An Interview With David Haviland

Good evening folks, I’m delighted to welcome literary agent and writer David Haviland to my blog. Here, he discusses his experience as a writer and how he is a literary agent alongside, his time in university studying English and Film Studies and when he knows he has connected with a manuscript.

Over to you, David.

1) Did you always plan to be a literary agent after you left school? Did you have any other career plans?

I never planned to become an agent, my goal was always to be a writer. I’ve written six books, with hopefully more to come. But like most writers, I need a day job, and being a literary agent is ideal. To spend my days with writers and other book lovers, working together to try to produce good work, is a real privilege.

2) How did you find studying Film and English at university?

I enjoyed the course, and Norwich is a lovely city, but looking back I wish the course had had a more practical focus. I seem to remember reading that, at that time at least, Film Studies was pretty much the most popular degree subject in the country, despite the fact that we have only a tiny film industry for all those thousands of graduates to try to enter.

3) How do you manage writing your own books with your day job?

At the moment, I’m afraid the answer is that I don’t. My last book was published six years ago, and at the moment agenting and a one-year-old daughter mean I have no time to write.

4) What do you look for in a covering email by an author submitting their work?

I don’t pay much attention to cover emails, to be honest. As long as the cover email is tolerably well written, and the genre is one I’m interested in, I skip straight to the sample chapters, as that’s the important part of the submission, in my view.

5) How do you know that you have connected with a manuscript?

Plenty of people can write competently enough, or construct a scene reasonably well, but it’s a lovely moment when you realise you’re in the hands of someone who can really make it sing. A kind of trust is formed, which opens up much more interesting possibilities for irony, subtlety, suspense, and more. When you don’t trust the writer, and a character does something surprising, you’re likely to just assume the writer has blundered. Whereas when you have a degree of trust in the writer, you’re intrigued – perhaps this surprising moment reveals some new quirk of the character? Or sets up an interesting plot point to be paid off later on…

6) Do you have a guilty pleasure genre?

If you saw my iPod, you’d quickly realise I don’t believe in guilty pleasures.

7) Is there anything that you haven’t seen or read about previously that you think ‘I could see that in a book’?

I’d like to see more crime novels with BAME and other minority protagonists.

8) What do you think of the thriller market currently?

I think there are some excellent writers around. Larry Enmon’s Wormwood is a terrific, dark mystery. Shaun Baines’ debut novel Woodcutter is coming out this summer – and will be the start of a very exciting, gritty crime series set in Newcastle. Christopher Bardsley has just released a remarkable debut thriller set in Thailand and Cambodia called Jack Was Here. Looking beyond my own writers, I’m a big fan of Denise Mina.

9) When you write your own novels, do you need music or silence? Do you have a genre that you like? Did you have a favourite growing up?

Music is too distracting, and silence is too intense. I like a steady background hum – one of my bookmarks is a two-hour youtube video of rainfall. I love crime novels, and hopefully that’s what my next book will be.

10) Do you like Rod Stewart, and if so, do you have a favourite song of his?

Young Turks is a bit of a banger.

Thanks for your time, David.


David Haviland studied Film and English at the University of East Anglia, before working in advertising with M&C Saatchi, and moving into television with management roles at Simply Money and Sirius Television, of which he was a co-founder. After the sale of the company, David left Sirius in 2003 to become a freelance writer and journalist, since when he has written regularly for a broad range of publications. He has also worked extensively in script development for film and television companies, theatres, and agents.

He has worked with Andrew Lownie in a number of roles since 2004, and is now actively developing a fiction list within the agency. He is an experienced writer, ghost writer, and editor who has written bestselling books for major publishers including Harper Collins, Penguin, Piatkus and Little, Brown.

His recent books include ‘How to Remove a Brain’, an amusing history of medical science, and a collection of myth-busting stories from history called ‘The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva’

In his role as a literary agent, he has a broad remit covering all genres of commercial and literary fiction.

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