Donald Maass is not only one of New York’s top agents and president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency, he’s also the author of several novels and fantabulous craft books for writers. If you’ve hung around Writer Unboxed for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard Kathleen and I rave about Writing the Breakout Novel. The book and its companion workbook are perhaps the writer’s best tools when it comes to juicing a work for more conflict, plot twists and dynamic characterizations.
We’re honored that he took the time to answer our questions about his agency, the business in general, his book and more. Enjoy!
Part 1: Interview with Donald Maass
Q: How did your love for books evolve? What were your favorite reads while growing up?
DM: The first book I can remember reading on my own was an anthology of mystery stories for kids that was “edited” by Alfred Hitchcock. One of the stories (by Ed Hoch) featured an uncle who was a mystery writer who had recently attended a convention with seminars on crime and detection! I thought that was the coolest thing ever. When as an adult I became a full member of the Mystery Writers of America it was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.
Q: How did you start in the industry? What was your journey from student to owner of an agency?
DM: I did two undergraduate years in London, and worked there for a literary magazine. One day I was asked to messenger an envelope to a “literary agency”. (It was called William Morris.) I asked what a literary agency was. I was outraged that a middle man would take ten percent of a writer’s earnings! (Obviously, I now feel a little differently.) Back in America my first job was as an assistant at Dell Publishing. I was briefly a junior editor, but got downsized. The only job I could find was at an agency. I liked the work. I spent more time with authors than I had as an editor. After a year I opened my own shop.
Q: Here’s something I’d bet most people don’t know about you: You wrote a lot of fiction in your early agenting days, in both the romance and young adult genres. How did your experiences as a writer affect your path and decisions as an agent? [Read more…]