Which is more crucial: emotional connection or current marketability?

It’s always both, it has to be that way. If there was a manuscript I absolutely loved but I didn’t believe would sell well right now, I can imagine asking the author to hold it back and try something else first. But that’s not a request any author is going to enjoy hearing, unless they’re already a client and we’re planning their long-term career. So if this was a new author that I loved but didn’t see a current market for, I would probably have to pass in the end. And then on the other side, if I see a market for it but I don’t enjoy the book, I am absolutely not the right agent for it. So they don’t always have to be equal, but both elements have to be there in some amount for me to start a working relationship with that author.


  1. Great interview and I totally agree that character is King. Give me a great character and I'll follow them almost anywhere :)

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