An Interview with Brianne Johnson
More interviews! Your day just got better, trust me.
For those of you just tuning in, here’s my spiel: As writers, we all Google-stalk agents (and often editors). Come on, admit it, you do. And if you’ve done your homework – and you should have done your homework – you can probably rattle off your dream agent’s most recent sales, submission guidelines, history as an agent, favorite font, and caffeinated beverage. But did you know that agents are people, too? Quirky, nerdy, hilarious, and downright interesting people? These aren’t your standard interviews. These are about the people behind the profile pictures. The ones you would not only want championing your book, but also sitting at your coffee shop table, talking to you over something warm and delicious – caramel apple cider, if you’re me. Note: This is NOT an invitation to coffee shop stalk them in real life. Be polite. Use common sense. If I find out you have used these interviews for evil purposes, be warned – I shall find you. Enjoy!
Rae: Ok, first off, what fictional academy/university/school would you most want to attend? (i.e. Starfleet Academy, Hogwarts, Jedi Academy, Camp Halfblood, Battle School in Space, Beauxbatons, etc)
Rae: Another vote for Hogwarts. This calls for a sci-fi intervention, I tell you. (Darth Vader > Voldemort) So which fictional character would you drag to Hogwarts to be your confidante?
Bri: Matilda! She’s young, but so smart and fun. A very good partner in crime. She’d keep my secrets and maybe teach me how to bend spoons with my brain (more on that below)
Rae: What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Bri: I would want a proper 7 course feast at Redwall! Elderberry brandy for cocktail hour, followed by beetroot pies and cauldrons of hotroot soup with crusty, nutty bread to sop it up, candied chestnuts and trifles as much cheese as I could eat for dessert, before succumbing to what I imagine to be the most heavenly of food comas. Can you tell I love food?? My boyfriend is a chef, and it’s clear that the road to my heart lies thusly…
Rae: YES! This! Bri, we should be friends; I crave Redwall food ALL the time — plus I’m a cooking instructor. We should swap recipes. But while stuffing your face full of amazing food, you are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, everlasting gobstopper of doom, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Bri: Forehead. I wish at least 1x per day that I had manageable telekinetic powers, especially in NYC. Just this morning someone was playing music out loud on the subway, and I was trying to crush the sound capacity on their phone with my mind-vise. Didn’t work (yet) but it’s an ongoing process, you know?
Rae: Ok, I just busted up laughing at school while reading that. Never give up on that! What song(s) would play in the soundtrack to your life?
Bri: It would be a really bizarre mix. I was raised on a steady diet of Grateful Dead so some of that would have to be there whether I like it or not. I love Motown and folk and rock, too, and I work to classical music.
Rae: What’s your best rainy day book? Beach book?
Bri: Best rainy day book is DANGEROUS ANGELS, Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat collection. I always re-read it at least once in the depths of darkest winter when I desperately need some light and magic in the world. Beach book is whatever book I’ve been dying to get to, that has been gathering dust on my nightstand for months while I read for work! I’m really into Donna Tartt right now. I just read THE SECRET HISTORY and I loved it so much. THE GOLDFINCH is next. I also love Stephen King and Rainbow Rowell and Eva Ibbotson right now.
Rae: What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Bri: I meet editors a lot for lunch, which is one of my favorite parts of the job, and breaking bread with them adds a warm element that I really enjoy. This industry attracts the smartest and most interesting people, and everyone’s such a book nerd at heart, I love it. When I’m powering through at the office my favorite snacks are apples and Jello.
Rae: Remind me to ask you anytime I need a restaurant recommendation in your neck of the woods. Something awesome just happened (book deal, signed a client, etc). How do you celebrate?
Bri: I jump on my desk and dance the conga! JK (Sort of. I’ve been known to do a victory dance.) Actually, my boyfriend and I go out to a new restaurant that we’ve been meaning to try when one of us has something to celebrate. There are so many great restaurants here—that’s my second favorite thing about living in NYC, after my job.
Rae: Double date. It is happening. But what gets you through one of these harder days?
Bri: I like to mooch around the building for a few minutes and sulk with my work besties. Or I go for a walk (or to the gym). It’s not good to write e-mails when you’re upset! I’m pretty resilient, though, and know by now that rejection is part of the job—for all of us. Authors get shot down by agents, agents get shot down by editors, editors get shot down by their bosses and their sales teams, and even the bosses and sales teams get shot down by sales figures and the reading public! You gotta have tough skin and be able to roll with disappointment in a professional and constructive way. You just do.
Rae: Excellent advice! Take notes, everyone! Who taught you the ropes (i.e. was your Jedi Master) when you were starting out as an agent?
Bri: Michele Rubin, Susan Cohen, Josh Getzler, Dan Lazar, and Amy Berkower were (and still are!) amazing to me, and very generous with their time and wisdom This business is such an apprenticeship model and isn’t possible without kindness and mentorship. I am endlessly grateful to them.
Rae: All right, lastly, what classic novel do you wish you could have represented back in the day?
Bri: Is HARRY POTTER considered a classic yet? I think so! It’s such an incredible story and it means so much to so many people, including me. I would love to represent a story with such reach and thought and power. And, you know, raging success sure wouldn’t hurt!
Haha, raging success is an elusive beast, but you’re right; it sure wouldn’t hurt. Isn’t Bri the kind of person you’d love to sit down to an awesome meal with? (If you stalk her in real life, I will find you. And end you.) And she’ll be stopping by for PITCH WARS!
Didn’t make Pitch Wars? No prob. If Bri sounds like your kind of agent, do your homework, and send her some amazing queries! Thanks so much for stopping by, Bri, and may the queries ever contain exactly what you are seeking!
Don’t feel like your MS is ready for agent eyes? Head over to bleedinginkinc.wordpress.com and try out the homework exercises I’ve been giving to Team “Here There Be Monsters.” You may just find the missing piece of your MS!