What are some upcoming trends for the coming year?
I confess that my prediction is more of a preference or a wish. There seems to be infinite space and demand for another psychological “Girl” thriller. And, admittedly, I will always want to read these complicated, angry female protagonists—I inhaled Tana French’s The Trespasser in one intense, satisfying sitting. Outside of the thriller genre, though, there is a larger trend focused on the rich dynamics of female friendships, such as Emma Cline’s The Girls, Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. I’m excited to see how this will evolve— hopefully to include more diverse narratives.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Please let there be more magical realism. I read Ron Currie Jr.’s Everything Matters! this past January, and I have honestly thought about it every day since. It is the story of the one person on Earth born with the knowledge of the exact date when the world will end, and it is a perfect, heartbreaking book. Magical realism is neither fantasy nor pure literary fiction. I love highly metaphorical novels. Give me more of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Everything Matters! Ultimately, this is to say that I want to read more inventive, emotional books.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
I grew up in a family of writers. Over time, I may have developed a pet peeve for novels wherein the protagonists are writers. I used to argue that the plot of these novels suffered in the self-reflexivity of the narrators, that the gimmick overtakes the basic narrative. But then I read Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being—with two narrators who are writers—and I fell in love. It really comes down to the writing. Write with energy (emotion and a well-structured plot, if I can get more specific), and you will slay me.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Crown recently announced Sarah Jessica Parker is launching a new line of books within the Hogarth imprint. SJP for Hogarth is an exciting new partnership that reinforces the fact that publishing, from what I’ve seen, is an industry run on passion. It is a love for stories. Parker has specified that she is looking for “great stories” and “global voices”—and so now it is just a matter of falling in love.
Anything else you’d like to add?
To any aspiring writers, keep in mind that you are writing for a reader. Not to follow a trend or to please some unknown audience—because the best stories are surprising—but to bring a complete stranger along with you. Every sentence, from the beginning of your query letter to your manuscript, must answer this question: “Why should I care?” Every sentence must fight for the reader’s attention.
And if you have any well-plotted novels with magical realism, send them my way!
Melissa Larsen, a graduate of New York University, where she majored in metaphor and magical realism in media, is the editorial assistant to the publisher of Penguin Random House’s Crown Publishing Group. She began her publishing career with internships at Foundry Literary + Media and Writers House.