“Your story should have a reason why you’re telling it.”
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with DongWon Song
DongWon Song is an agent at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency representing science fiction and fantasy for adults, young adult, and middle grade readers as well as select non-fiction. He was formerly an editor at Orbit and a product manager for the ebook startup, Zola Books, and has taught as an adjunct instructor in the publishing program at Portland State University.
Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?
DongWon Song: I believe it’s a relationship that requires a great deal of trust and open communication. It’s a complex one that requires constant attention and work from both sides. There have been times where a client’s called me out for something I said or for not responding to something and I’ve always really appreciated it. Like any long-term relationship, authors and agents need to understand that it takes work, honestly, and clarity to have a successful partnership.
Scribe: Are there specific elements that draw you to a project?
DS: Voice above all. You can have the most exciting story in the world, but if you tell it in a way that is flat and uninspiring, I just won’t be engaged. Also, your story should have a reason why you’re telling it. Not necessarily a theme or a political message the way we’re taught in high school English, but I want to know why you, in particular, wrote this story.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!
DS: In March, Arkady Martine’s incredible space opera A Memory Called Empire is debuting from Tor. It’s an incredible book I often describe as John Le Carré in space. In it, a young and under-trained diplomat is sent from her tiny, space-borne home station to the heart of a massive, warlike empire with the goal of keeping her home from being annexed. On arriving, she discovers the reason she was summoned — her predecessor is dead, likely murdered, and now she needs to uncover the mystery of what happened to him while learning how to survive in this strange and wonderful city.
Scribe: And also, who’s your favorite Science Fiction author who’s currently writing?
DS: NK Jemisin, hands down. The Broken Earth trilogy still has me reeling and I think it’s one of the greatest works of SFF I’ve encountered, full stop, no qualifications. What Jemisin does in that book with worldbuilding, voice, points of view, and structure is breathtaking and all in service of a searing indictment of racial injustices, climate change, and our inaction as a society in the face of these threats. I can’t recommend it enough to any reader.
Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.
Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.