Monday, 9 June 2014

Joanna Swainson chat

We sat down for a chat...with Joanna Swainson, literary agent

Hardman & Swainson, the literary agency for Bone Jack by Sara Crowe, is two years old this month. Bone Jack was tremendously enjoyable to read so we got a bit of a lowdown from Joanna Swainson about the book, the agency, herself and the agency’s mysterious third party.

Joanna Swainson and Caroline Hardman
WSD: You’re two years old! What will you be celebrating?

Joanna Swainson: I can’t believe it’s two years already. One of the best things about this is that, having been in business for two years, the agency has become eligible for membership of the Association of Authors’ Agents. Of course we’ve always run the business along AAA guidelines but we made our application, met the criteria and were accepted, which is worthy of a wee celebration as a milestone in itself. Other than that, I think we’ll raise a glass to our authors – they’re everything to us - have a laugh then get back to work!

WSD: You travelled through Spain and France, lived in a tent and read the whole of Dickens in a year! Sounds bookishly romantic. What else did you manage to fit in on this trip?

Joanna Swainson: When I left school we lived in the middle of nowhere on the moors in Yorkshire. I treasure that, now, but at the time I was determined to get away as soon as possible, so worked for a month in the local paper mill, saved up £400 and hit the road with my twin sister. It was basically a year of living hand to mouth, busking a bit, picking fruit for cash as it ripened in different regions and every now and then having to phone up dad to borrow some money when we completely ran out. I couldn’t possibly go into detail about exactly what we got up to or I might be arrested, but what a time!

WSD: I recently loved Bone Jack, which is how I heard of your agency, so I'm intrigued to hear that you lived in a tent for a year while travelling: a bit of synergy with Sara Crowe's lifestyle, perhaps? Please could you say what it was about Bone Jack that stood out for you?

Joanna Swainson: Sara has spent the last year or so wandering the British Isles in a campervan with her partner and their two dogs. I do envy that freedom. It’s a bit of a cheat to say I spent the whole year in a tent. It was more like nine months as we spent the winter in Seville and it was freezing so we rented a tiny flat to get us off those windblown streets.

What really stood out about Bone Jack was Sara’s ability to evoke place. Her descriptions are so vivid and I feel as if I’ve been to those mountains and that lake and Thornditch itself. Tolley Carn, Monks Bridge, Stag’s Leap – great place names. I love the mythical and folky aspects and that it’s a story of two boys’ friendship tested to the limit. Best of all, now that it’s published, is kids seem to love it – my daughter read it all through double maths at school to finish it. And my 11 year old nephew was gripped by it, too, immediately asking if she’d written another book. No pressure, Sara!

WSD: While Sara Crowe has her dogs, Hardman & Swainson has Monty. Please introduce us to him.

Joanna Swainson: Monty is a three year old black cat with some oriental heritage, greeny yellow eyes and a rather small head. He’s very chatty and drinks water from the intern’s glass on the table when she’s not looking, rather than from his own bowl. And he’s always on the wrong side of the door.

WSD: Other than reading books, do you have any hobbies?

Joanna Swainson: I come from a family of musicians – my grandfather was a wonderful pianist, my mother and father are professional violinist and viola player respectively. So music runs in the blood and I love to sit down at the piano now, or play my guitar or fiddle. I’m not nearly as good as I’d like to be! I love all sorts of music but if I could have anyone’s voice it would be Sandy Denny’s. Other than that, come winter I’m a bit of a knitter.

Joanna Swainson (from Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency) is very friendly on Twitter, so you can find out more about her there.
For more about Bone Jack, here’s M’s review and an interview with author Sara Crowe.

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