An Interview with Literary Agent Becca Stumpf
Our latest featured agent, Becca Stumpf, represents Adult, Young Adult and Middle-Grade literary and commercial fiction, with a special interest in genre fiction with broad appeal. In the YA and Middle Grade realm, she’s especially interested in spine-tingling mysteries (historical or contemporary), beautifully written fantasy and science fiction with big, fully-realized worlds, thrillers with a literary edge, and the occasional horror story. She also looks for MG and YA novels that go beyond girl-meets-boy and explore a broader view of life and relationships – whether that include surviving a rift in the space-time continuum or just the usual terrifying perils of being a kid.
In adult fiction, Becca is looking for literary mysteries that chill and charm, fast-paced literary thrillers, character-driven SciFi and Fantasy novels that challenge genre stereotypes, and smart, spicy romance novels (contemporary, historical, SciFi/UF/Steampunk all welcome). Ultimately, Becca loves stories that make her think, cry, laugh out loud, or check the closet for monsters before bed.
Becca took time out of her hectic schedule to answer a few questions for the League. She will be ready for your pitches at the Writers’ League of Texas’ 2013 Agents and Editors Conference. Visit our website for the full listing of literary agents.
Why did you become a literary agent?
Becca Stumpf: I became an agent because I’m a massive book nerd who would rather read than play in the sunlight like a normal human being. Which may explain the vitamin D deficiency and certain “personality quirks.” While still in college I also realized that as much as I adored getting lost in a novel, I loved discussing, dissecting, and critiquing books almost as much. For me agenting combines these two loves – the thrill of discovering a new story, with the opportunity to discuss, brainstorm, and edit in collaboration with authors. I love working with writers, and am continually awed by their ability to spin stories from the rough materials of life. Add to that the thrill of submitting new work to editors and seeing books through the publication process and it’s a pretty exciting gig.
What makes a great manuscript? How do you know if it has the “it” factor?
BS: What makes a great manuscript may depend on the tastes of whoever is being asked! For me it’s a combination of voice, killer writing, and a sort of intangible depth of story (that mysterious combination of world building, character complexity, and strong plot concept woven together). But most of all, I know something’s really good when I don’t sense the behind-the-scenes machinations of the writer and instead tumble headlong into the story itself.
A book can be fantastical, or funny, or heartbreaking, or romantic – or all of the above. What captures me is the simple sense that a real story is underway, and the joy of knowing that I can’t guess what’s going to happen next because each event is unfolding and refolding with the next, and so as a reader I must keep peering into the dark, looking for the next clue. I’ve found that if I can’t get lost in a story then I’m not going to believe in it. And if I don’t believe in a story, I won’t remember it. So for me that “it” factor is the moment the writing mechanics disappear and the reader’s imagination is fully engaged.
If you could have any other career, literary or not, what would it be?
BS: In no particular order, my other dream careers: resident septuagenarian sleuth in an English village (ahem Miss Marple), hedge maze designer, professional manatee hugger, librarian at Hogwarts, time traveler.