CV: Literary agent, Simpson Fox Associates

In my teens I wanted to be a civil engineer, I think because there weren't many women in it, and because I quite liked the idea of making things. But I did terribly badly in my A-levels, so that was the end of that.

After that, I knew I'd got to get a job. So I did a very quick secretarial course and applied for the first job I saw in The Times, which happened to be a job in the rights department at William Heinemann.

At my interview, they thought I was too young - I was 18 - but I kept ringing back and, luckily, they couldn't find anybody else. In the end they just said: "OK, we'll give her a go."

I turned up there in April 1984, and although I'd never remotely planned to be in publishing, as soon as I walked in I knew that was absolutely where I wanted to be. Heinemann had been quite an old-fashioned house, but David Godwin had just arrived as editorial director, and there was a sense of excitement and regeneration. And, just as I got there, they published Graham Swift's Waterland and Clare Francis's Night Sky.

I'm sure I was one of those awful, over-keen people; I went in at weekends, read all the manuscripts, and always gave my opinion unasked. I would try to sell second serial rights to funny magazines, and worked my way up as everyone around me either left or got pregnant. About three years after I arrived, I ended up running the department.

Then David Godwin left to go to Secker and Warburg, and I left with him to run their rights department. We lasted 18 months, until David was fired; I then jumped ship and went to Cape. I again ran the rights department, and when Random House (of which Cape is a subsidiary) acquired Century Hutchinson, I took over the rights for the entire group. That meant doing big deals in America, for big serialisations: there was the Marlon Brando autobiography that The Guardian famously paid a huge amount for, and we sold a slush-pile book that had come in from America - a novel by Carol O'Connell called Mallory's Oracle - back to the Americans for $800,000

But it was a tricky time. Cape is now a fantastic publishing house, where everything has come together, but when I was there, there was this split between old Cape - the McEwans and the Amises - and new Cape (authors such as Ben Okri and Peter Hennessy).

Everything was slightly fractious and, somehow, things never quite worked out. For example, we were publishing Jim Crace, and thought that every time we brought out one of his books it would get on to the Booker short list, but not one did - until after we'd left.

Then, three years ago, Robert Fox of Simpson Fox, whom I knew nothing of, just rang me up out of the blue and said he was looking for a literary agent. He told me he had this agency which Hollywood calls "below-the- line" - a theatrical and television agency representing set designers, directors and lighting people, rather than actors. And he wanted to set up a literary side to it, so that the agency could represent, say, the writer, the director and the designer on the same movie.

I found that the day-to-day business of an agent was just the same as it had been in the selling department at Random House. The only difference was that I didn't automatically have writers, and I'd never really had to deal with them before. There were a few writers I'd had at Cape who immediately said they would come to me, and once you've got one or two in the right kind of clique, you end up representing all of them. Because I'd met lots of journalists, I thought I'd target them. I think journalism is where the great writing is now.

The big titles I've worked on here are Julie Burchill's book on Diana, Burchill's recent autobiography, and Andrew Roberts's Eminent Churchillians. And I've sold what is going to be the thriller of the year - a fantastic book called Remembrance Day, by Henry Porter, who's going to be the next Robert Harris. I also represent Cristina Odone, Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Suzanne Moore, Simon Heffer, and Mala Sen, who wrote the script for the film Bandit Queen.

I now have the joy of not being in an office, with all that corporate rubbish going on. Instead, I'm on my own in a lovely office on Shaftesbury Avenue, surrounded by luvvies through our theatrical and opera work. I was always known for being an exaggerator, and embellisher, over-the- top and quite luvvie-ish in publishing, but now I'm totally luvvie - and it works. It gets me in the right frame of mind for selling.

Interview by Scott Hughes

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Sauce Recruitment: Programme Sales Executive - Independent Distributor

£25000 - £28000 per annum + circa 28K + 20% bonus opportunity: Sauce Recruitme...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money mot...

Guru Careers: Investment Writer / Stock Picker

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A freelance Investment Writer / Stock Picker ...

Guru Careers: PPC Account Executive / Paid Search Executive

£20 - 24K + Benefits: Guru Careers: An enthusiastic PPC Account / Paid Search ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us