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Jon Thurley Interview

Posted on 29 September 2005. © Copyright 2004-2023 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to agent Jon Thurley about what he's interested in and why the cash nexus rules

Tell us something about your background.

We ran the agency in London’s West End for many years, representing writers across the whole spectrum of films, television, theatre, radio, and publishing and dealing in the UK and international markets. We still deal for a number of long established clients in the same way, but inevitably our move from the West End to Kent has needed a reappraisal of the way in which we function. Oddly enough, for an industry that is in the vanguard of the electronic revolution, writers are very much influenced towards London as the base for their ideal agent, and we now tend to get fewer submissions, many of which have already been seen and passed on by such agents. We decided to concentrate in the main on the area that has always interested us most: good literary and commercial fiction and non-fiction and, additionally, to offer creative consultancy services on a fee-paying basis to writers who are interested. Anyone interested in more information can find it in Marquise’s Who’s Who in the World or the website which, though primarily relating to the consultancy service, provides information about us.

How do you find writers?

A variety of ways. Some through recommendations from publishers, writers’ associations, existing clients. Very occasionally through speculative submissions. We take on very little – only material that engages one or other (or both) of us passionately.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

How long is a piece of string? This would run into several volumes embracing D.B.C.Pierre, Julian Barnes,Ian McEwan, and Annie Proulx at one end and extending to Grisham, Dibden, and Alexander McCall Smith along a very long and varied trajectory. ‘Only connect’ was E.M.Forster’s famous maxim, and so many writers can do this at different levels that one can only observe that our interest in a wide variety of writers is a function of their ability to empathise with their own characters and their stories, and the skill with which they draw us into the same sense of empathy and concern for those characters and their predicaments.

What excites you about a piece of writing-

The sense of a dramatic pulse and narrative movement. The ability to show us people and events rather than tell us about them. Writers who are sparing with exposition, description, analysis, polemic – and have learned to subsume the vital information they need to impart to make sense of their story into the immediacy of the interactions and the dramatic movement of their narrative. A phrase such as Chaucer’s – ‘the smylere with the knyfe under his cloke’ – is far more effective in grabbing our interest than five pages of purely exterior description would be. The interesting part of life is the hidden nine tenths of the iceberg, and writers who can reveal some of that in a dramatic way are pure gold.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Zigeroon at 15:44 on 30 September 2005  Report this post


Nicely to the point, confirming it's a business and the object is to sell what you produce. Just off to hoe a few rows of text.

Very interesting and informative comment on what writing tickles the taste buds. Thank you.


Account Closed at 16:29 on 30 September 2005  Report this post
Jon's comments are sharp.

In particular, his remark about an 'ability to empathise with their own characters and their stories, and the skill with which they draw us into the same sense of empathy' encapsulates precisely what the writing slog amounts to. I shall try to keep that in mind.


alexhazel at 20:47 on 04 October 2005  Report this post
From first-hand experience, I can say that Jon's feedback on a submission is very valuable, even when it's a rejection. Most agents just send a form-letter when they return your MS, but Jon and Patricia actually take the trouble to offer a reason for a rejection. This is like gold-dust to someone who has not been published, and therefore has received little in the way of unbiased feedback.

I can also recommend their consultancy service. (I am taking the advice onboard, Jon, honest! My day job has just been very hectic this last three months.)


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emmausa0106 at 03:34 on 14 July 2023  Report this post
I'm glad you shared your interview with Jon Thurley and through this interview I learned a lot more about Jon Thurley and what she's doing. slither io

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