We’ve had a few changes at Killer Reads recently, so we wanted to introduce the latest recruits to our editorial team – meet Finn and Kathryn.
How did you get into the HarperCollins Crime & Thriller world?
Kathryn: I’ve always known that publishing is the right career for me. I spend all my spare time reading, so getting paid to read and helping get books into readers’ hands has always seemed like the perfect job! So, after graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 2012, I embarked upon various internships, before settling in at Harlequin, HarperCollins’s sister company, for four years. During this time, I worked with lots of incredibly talented authors, and ensconced myself in all things romance! Now, I’ve moved across to ‘the dark side’ of HarperCollins Crime & Thriller, and I feel like I’ve found my true home, because Crime & Thriller is my favourite genre to read. The team here work with such incredible authors, and I’m so excited to be acquiring for the Killer Reads list, and finding the next big hit!
Finn: Like most people, I never fully understood the role of publishing houses, other than to stamp their logo onto the spines of the books I loved to read. Until, after finishing university and spending six months teaching English in Turkey, I learned more about the industry and began to apply for positions at the publishers who produced my favourite books. After an initial two-week internship, I knew I had found my dream job – working with talented authors, getting paid to read and write. I completed several short-term contracts with imprints at Random House, Faber and Atlantic Books, before following my love of crime fiction and thrillers – the books I have always chosen to read – to HarperCollins and the Killer Reads team.
What are you looking to acquire for the Killer Reads list?
Kathryn: I’m open to seeing anything – psychological thrillers, police procedurals, spy thrillers, murder mysteries… For me the most important thing in a story is the voice. If the writing flows well, the pace stays high and the voice is unique and compelling, I’ll sit up and take notice!
Finn: If a story is unique, dark and compelling, I’ll consider it for the list. I’m looking for psychological thrillers, the new Ian Rankin, historical crime fiction, spy novels – anything with an interesting premise, a voice that stands out, or a character who captures my imagination.
What are your top tips for writers hoping to submit?
Kathryn: First of all, make sure your opening scene is snappy, different and exciting. We see so many submissions that it’s important to stand out from the crowd instantly. Secondly, make sure that each scene ends with a turning point of some sort. Ask yourself at the end of each scene – what has changed (for better or for worse), how has this particular scene moved the plot forward, how have the stakes been raised? This is the best way to make sure the pace of your story stays as high as possible throughout. And thirdly, of course, is that all-important voice. It’s so hard to define what makes a ‘good’ voice, and of course different people will have different opinions, so the best advice here is to go with your gut and write however feels natural to you. Some things to think about though are: using a mixture of narrative and dialogue, varying your sentence length, bringing in all five senses and reading your dialogue aloud to make sure it feels totally natural.
Finn: There are three key elements that I look for in submissions: the voice, the hook, and the characters. An author with a unique voice – a style and tone of writing that’s both unusual and original – always catches my interest. The one-paragraph pitch for a novel, which we as publishers convey through the cover and blurb, can be make-or-break for a large proportion of readers, so always make it count. Start with a strong premise, ensure the opening scene hooks your audience, and keep up the tension by trimming unnecessary and overly descriptive passages. Finally, every work of fiction is built on great characters, with whom we want to spend our time, who can craft the plot and drive the story forward all by themselves. If a submission has a strong character, who is both memorable and believable, I will always read on to discover their fate.
Can you give us an insight into your favourite Crime & Thriller books?
Kathryn: “The Ice Twins” by S. K. Tremayne for atmosphere, “Pretty Girls” by Karin Slaughter for that on-the-edge-of-your seat feeling, “In a Dark, Dark Wood” by Ruth Ware for sheer creepiness and “The Whisperer” by Donato Carrisi for incredible cliff-hangers.
Finn: “A Kind Worth Killing” by Peter Swanson. This is a story with superb characterisation, an opening that immediately grabs the reader, and one of the most powerful twists of recent years. “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler has my favourite opening paragraph of any novel and Phillip Marlowe, one of the best-drawn detectives in crime fiction. “Watching Edie” by Camilla Way, a dark and twisty psychological thriller, has a plot that keeps up the tension right to the very end.
Kathryn and Finn are both keen to get cracking acquiring the best new talent for our digital first crime and thriller publishing imprint. If you’d like your work to be considered, check out the terms and conditions here then email your work to: firstname.lastname@example.org