Happy Valentine’s Day! Fiona Kenshole wants to be your Valentine. Her love letter to you: this fantastic interview!
Fiona Kenshole loves the midwifery of being an agent, from getting your debut published to doing the movie deal. At Transatlantic, they like to sell your book to publishers all over the world, so Fiona works with co-agents in 28 countries, selling worldwide rights. Before becoming an agent, she was a publisher in the UK where she worked with best-selling names including Michael Bond (Paddington Bear), P.L Travers (Mary Poppins) and the Laureate Michael Morpurgo. She was also the British editor for authors including Beverley Cleary, Lois Lowry, Richard Peck, Bruce Coville, Gary Paulsen and Cynthia Voigt, and was nominated for “Editor of the Year” at the British Book Awards. She was also the Vice President at Laika Inc. when their first three films were all Oscar nominated: The Boxtrolls, Coraline, and Paranorman. And she will be bringing all this experience and insight into kid lit and storytelling when she appears as a faculty member at this year’s SCBWI Los Angeles Writers Day, taking place on March 3rd.
Sarah Parker-Lee: How has working as an editor, filmmaker, and publisher influenced your approach as an agent, both on the client side and on the selling side?
FIONA KENSHOLE: The opportunity to work on so many different sides of the storytelling process just increases my respect for writers. It really is an extraordinary gift, to be able to create people and worlds that can feel more real than our everyday lives. My job, whether as an editor, a film executive or as an agent, is to help that writer in their creative process so that the story they tell is the best it can be. I’m often the first person that a story is entrusted to. I can see the places where the writer is too close to a story to see what is missing, for example, and as a professional with many years’ experience, I offer gentle, supportive practical criticism. I spent several hours this week reviewing a new manuscript I am really excited about, by one of my clients, and she came back to say, “All of the structural weakness of the book that you identified are ones that I already knew were there”.
That made me feel good: I am doing my job right!
As for the selling side, without being immodest, I am a brilliant story pitcher! It’s the result of my years of pitching to tough executives [at] Hollywood studios who don’t move a muscle. I went out with a pitch for a debut last month and got 20 requests to read from editors within a day!
SPL: Should writers be concerned about whether or not their book will make a great movie when they’re writing it? If the ultimate goal is to make a movie, do you need to write the book first?