This morning we are delighted to host Peter Knapp, one more of our fine Fall Philly faculty! I caught up with Pete to find out more about his taste in books and all kinds of other fun stuff. Won’t you join us?
Lindsay: Hi there, Pete, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! We’re so glad you’ve stopped by to chat, and we can’t wait to meet you at Fall Philly and Pitch Shop. As we settle into our cozy booth, what’s that you’re drinking?
Pete: A treat this morning—a New Orleans style ice coffee from Blue Bottle.
Lindsay: And are you munching on anything?
Pete: Yes, a cupcake. Admittedly my second of the day.
Lindsay: Okay, I’ll have at least one, too. Maybe two since they’re chocolate peanut butter. You won’t judge if I grab a third to take home, right?
So, book-lover to book-lover, what was the last book you read that made you….
Laugh out loud
I Am Otter by Sam Garton. A picture book. A good one.
Kristin Levine’s The Lions of Little Rock stands out, but honestly, most literary middle grade can get me. Cynthia Kadohata’s Half a World Away is also great.
Wish you had written it yourself
Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem. It is nonfiction, and I think the subtitle captures it all: “A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America.” It’s a brilliant book that is full of compassion, even as it paints a rather bleak picture of the future of wildlife. And it also involved some very cool research I wouldn’t have minded doing.
Five, Six, Seven, Nate. It’s not the book that made me furious—it’s the school districts that have decided to ban the book or disinvite the author from speaking because the protagonist is struggling with his sexuality. It is unfair to the author and more importantly a very harmful message to kids.
I hate to list just one. I shan’t.
Lindsay: I know your background is in art history, as well as book-to-film consultation. What drew you into being a literary agent?
Pete: Growing up, I had my mom, an English professor, and my dad, a businessman. I split the difference: I love books, and I love the business of books, and being an agent satisfies both of these interests.
Lindsay: How does your interest in art and history influence your taste in books and movies?
Pete: I tend to like novels with a strong sense of place—an instinct, I think, that may have been reinforced by many hours spent as an undergrad sitting in dark rooms, looking at slides of landscapes and building interiors projected on the wall.
Lindsay: Your ideal client would always…
Pete: Communicate with me so that I can do my job.
…stop communicating. Cheating, I know. But I can’t overstress the importance of keeping your agent in the loop.
Lindsay: You can cheat. We don’t mind. We’re pretty laid back. In fact, you can also dance. So….you would jump out of your seat and pull a move like Jagger if you came across a manuscript that combined…..
Pete…the smart thrills of Stephen King with the pop culture-heavy, fanboy voice of READY PLAYER ONE.
Lindsay: What is one turn-off that always makes you put a manuscript down?
Lindsay: I recently came across your blog, and found your commentary on query letters to be so helpful and entertaining. Every time I read one, I found something to fix on my own query letter. (Readers, check it out, especially before pitching to Pete! Simply click here ) What would be your bit of best advice for making a query letter stand out?
Pete: Be concise, and figure out what makes your book different than other books in the same genre and category. For example, what makes your “YA Game of Thrones” special and different from the many other YA fantasies that have been or will soon be published? The unique way you’ve taken into a familiar genre is a great way of positioning your book.
Also, be concise.
Lindsay: Thanks for the great advice! Now, not only are cheating and dancing allowed, but so is teleportation. So imagine for a moment that you are fantastimagically able to jump into any painting in any museum in the world and live inside it for one day. What do you jump into and why? Do you want to come back?
Pete: I would jump into one of Hendrick Avercamp’s ice skating paintings…..
They are these magical winter landscapes and everything about them is just perfect. Then I would return and write a memoir about what a nice time I had but how glad I am to be home.
Lindsay: Looks lovely! Maybe I could jump in and actually be able to skate instead of falling all over the ice…it is magic after all!
And now, for rapid-fire favorites! Name your favorite….
Movie adaptation of a book Virgin Suicides
Tie My skinny, blood red tie.
Dessert Mint chocolate chip ice cream
Place to read My couch
Book as a child Little Bear
Mode of transportation Walking
Song or musician Kate Bush
Book on the craft of writing Second Sight by Cheryl Klein
Lindsay: Thanks so much for taking the time to join us, Pete! See you in a few weeks at Fall Philly and Pitch Shop!