Thursday, June 10, 2010

Agent Interview - Chris "I Totally Heart Vampires" Richman

My history with Chris Richman, super agent at Upstart Crow Literary, goes back nearly 2 years when he sent me the email that changed my life:

I am Mrs.Rita Rahim, the wife of Mr Ali Rahim both citizens of the

Tunisian.My husband worked with the Chevron in Russia for twenty years
before he died in the year 2003 When my late husband was alive,he deposited
the sum of 7.5 Million POUNDS in a Bank in Europe.

Wait.  That's not the right email.  Anyway, Chris was awesome enough to answer some questions for me.  So here's everything you wanted to know about Chris but were afraid to ask:

Chris, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions.  You're not just an agent, you're my agent.  Tell me about your dream project.

Glad to be here! No matter what happens with the rest of my career—whether I get abducted by aliens or finally hit a growth spurt and make the NBA—nothing will ever change the fact that the second client I ever signed was one Shaun Hutchinson. I’m so excited that your book is finally making its way to the public!

Dream project...that’s definitely a tough question. I like a lot of the projects I represent for different reasons, and I don’t know that there’s one out there that would stand above all others. But I guess if I’m forced to pick, I’d love something like the Harry Potter books. Not just because they’re the most successful books in the history of words and reading, although that helps, but because they’ve got such intrigue, and humor, and wonderful characters, and twists and turns, and tension, and moments of fun and mystery. Not every page, character, or plot line was perfectly executed, but they were much more right than wrong, and they were such fun to read. Plus the huge mounds of money they made helps, too.

You have a background in comedy, having written for The Onion and .  Do you think there's an untapped market for really funny books geared toward boys?

I don’t know if the market is untapped, exactly. There are writers out there like Jeff Kinney, M.T. Anderson, Daniel Handler, Adam Rex and many more doing it and doing it well. But that’s more for middle grade. When it comes to teen books for boys, there’s definitely been a self-fulfilling prophecy in which publishers say, “Oh, boys don’t read,” so they don’t publish books for boy readers, and then the boys, well, don’t read.

I’d love to see more funny books getting published for boys, but it’s true that they’re a tough audience to reach. It seems teenage boys would much rather watch funny movies, shows, or videos online than pick up a book. If they ARE still reading into their teens, they’re probably reading books for adults. When I was a teenager, I was reading a lot of James Thurber and Dave Barry, and thought CATCH-22 and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES were pretty darn funny. Of course, if someone had handed 15 year-old-me a copy of THE DEATHDAY LETTER, I would have loved it.

My hope is that as publishers are willing to take more risks on funny books for boys, more will reach their target audience and the demand will increase. Fingers crossed! 

I know you do a lot of reading for your job, but what are the last three books that were so good you couldn't put them down?

I don’t have the time to read nearly as many adult books as I would like, so I spend most of my time reading either submissions sent my way or recently published middle grade and YA novels. So with that in mind, the last three books I ripped through when I should have been doing other work were Suzanne Collins’ CATCHING FIRE, Marcus Zuzak’s THE BOOK THIEF (I’m currently reading I AM THE MESSENGER and loving it), and Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME.   

What mistake do you see a lot of writers making?

A lot of beginners send out their work before it’s ready, and don’t take the time to make sure it works on all levels. Trust me, you have to do a lot of writing before you get good at it, so don’t be afraid to experiment and get some things wrong before you figure everything out. 

You're stranded in the mountains with Betty White, Tina Fey pretending to be Sarah Palin, and the cast of GLEE.  What song would you have to perform with the cast of GLEE, and who gets eaten first?

I’m a horrible singer, but I’ve always said if I ever were to do karaoke, it would be to Rusted Root’s Send Me on my Way. Not because it’s the best song ever or anything, but because I find the way the dude sings hilarious, and do a good imitation of his garbled lyrics. I guess the cast of GLEE could do the background mumbles or something although, I have to admit, I’ve never seen the show. So to answer who gets eaten first, I guess whoever is the least talented member of the cast? That way we don’t eat Betty White, who I’m sure won’t taste good, and we can see some terrific improv between Tina Fey and Jane Lynch, two of the funniest women working today.

One of the big new trends is mashing up old literature with paranormal creatures (like ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER).  What classic book would you mash with what creature?  And don't even think about stealing Huckleberry Finn Rises Again...I've totally got dibs. 

I like the Huckleberry Finn idea. It could start when Tom Sawyer fakes his own death and watches the funeral...maybe he actually DOES die and then comes back to life. Let’s talk about this idea some more, okay?

As for mine, it’s a tie between THE GRAPES (AND DRAGONS) OF WRATH, because, let’s face it, although those Tom Joad and company had it rough, it would have been WAY worse with fire-breathing monsters after them, and THE GREAT UNDEAD GATSBY. I know the zombie thing has already been explored, but it’s so damn funny, and I’d love to see the clash between old money, new money, and the money used by the living dead. Maybe Gatsby was a necromancer instead of a bootlegger? Jeez, I don’t want to give away too many of these ideas...they’re solid gold! 

Smurfs or Thundercats?

Thundersmurfs. Coffee or Coffee?

I’ve actually just quit drinking coffee. I’ve also given up telling the truth. 

Tell me the truth: Lady Gaga's a cyborg from the future, right?

You’ll have to read Matt Myklusch’s JACK BLANK AND THE IMAGINE NATION to find out. Stay tuned! Who wins in a fight: Chuck Norris or Samuel L. Jackson?

The only thing Samuel L. Jackson could beat Chuck Norris in is a “using your middle initial” contest. Otherwise, Chuck Norris wins, beards-down. You have 24 hours to live, give me the rated PG highlights.

Man, this is such a tough question. As soon as I got my deathday letter, I’d call all my family and best friends from around the country and get them on flights to come hang out. Then I’d host an epic cookout with games of whiffle ball, my favorite totally-bad-for-you foods (bacon, pizza, french fries, donuts et al), and all my favorite bands I could convince to come and play for what little money I could pay them. It would pass too quickly and I wouldn’t get to see everyone I knew and cared about, but I’d be mostly concerned with having fun and saying goodbye in style.   

Thanks for being a good sport, Chris.  Anything you want to say before you go?  

Yes. Readers of this Shaun’s book, read Shaun’s book, and convince others to buy Shaun’s book, too!


  1. Apologies to all on the formatting issues. After 40 minutes messing with it, I gave up. It too me less time to do the photoshop stuff.

  2. Thanks for the great interview, Chris. You gave up coffee? Wow, I don't think I'll ever manage that.

  3. Nice work, Shaun & Chris. I'm already promoting it on my blog so it better be good. See, I'm a risk-taker. But I do trust both of you.

  4. What a great interview! I don't often read this sort of thing but once I started I couldn't stop.

    (No worries about the formatting, I barely noticed the problems I was so interested in the content.)

  5. Please have Chris back when he finishes I Am the Messenger. I want to know what he thinks of the ending.

  6. Ha! This is a great interview!!!


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.