Thursday, October 25, 2012

Interview: Alec Shane

Today is the day!  I emailed the questions to literary agent Alec Shane of Writers House last night, and today I found a shiny new interview in my Inbox.  Everybody - please enjoy ...

DLM:  Before you became a literary agent, you spent some time in Hollywood as an assistant, a martial arts coach, a production assistant, and a stunt man.  What was the moment you decided to leave the West Coast - or did you decide to *come* to the East Coast?

AS:  My time on the West Coast was never a permanent move; I’ve just always been a big proponent of doing as much as you possibly can while you still have the opportunity to do so. Life is all about collecting experiences and having some great stories to tell your grandkids, and that’s mainly what my trip out West was about. When I felt my time in LA had run its course, I came back East, as this is where I’m from originally.

DLM:  Was it really their great-looking building that brought you to Writers House?

AS:  Pretty much. When I first started looking for a job in publishing, I didn’t know anything about the industry. I just kind of started researching based on some of my favorite books, and I eventually found my way to Writers House. It looked exactly how I would expect a literary agency to look, and combined with their wonderful client list and even more wonderful people, it was an easy decision. From the moment I first walked in the door, this is where I knew I wanted to be.

DLM:  It looks like your entire publishing career has been with Writers House, starting as an intern four years ago.  Would you give us a look at the arc you have had there, and what it takes to become an agent?

AS:  I have been very lucky to have Writers House as my first and only publishing job. Like pretty much everything in life, it’s all about being at the right place at the right time, and there just happened to be an assistant position available as I was completing my internship. I interviewed with Jodi Reamer, and I was offered the job. The rest is history, as they say. As for what it takes to become an agent – ask me that question again in about 30 years. I may possibly have an answer for you then.

DLM:  Now that you’re actively building your own list, what genres or topics do you most want to see?

AS:  I grew up on Stephen King, and so I’m a huge horror fan. I also love mysteries, thrillers, and all things sports. On the nonfiction side, I’m always reading interesting biographies or books that look at well-known historical events from a completely different angle. At the end of the day, though, as long as you can make me miss my subway stop or keep me up all night reading – or too scared to turn off the light - I’m yours.

DLM:  Are there stories or subjects you definitely do not want to represent?

AS:  “Definitely” is a strong word; like I said before, if I love the story, then I’m open to it. In general, though, I’m not much of a romance guy. I also don’t really like to read about people with problems that 99% of the world would absolutely kill to have.

DLM:  Aspiring authors have a morass of sometimes-contradictory advice and unwritten rules to navigate in creating queries - some agents insist on having a word count, for instance, while others hate seeing such administrivia.  In terms of content, are there any must-haves or deal-breaking elements to avoid for someone who would like to query you?

AS:  No real deal-breakers, no. But I would advise, for querying me and for your career in general, to know the difference between “breathe” and “breath.” That’s like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

DLM:  What advice or parting thoughts would you like to share with readers - not only aspiring authors, but lovers of literature, history and Trek nerds, or possibly even stunt men wannabes?

AS:  If you don’t love what you are doing, then you need to find something else to do. Life is way too short to be unhappy.

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