Exploding Brains Blog Tour: Interview with Literary Agent, Luigi Bonomi
Book Walrus is delighted to welcome you to the final stop on Rachel Hamilton’s blog tour for The Case of the Exploding Brains. Book Walrus was thrilled to be asked to host, as he is always looking for an excuse to lay out a party tray of molluscs. Rachel is a regular visitor to the ‘berg and said it would be great to turn this visit into a book plug. Book Walrus doesn’t really understand what she means by this. Every visitor to the iceberg always leaves full of molluscs, and they’re given a nice ice block to sit on. Why would a visitor need another reason to come?
This trip, Rachel has brought her agent, Luigi Bonomi, along as well, so he can share in the fun and answer some interesting questions about being an agent. Mr Bonomi has asked for a chair, which is a bit of an imposition frankly, as Book Walrus can’t see what’s wrong with an ice block, but he will not hear it said that he’s an ungracious host.
BOOK WALUS: Greetings, Luigi Bonomi, thanks for stopping by to chat. Hope you’re feeling comfortable *pointed stare*. You must get asked this question all the time, but, what are the best gadgets that you get to use in your job as an agent?
RACHEL: Psst, Book Walrus, what are you talking about?
BOOK WALRUS: James Bond gets invisible cars and jetpacks and all sorts of cool stuff. I want to see something like that. Oh my goodness, the invisible car is here, isn’t it, Luigi? Can I sit in it?
RACHEL: I think you’re a bit confused. Luigi is a literary agent, not a secret agent.
BOOK WALRUS: No watch that’s also a laser cutter?
RACHEL: I don’t think literary agents have many special gadgets.
BOOK WALRUS: And that seagull over there on the water is just a seagull, there’s not a scuba diver disguised underneath?
RACHEL: Just a seagull.
BOOK WALRUS: Hmmm. Disappointing. Can I ask Luigi about his top tips for disguises?
RACHEL: No. Shhh. Look, while you pull yourself together, why don’t I take over the interview for a while? Luigi, I suspect there are one or two budding authors reading this so why don’t we start with a few questions about the ‘finding an agent’ process. How many submissions do you get each year?
LUIGI BONOMI: We normally receive around 6000 new submissions ever year – around 500 a month. It’s an enormous amount to read and occasionally agents have to individually say they are not currently looking at submissions for a few months so they can catch up.
RACHEL: Where do you find most of your clients?
LUIGI: From a variety of sources. I normally take on around five new authors a year and I would say two probably come from competitions I run and three from the slush pile.
BOOK WALRUS: I’ve been working on a book actually – it’s based on my life. I’m thinking of calling it Book Walrus: My Life. Books are always good if there’s a colon in the title, aren’t they?
RACHEL: O-kaay. Luigi, I bet you have books pitched to you all the time. What’s the strangest way someone has tried to sell their book to you? Aside from when you’ve been sitting on a deck chair on an ice berg, that is?
LUIGI: Once people discover I am a literary agent the pitches can come from all directions. I have had pitches from taxi drivers, from a hospital doctor while checking whether I had broken my ankle, from someone serving me in a restaurant. And I always listen carefully as they could turn out to be the next big bestseller!
BOOK WALRUS: Do you think I could turn out to be the next big bestseller?
LUIGI: *says nothing*
[At this point in the interview there was clearly a gust of arctic wind or something. Luigi can’t have heard Book Walrus’s question]
BOOK WALRUS: So, what made you choose to represent Rachel and her Cases of Exploding Loos and Brains, rather than the hundreds of other books/authors you could have gone for?
LUIGI: I thought Rachel’s writing was fresh and very clever, sharp word-play with a real sense of fun and joy. It was exactly the kind of book I would have wanted to read as a young boy and the kind of book my son (now 17! ) enjoyed reading as a child.
RACHEL: In what way(s), if any, do you think the market for children’s book is different to that for adult books? How do you think The Case of the Exploding Brains fits into this market?
LUIGI: I think the children’s market is more inventive – it is currently thriving and there is a huge appetite for good children’s novels. Unlike adult fiction which is increasingly becoming formulaic, children’s novels can go in all sorts of directions and I think that it is in children’s fiction where publishers’ hopes and aspirations currently lie. The Case of the Exploding Brains is clever and inventive – adventure, crime, humour, wit, zaniness all rolled into one.
BOOK WALRUS: Do you have a favourite line or moment from The Case of the Exploding Brains?
LUIGI: I loved the exchange between the policeman, Ma Slater and Smoking Joe – see below:
BOOK WALRUS: Is there a bit in it that mentions fish?
RACHEL: Umm, no, I don’t think so.
BOOK WALRUS: Oh. If there was a bit about fish then that would be my favourite bit.
BOOK WALRUS: Luigi, what are your favourite children’s books?
LUIGI: There are so many. One of my earliest treasured books was a box set collection of the CS Lewis’s Narnia stories. I loved those books and read them again. As a child, I also loved Michael Bond’s Paddington Stories and Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda novels which were recently so successfully turned into a film.
BOOK WALRUS: Oh yes, they became the Nanny McPhee films, didn’t they? Oh Emma Thompson, what a lady. Emma, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome to my iceberg any time. As long as you bring some molluscs.
RACHEL: *Coughs* Given the changes in publishing business models, Luigi, how do you see agenting changing in the future?
LUIGI: A lot of agents are looking to become publishers but I am not convinced by this. I think agents need to think a lot more outside the box, with a view of trying to maximise all they can do with a book to cover all media. Not easy I know but it is something we need to do.
BOOK WALRUS: Come on now, this is supposed to be a party, there will be no more chat about business models! What would Emma Thompson think? Can we talk some more about Book Walrus: My Life instead? Luigi, how can I persuade you to represent me?
LUIGI: Write a terrific opening so that I am gripped by the first page. Create as original a storyline as you can and provide a good synopsis not just for this book but for a second one too.
BOOK WALRUS: Rachel, quick find me a pen. And then you can both go away – I’ve got work to do! Thanks for coming, and good luck with the book and all that. Readers go and buy it, and let me know if you find any references to fish.
About the Book
Science, silliness and super-villains. Noelle “Know-All” Hawkins has another case on her hands.Her famous scientist dad – Professor Brian “Big Brain” Hawkins – is in trouble as a result of his portaloo mishaps. A trip to the Science Museum results in an international mystery involving the moon, some mindreading, and an awful lot of grumpy people. But how are they all connected? Noelle, Holly and Porter are on the case. Will they piece together the crazy clues in time to save the planet? And why is Dad walking round with a blanket on his head? A laugh-out-loud detective story for both boys and girls.
About the author:
Rachel Hamilton is a graduate of both Oxford University and Cambridge University and has put her education to good use by working in an ad agency, a comprehensive school, a building site and a men’s prison. Her interests are books, films, stand-up comedy and cake, and she loves to make people laugh, especially when it’s intentional rather than accidental.
She is the author of The Case of the Exploding Brains (Simon & Schuster, 2015) and The Case of the Exploding Loo (Simon & Schuster, 2014), which won second prize in the Montegrappa First Fiction Competition at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and has been nominated for the Redbridge Children’s Award, Leeds Book Award and Worcestershire Awesomest Book Award.