Chris Richman received his undergraduate degree in professional writing from Elizabethtown College, and an MA in Writing from Rowan University. A former playwright, contributor to The Onion, and sketch comedy writer, Chris broke into agenting in 2008 and has quickly made a name for himself by selling several noteworthy projects. Chris is actively building his list, enjoys working with debut writers, and is primarily interested in middle grade and young adult fiction, with a special interest in books for boys, books with unforgettable characters, and fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Now on to the FIVE QUESTIONS
1. You plucked Katana from your slushpile. How far were you in the manuscript when you thought “I have to sign this author”?
The main thing I remember about first reading Katana was how I didn’t have an e-reader, so I was forced to read submissions on my Blackberry. Picture me squinting at a 2×2 inch screen on the subway while being elbowed left and right and you’ll have an idea what that was like. Despite the terrible conditions, I still felt myself completely engaged in the story and excited to keep going. Katana isn’t like a lot of the things I’ve signed since, but there was something about Rileigh’s voice and just how fun I could tell Cole Gibsen, the author, was having writing the story that really pulled me in.
2. Your guidelines say you are looking for “fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously.” How does Katana fit that description?
Cole has actually said in the past that that specific line is what compelled her to query me with Katana in the first place, and I’m glad she did! Katana definitely has a lot of the elements of a paranormal/fantasy romance, but there’s a lot of wise cracking, from Rileigh herself as the narrator, and also her best friend Quentin. Even though serious things are happening, and there’s danger and fighting around every turn and a complex mythology to nail down, the story never feels weighed down by seriousness, and that’s totally the type of story that can easily hook me.
3. As an agent, what is it like to make “the call”?
It’s a lot of fun, although it can be a little anxious, too, since I’m never entirely sure the writer will sign with me. It’s a nice moment when they accept the offer because that means the real work—heavy revisions to get a story ready for submission—is about to begin in earnest.
Even better than the call to offer representation, however, is the call to inform them we have an offer in hand, because that means all of our hard work has finally paid off. Making that call is my absolute favorite part of the job.
4. What is the one piece of advice you wish every writer would pay attention to?
Be patient. Whether that refers to revising their work enough to make sure it’s ready, or letting your writing buddies have time to reflect on your story, or giving an agent ample time to consider your project, or trying to not stress too much when a book is on submission (although I know it’s exciting!), patience is key to a healthy, professional approach to this business.
5. Finally, Beatles or Rolling Stones?
It’s a pretty close call, but I’ll have to go with The Beatles. Richards and Jagger are terrific, but it’s hard to match the three-headed monster of McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison.
Katana is available today, folks! Rush out and get it. You won’t be sorry.
And if you missed my interview with Cole, here it is: http://lsmurphy.com/2012/02/14/5-questions-with-cole-gibsen/