I’m excited to introduce you to agent extraordinaire Elizabeth Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. I met Liz at the Book Passage Mystery Conference three years ago. She’s the kind of agent you want for a 1-on-1 pitch session because she’s approachable and easy going and fun. She’s also the kind of agent you want for an agent because of her enthusiasm and business sense. She’s just cool. I like her. You would too.
Elizabeth was kind enough to answer my many not-so-serious interview questions! AND, she’s petitioning signature cocktail ideas from you, so leave a comment!
1. We’ll start with a little business. This may be wrong, but I noticed on Twitter that you’re looking for horror, upmarket women’s, literary, YA, & nonfiction. Is this re-focus on your part due to market demands, inputs from editors, your own changing tastes?
I’ve never represented horror, though Kimberley does. I don’t think I’ve refocused my list in terms of genres I represent since becoming an agent, but I am becoming more selective in the authors and projects I’ll take on. I definitely make adjustments according to editor feedback, but this occurs more in the revision of an author’s manuscript than it does in my adjusting a genre I’ll represent. My tastes continually change; for example, I used to be into quirky characters, but having been flooded with them, I’m not much interested anymore. I like to keep my list diverse. I will look at a wide range of projects.
2. What is one aspect of your job as a literary agent that you’d never have imagined before you became an agent?
I don’t think I ever imagined how much my authors would enrich my life. Agenting can be a solitary experience, so my clients, and other authors in my social media circle, have become my community. As a result of working with my authors, I have had a peek into so many facets of life through their experiences, which I really appreciate. I have an author who works for Wildlife, another involved in counterintelligence (the only one I know who can run a reverse Nigerian scam and scam my bank pin number out of me, which I still haven’t changed). My authors are good, fun people who make my world much larger by knowing them. I appreciate them more than they realize.
3. Your agency bio mentions that you lived in Puerto Rico. Tell us a little about that. What led you there? How did living abroad influence your career aspirations? What foods do you miss most?
I moved to Puerto Rico because my then-boyfriend wanted to return to the island after having been away for 15+ years. I thought it would be an ideal place to write, maybe get published in one form or another, which I did. After living there for about a year, I began work as a proofreader/copyeditor for an English-language newspaper on the island. Puerto Rico is where my career as it is now began to take shape. Puerto Rico wasn’t the easiest place for me to live, but I have a lot to be thankful for as a result of the time I spent there.
I miss breakfast at a historic spot in San Juan called “Kasalta” in Ocean Park, where you can get quesitos (sweet, cheese-filled pastries) and coffee that will make you sweat. I also miss my ex’s grandmother’s fried plantains (hers were the best). In Marin County, we have a Puerto Rican restaurant called “Sol Food,” so I don’t have to go far to find Puerto Rican cuisine. Sol Food always has a long line out the door.
Most of all, I miss the ocean swimming.
4. The first rule for aspiring authors at conferences is DO NOT pitch agents in bathrooms. Have you ever been accosted by an eager author in a way that made you uncomfortable or irritated? What did you do?
I’ve definitely been accosted by eager authors, but never in the bathroom. The only time it makes me uncomfortable is at a conference lunch or dinner when I need downtime. Conferences are draining, so at communal lunch and dinner tables I crave small talk. I’ve had authors talk “at” me, rather than “to” me, and this can be tough after a long day. If I feel an author doesn’t have good boundaries in basic ways (invading close personal space, monopolizing group conversations), it’s a red flag.
5. What would your clients say is your most adorable or humorous quirk as an agent?
I have no idea. Probably the dating exploits or other ridiculous things I post on Facebook. I run my Facebook page somewhat like a circus on purpose. I want to keep people coming back to my page, so when I have something of real value to post, like one of my author’s book sales or events, I can increase their exposure. I hope those authors of mine who are friends with me on Facebook get this, but I suppose it’s possible they just think I’m a nut job with access to editors.
6. I do love watching your dating exploits! On that tangent, who’d star as you in a movie about a sassy and sophisticated literary agent faced with nutty authors, industry tumult, and fickle editors–not to mention romance? Who would star as your romantic lead?
This is a tough question, Lisa. Right now any screenwriter or filmmaker would not only have to make up the story itself, but also the romantic ending—poor single agent, Liz. I think I’d go with Keanu Reeves as my romantic lead. I’ve always been intrigued by him, though it wouldn’t be any fun to watch him with someone else on the big screen. He’s got that dark hair I like, and the Hawaii connection…
I also admire that he wrote a book of poetry (Ode to Happiness) to lash back at the media for obsessing over his state of mind. I wouldn’t mind being his literary agent either, should he want to write another book.
In terms of my lead, someone with reddish hair is all I’ve got.
7. What’s your best fangirl moment, whether meeting authors, other agents, etcetera?
I’ve had a few favorite moments, some of which I attribute to my mentor Kimberley, and some to participating in so many writers conferences. High on my list of favorite moments was watching a keynote address by Sherman Alexie—probably one of the funniest things I’ve witnessed in my life. Sitting at a faculty dinner table with Isabelle Allende was up there on the list as well.
One of my best personal moments, though, was a dinner that Kimberley arranged at her home with true crime author James Dalessandro. James authored Citizen Jane, a true crime story based on a murder that took place in Santa Clara County, California. My father happened to be the lead homicide investigator on the case, and James was a personal friend of Kimberley’s. Kimberley brought us together to meet, have dinner and watch the Lifetime movie made of the book in which singer Meatloaf played my dad. This was a real treat, and one of those synchronistic moments in life (the way it all came together).
Oh, and seeing Grumpy Cat at BEA! How could I forget? They wouldn’t let me in line, so I had stalk back and forth in front of her bodyguards, and pretend like I was going to other booths.
8. What do you like to eat or drink while you’re reading submissions?
Kimberley keeps the office stocked with chocolate, so if I’m reading in the office, chocolate is a “go to” around 3 p.m. when I need a burst of energy. If I’m reading at home in the morning, it’s English Breakfast tea with cream and sugar. If I want to get out of the house to read a manuscript in the evening after a run, I’ll go to the local wine bar and drink a nice Pinot Noir (or two).
9. Speaking of “drink,” if you had a signature cocktail, what would it be and why?
I’m not very good with cocktails, knowing what to order or drink. It might not be a sweet drink, though I had my first “Hot Nut” at the famous Buena Vista Café in S.F. when my author T.J. came for a visit and loved it…
I think everyone who reads this interview should submit an “Elizabeth Kracht Signature Drink Idea” to you, and then I’ll choose one for my signature drink! They’d have to give an explanation as to why their drink is the perfect one to represent me, though. Kind of like that introductory line in queries, where authors suggest why their projects would be a good fit for the agent, i.e. you lived in Puerto Rico, like cats and Keanu, have had two years of bad hair days…
I love that idea! OK, everyone, submit your signature drink ideas below!
10. Last but not least, what project would you love to sell even though you doubt you know a publisher brave enough to take it on?
I had a project like this early in my career, but found a small publisher brave enough to take it on (SELLING SIN AT THE HOOT-POSSUM AUCTION by Davis Slater, Pink Fish Press). This project has the voice of Catcher in the Rye, a setting similar to that of The Help, and the edginess of The Kite Runner. It’s an intense story, but I love it. Davis is a great writer, and surrounds himself with other great writers. This project is due out in the fall, I believe. I’ll be thrilled when I see this book in print. The protagonist is dear to my heart.
Thanks so much, Liz! So, readers, what’s on your mind in addition to signature drinks? Ask Liz!