Friday, May 27, 2011

Katie Shea Defines Literary Fiction

Katie Shea works for the Caren Johnson Literary Agency in New York City. It was a tweet that led me to her blog interview with Chuck Sambuchino, editor of Guide to Literary Agents.

As Shea works to build her own client list, she is especially interested in literary fiction. I hadn't heard that term before. Sambuchino defined it as, "'important' works with beautiful writing and envelope-pushing or groundbreaking subjects." He asked Shea to elaborate, and I loved her description:

"Literary fiction involves serious and personal themes, while creating a beautifully written story. First off, I want something I can connect to. I am most interested in stories about family dynamics, motherhood, fatherhood, personal overcome, unexpected relationships, and self-discovery. I truly look for a story that has it all—love, hate, good, bad, tears, laughter, success, failure—showing me that the writer can connect with a vast audience on many levels.

"The tone of the book is also extremely interesting to me. The main character must always set the mood of the story. I like sadness and darkness, but I also like to see positivity and happiness somewhere in the plot. I want to feel the story in my veins."

Friends have suggested that instead of a memoir, I write a fiction book based on fact. It sounds to me that my book should be literary fiction. It's another step toward finishing the project.

Shea said four of her favorite literary fiction titles are:
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Which of these do you like?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the definition of literary fiction that Shea uses, but don't think I would put WATER FOR ELEPHANTS in that category. It is a lovely story that I enjoyed immensely, but I tend to think of literary fiction as having very melodic, symbolic, complex and artful language (as opposed to commercial fiction that is a bit more straightforward). Then there's "upmarket" women's fiction which is a combination of literary and commercial ... So confusing, but I DO agree with Shea that all the elements she looks for are the same ones I look for - which is why I favor literary work as well. THE HELP is on my list; will have to add the others as well.