Agent interview: Kirsty McLachlan
Kirsty McLachlan is a literary agent at David Godwin Associates.
What are your favourite nature writing books and why?
I love books which go beyond straightforward nature writing – so books that combine different threads and narratives – Amy Liptrot, Kathleen Jamie, Helen Macdonald, Annie Dillard, Benjamin Myers, Max Porter (can I include fiction?), Tove Jansson – sometimes nature writing can be part of another book – a novel or a memoir.
What first attracted you to the books of the nature writers you represent?
My clients include nature writers Charlotte Runcie, Kerri ní Dochartaigh, Jean Sprackland, Nancy Campbell and Nina Mingya Powles. All have a distinctive voice and weave in their own personal narrative – Charlotte Runcie in her book Salt On Your Tongue tells the reader about her journey to motherhood, Kerri ní Dochartaigh in Thin Places writes about her childhood, and the trauma and violence that impacted her view of the world and Nina Mingya Powles writes about language and memory, against the backdrop of water in Small Bodies of Water. I like to hear voices I’ve not heard before – and I like to be surprised by their stories. Beatrice Searle’s book, Stone Will Answer is about her life as a stonemason – and a journey she takes. Stone becomes ‘alive’ in her writing and is given a deep, interior life. There is also an ability in the best of nature writing, to give the reader a connection to the natural world and a sense of hope.
What advice would you give to an aspiring nature writer?
Read widely – books that are being published now and those that have become the touchstones of nature writing. And get noticed – place your work with online mags/sites and magazines. Enter competitions! I discovered Kerri ní Dochartaigh through her piece on Little Toller’s site, The Clearing. And found Nina when she was shortlisted for the Nan Shepherd Prize. Write through your own lens.
Where is your favourite place in the natural world to read or edit?
I was brought up in the wilds of West Sussex – in a tiny hamlet (called Morgans Green) – but have now lived in London for twenty years so can read/edit anywhere. I have a foot in both the countryside and the city and the tension and constant yearning for both is something that exists for many of us.