She told me her name, and said she was with a leading London literary agency. Hillary had sent her the manuscript of Of Marriageable Age, and she loved it.
My first reaction was panic. My first thoughts were: but I haven’t finished it yet! The truth is, that though I had finished and revised the ms, I had not yet researched some of the historical background, but simply made up part of the story as a placeholder for a more carefully researched version.
The year was still 1998. I had two small children, lived in a small village, and travel to a library in a big city was out of the question. Plus, this was Germany, and the info I needed had to do with the British occupation of Singapore. I had no idea how to get that information (remember, this was before Google), but I knew that without this research the book was still unfinished. That’s why I had not even started to think about agents yet (and anyway, I still theoretically had Agent A, still cloaked in silence.)
I stuttered a few words, and somewhere between my panicked thoughts I heard the words:
Would you visit me in London?
Again the call to London, from Germany! What is it with these London agents, that they expect you to drop everything and fly over? But I wasn’t complaining. She had mentioned the magic word: representation. In a daze I put down the phone.
I looked up the agency in The Writers Handbook. It was indeed a leading agency, one of London’s oldest, with several well known authors. Within the week I was with her.
I met her in her home in Holland Park, and in her living room decorated with piles and piles of manuscripts we discussed my book and her plans for it. She was lovely, warm and knowledgeable, and best of all, she loved the book!
She told me that she’d been very naughty: she’d already talked about it and two editors were interested, and a third had heard the buzz and called her up. All were eager to see it. Would I sign with her?
Three guesses what I replied. No. Make that one.