“I have a fatal allergy to the boring and expected.”
-Kent D. Wolf
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 Kent D. Wolf
Kent D. Wolf is an agent with The Friedrich Agency, representing literary fiction and narrative nonfiction–from novels to story collection to immersive journalism to personal essays. His clients include National Book Award for Fiction Finalist Carmen Maria Machado, New York Times-bestselling essayist Samantha Irby, Barnes & Noble Discover novelist Ingrid Rojas Contreras, and New York Times Notable novelist Martin Seay, among others.
Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?
Kent Wolf: Honestly, it all depends on the needs of each author. I tailor my approach accordingly. Typically, though, I’m very hands on, whether it’s as the first set of eyes on new work or as the translator of your panic at seeing your proposed paperback jacket into constructive feedback for your publisher. I’ve been described as “gentle yet firm” by clients. I avoid phone theatrics with publishers but my withering emails are the stuff of legend.
Scribe: Are there specific elements that draw you to a project?
KW: It has to be fresh. I have a fatal allergy to the boring and expected. Give me something I’ve yet to see. If you avoid clichés, provoke me (in a good way!), or approach a topic or theme from an exciting angle, I may be the agent for you!
Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!
KW: In early 2020 the HarperCollins literary imprint Ecco will publish a wickedly smart debut novel, The Coyotes of Carthage by Steven Wright, that—in this agent’s humble opinion—will become THE political novel of our time. Through the eyes of a cutthroat political consultant, Wright brilliantly lays out why our democracy is broken thanks to unregulated corporate interests.
Scribe: And also, in your bio, you mentioned that you’re interested in boundary pushing fiction. What’s a recent novel you’ve encountered that best represents this?
KW: I like to be unsettled as a reader, and the weird and wonderful protagonists that spring from the minds of Otessa Mosfegh, Alissa Nutting, and Melissa Broder are my catnip. As far as boundary-pushing narrative structure goes, Asymmetry knocks it out of the park.
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.