We sat down with one of our readers, Sam Wren, for a chat about reading, literature, and how manuscript assessments are servicing writers in 2019.

Who are some of your favourite authors?
Oh jeez, I’m a literature scholar, that’s like asking someone to name their favourite kid! I really enjoy a lot of Modernism like Virginia Woolf or James Baldwin. I have a definite soft spot for 18th and 19th-century literature, especially the Gothic, or anything by Jane Austen. My favourite contemporary authors would have to be Ouyang Yu, Brian Castro, Alexis Wright, and Patricia Cornwell. To be Frank (ha ha!), I enjoy so many types of literature that I could talk about it all day (and frequently do!)

What do you think is the key to a good book?
Honestly, I think it’s impossible to pick just one thing; the key to what makes one book great might ruin another. But I think that the best thing an author can do is find the thing that makes them excited and writes about that. No one wants to read a book you didn’t like but wrote because you thought it would sell well. Only you can write your book, and J.K. Rowling already wrote Harry Potter, so there’s no point in writing it again!

What do you enjoy most about conducting manuscript assessments?
I absolutely love finding a plot hole! There’s this feeling of relief like, “Oh phew! Glad I caught that one before a whole internet forum started a conspiracy theory on it!”

What do you think are the benefit of manuscript assessments?
I think that getting some honest feedback on your work will always make it stronger. I often ask friends and family to read my work and it drives them crazy! Not only that, but I never know if they are trying to spare my feelings, or if they just like it because they love me. Having someone come in and say, “This is great, but have you tried this?” is honestly so refreshing. Sometimes you’re too close to your own work, and you can’t see where it’s falling down. It also gives you perspectives on how your characters and story will be received. If I wrote someone as a good guy but no one likes the character I have to go back to the drawing board, but it’ll never get fixed if I never know.

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