#SEACritterspub Agent Interview: Thao Le of the Dkistra Literary Agency
Welcome to the #SEACritterspub interviews, where we spotlight agents and editors looking for Asian literature and / or Asian authors! This week it’s Thao Le from the Djikstra Literary Agency!
Agency: Djikstra Literary Agency
Thao represents: Action/Adventure, Children’s, Fantasy, Historical, LGBTQ, Middle Grade, Picture Books, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Favorite sub-genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Contemporary Romance, Contemporary YA, Diversity, Fantasy Romance, High Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Literary Middle Grade, Low Fantasy, Magical Realism, Middle Grade, Multicultural, contemporary middle grade, historical romance
What is #SEACritterspub?
This is an initiative started by Hanna Alkaf, Gail Villanueva, and I (all currently living in Southeast Asia) to help Asian authors (both diaspora and living outside of the US) learn more about querying and finding agents in the US! Aside from showcasing agents actively seeking Asian rep, we also post tips, advice, and occasionally offer query / 1st page critiques!
Before proceeding: please familiarize yourself with what a query is and how it works, general etiquette that authors need to know before finding an agent, and other helpful guidelines. Check out the #SeaCritterspub category on this blog (also located on the right side of this interview!) for more details!
Now, onwards to the interview!
1. Is there any information about yourself that you think people might like to know (literary agent experience, hobbies, etc.)?
I’ve been with the Dijkstra Agency since 2011 and started as an assistant to the subrights and financial managers. I had NO plans to be an agent myself. I was an econ and Chinese studies double major and I was interested in the contracts and royalties part of the industry. I was drawn to Sandy’s office because of Amy Tan and The Joy Luck Club. Amy Tan was the first Asian-American author I ever read and she made me feel seen. I had never deeply related to the characters of a book as strongly as I did back then when I first read Amy Tan’s work. I’m now excited to be building a diverse list of children’s, YA, and SFF authors of my own and aim to champion more great books for all those other Asian kids out there to discover, read, and identify with.
2. Are there any specific Asian MS preferences you’re looking for (e.g., contemporary K-drama, Chinese martial arts fantasy, etc.) ?
I am a big fan of K- and J- Drama, so anything along those lines. I’m a sucker for crossdressing romcoms, mistaken identities, and beta heroes! And I wouldn’t say no to a well-executed reverse harem storyline featuring swoonworthy love interests and a smart and loveable heroine. I’m also looking for stories featuring multigenerational families living under one roof and second generation protagonists.
3. What other things do you look for in a manuscript?
In YA and Middle Grade, I’m currently seeking contemporary stories that are witty, heartfelt, and authentic. I’m especially drawn to stories about family and friendships from the POV of diverse protagonists. I’m a fan of young characters who are passionate about the arts, sports, STEM, activism, and geeky fandoms. I adore stories with a touch of magic and whimsy, and is a fan of mythology and fairytales.
In the Adult SFF realm, I’m a fan of character driven contemporary fantasy, near future science fiction, and romantic space operas. I’m particularly excited about stories with fresh twists to common genre tropes, such as what Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway does with portal fantasy. Some of my favorite authors are: Diane Wynne Jones, Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, Naomi Novik, and Juliet Marillier.
My favorite romantic tropes are: hate-to-love/enemies-to-lovers, slow burn, forbidden/doomed romance, dating/marriage of convenience, grouchy curmudgeon and bubbly optimistic, mistaken identities, and I’m a sucker for beta second male leads who steal the show (and hopefully the heroine’s heart!).
In the picture book realm, I’m excited to work with illustrators who write their own picture books and is most drawn to art that is emotive and vivid. My tastes tend towards stories that are character driven, witty, progressive, and ends with a twist. Some of my favorites include books by Jon Klassen, Minh Le, Cale Atkinson, and Kate Beaton.
In general, I love beautiful literary writing with a commercial hook and tight plotting. I am actively seeking underrepresented voices (including, but not limited to, all ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental and physical health, and socioeconomic status) to my client list.
4. What are your submission guidelines?
Query me at https://querymanager.com/query/thaole/
5. What are things people should remember when sending you queries? Any advice regarding what catches your attention / what turns you off?
Comp titles are really useful and shows that the writer knows their market and audience, so definitely include them in your query letter! Also, you never need to ask permission to send a project to an agent if they are currently open to submissions, but do check to make sure that they do indeed rep your genre. You can check by reviewing their agent bios. Do you research rather than DMing or emailing the agent to ask for permission, which may come across as too lazy to do proper research of that agent.
Are you an agent or an editor who’d like to participate in these interviews? Drop me an email at rin.chupeco[at]gmail[dot]com!