All People

Joanna Swainson

After a degree in French I ran a business for several years, providing a range of copy writing and editing services. My love of books and an interest in writing led me to freelance for a number of literary agents, including one of the most commercial agencies in London.

Submissions are the life blood of publishing but many need further work and development. I really enjoy the editorial side of agenting and am endlessly fascinated by writing – what works and why.

I met Caroline while working as a reader and in-house editor for Christopher Little. When the opportunity arose to set up Hardman & Swainson it was too good to miss.

Growing up I read an unhealthy number of Agatha Christies and hard-boiled detective novels and I love crime fiction from both sides of the Atlantic. After school, while travelling through France and Spain and living in a tent, I read all the novels of Charles Dickens. So I guess I’ve always been a bookworm.

What I’m looking for:

I read widely and aim to reflect that in the authors I represent. In fiction, I’m looking for complex, larger-than-life characters. Some of my favourite recent reads are Maggie O’Farrell’s The Marriage Portrait, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall and Summerwater, Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter and the sheer originality of Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi. Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven will always be a favourite (I didn’t want it to end!) I adore the work of Ali Smith and Kate Atkinson never fails to entertain me. It’s a lot to do with humour and heartbreak.

I love crime and thrillers at both ends of the commercial / literary spectrum. I was gripped by Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka. I enjoy Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series and Cara Hunter’s DI Fawley novels and I’m always on the look out for a hero like Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole. Johnny Porter in Lionel Davidson’s Kolymsky Heights will stay with me forever.

I also love a good ghost story and accessible speculative fiction, as well as a bit of horror, especially folk horror. Michelle Paver and Andrew Michael Hurley stand out for me here.

Whatever the genre, whether literary or commercial, historical or contemporary, thriller or crime, I’m looking for originality and distinctive voices. I especially like fiction threaded with humour – not necessarily of the laugh out loud kind, it’s often much subtler than that, but you can’t have too many arresting observations and insights.

On the non-fiction front, I enjoy narrative non-fiction, especially popular history (and prehistory) and science. I’m very partial to a memoir. I also enjoy nature writing and am interested in folklore.

While it’s all very well drawing up a wish list, ultimately I’m a fisherman. So send me what you’ve got (although please note I don’t represent children’s or YA fiction). Take me by surprise, and keep on surprising me. I’ll know what I’m looking for when I see it.