Monday, April 18, 2011

Interview With My Awesome Agent: Kathleen Rushall!

First off, I wanted to thank everyone who participated in my Wordy Giveaway last week and I'll announce the winner in my post on Wednesday. Now, on to the good stuff!

My wonderful agent, Kathleen Rushall, graciously agreed to answer a few questions so you can all get to know her better. Yay!

Along with being made of awesome, Kathleen is pioneering the children's and young adult literature list at Waterside Productions, Inc. She looks forward to garnering fresh voices, strong narratives, and whimsical tales in all areas of young adult literature. 

And here are her answers!

Welcome, Kathleen! Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed!
Thanks so much for interviewing me, Jenn! I love your blog and am so happy to be featured here.

Why agenting? A lifelong dream, or something that happened serendipitously?
So, for the first question - A little bit of both. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to work in publishing; to work with books. That is something I’ve always known. I didn’t know the exact position I wanted until right after college when I first interned at the Sandra Dijkstra Agency. That introduced me to the details of agency work – and ever since, it was my goal to be an agent.
Gotta say... so excited she decided to go this direction, ;) 'Nuff said. 

What led you to specialize in children’s and young adult literature?
The simplest answer here is the truth – it’s my favorite. I studied literature in college, and honed my interest when I specialized in children’s literature in my master’s program. In the long-term history of books, young adult and even children’s books are a pretty new phenomenon. I think that’s fascinating. I also believe that books a person reads in their early years (more than any that may be read as an adult), can be the most memorable, the most sense-of-self-shaping. I like that.
Totally agree! It's so interesting the way YA/MG is such a recent development. 

What do you see as the ingredients for a “breakout” book in terms of commercial success, literary acclaim, and/or both?
Well, there isn’t a specific recipe for success, but I do think there is a big juxtaposition that can make a great book. The contrast is – it must appeal to a broad range of people while also revealing something very specific, original, or little-known, whether that is a certain voice, perspective (think cultural), time period, world, etc. The best fantasy is deeply rooted in reality, and the best historical fiction is full of everyday details. There has to be an equalizer for modern readers to empathize with characters who may come from a totally different background, time period, culture, or reality. Many of the books that receive literary acclaim hold a mirror to our faces, and at first we don’t know that we’re seeing ourselves.
I've never really thought about it that way, but it's so true. See? She's a genius!  

What’s the one thing an author can do to catch your eye? How can authors get agents to look beyond the query letter?
Do your homework. Research well and know a bit about whom you’re querying. Being able to open your query letter with why you are approaching this specific person and being aware of what the agent’s deals or book interests are can go a long way.
I'm a firm believer in the personalized query. From everything I've seen, the ratio of requests seems to be much higher when it's clear off the bat that the writer has done their research. Just sayin' 

How much contact do you have with your clients? Emails, phone calls, etc.? What kind of relationship are you looking to build and why?
I’m looking to build give-and-take relationships – honesty and communication are key, so there is definitely a good amount of contact. I’m attached to my email all day, so that is the fastest way to get ahold of me. But, I always like to call with good news, or to brainstorm or explain something more in-depth. I’m looking to build a partnership with my authors. After writing, I look at agenting as the ground zero, the very beginning, of the publishing journey, (exciting!). The author agent relationship is important to me, and I think it should be an enjoyable one.
As someone with first-hand experience, I can say that Kathleen is SO great at keeping her clients updated. It's so nice to feel like I'm up to date and in the know... now if only I could feel like this in other areas of my life... 

Do you expect your writers to develop a market brand and stick to it? Or are you open to them pursuing a diversity of stories within their body of work? In either case, what is your reasoning?
Market brands are excellent, but I’m a firm believer that you should write what you love – and you are allowed to love more than one genre! There are ways to make this work and to write completely different style books while keeping your brand intact – pen names are a great example.
I love this! As a writer, I like feeling free to explore the ideas that I feel most passionate about. Hooray for open-minded agents!

What are the greatest challenges of being an agent?
There’s a large reading workload- luckily, it’s the thing I love as well. It got much better for me when I invested in a pair of glasses this year!
I can't even imagine how much reading agents have to keep up on, but if glasses helped... I think that's an investment I might need to consider.

What do you love about it?
The stories and the people. It’s amazing to find a career where you have so much in common with the people you work with – we are all here because we’re passionate. 
Agreed! The publishing industry seems to be full of the most amazing people! In spite of the struggles, I wouldn't choose any other career.

Is there anything you would like to add?
Just that I’m so happy to be doing this, and am really looking forward to what the future brings. And that I can be queried at  
Also, what’s an interview without some random facts? I love Tegan & Sara and still think The Ring is the scariest movie I’ve seen. And sometimes when I'm in a particularly sunny mood, I slip into a terrible British accent. Don't tell me it's too weird to love.
I love these odd little facts. I mean, The Ring is the reason I stopped watching scary movies... and a random British accent is absolutely not too weird to love. :)  Thanks again, Kathleen. You're fantastic for taking the time to do this. You can find her on twitter under KatRushall.


  1. Thanks for this awesome interview!

  2. What an excellent interview! Thank you ladies. It was great to get to know a bit more about Kathleen.

  3. Great interview! Thanks for sharing your sparkly new agent with us!

  4. Sounds like you hit the jackpot! Thanks for introducing us!

  5. Hi Kathleen! Thanks for dropping by!

    It's fun to get to know your new agent, Jenn! :)

  6. Great interview! Kathleen seems like a great agent! The Ring is why I stopped watching scary movies too.. I haven't seen one since.

  7. Thanks everyone! Cheyanne - This seems to be a VERY common theme... maybe there is something about that movie that struck a nerve.

  8. She sounds fab. Love the British accent fact (one of my MCs has a bit of British flare to him) so it's no secret I love those jolly old England folks.

    So glad you have an agent you love!

  9. Great interview. I loved how she said that books we read as children help shape us. I totally agree with that.

  10. I had a clever response to the interview and then read "The Ring" and all thoughts left my mind. That movie scared the snot out of me. Thanks, Kathleen for the interview. I already thought you were pretty awesome because you saw the genius that was Jenn (whom I love), but now you've proved it even more.

  11. Kasie - I'm totally with you on the having a clever response and then all thoughts leaving my mind... happens to me all the time. I promise! :P

  12. I especially loved Kathleen's description of what makes a great breakout novel. I think she put into words clearly what so many of us are trying to grasp.

    You are a lucky girl, Jenn! And Kathleen is a lucky agent too! I wish you both great success.

  13. Love the British accent slippage! Very helpful (and encouraging) interview - agents are human! :)

  14. Great interview and great insights from someone on the inside!

  15. Great interview, Jenn! And thanks to your shiny new agent for stopping in and giving us a glimpse of her personality. She sounds like a super fun gal. No wonder you two hit it off so well! :)

  16. Fun interview! So cool that you have an agent! Good luck with everything--you deserve it. :)

  17. What great questions to ask! Thanks to both of you for sharing this. I love the one about not having to write in the same genre all the time. :)

  18. Excellent interview! I queried Ms. Rushall a little while back, and can't wait to hear form her.

  19. Great interview Jenn and thanks to Ms. Ruchall for supplying such informative and entertaining answers. I think slipping into a British accent is quirky and lovable.

    Madeline Barr