Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Introducing Agent Jill Marsal

Desert Rose is thrilled to offer you some of the best agents, editors and authors to the Desert Dreams conference and our blog. Today's guest is super agent Jill Marsal.

Jill has been in the publishing industry for over 10 years, previously working as a Literary Agent with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency for eight years and at Dorchester Publications and Tudor Publishing, editing women's fiction, romance, and suspense/thrillers. In early 2009, Jill partnered with longtime agent Kevan Lyons to open the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Jill looks for romantic suspense, paranormal, women's fiction, mysteries, and thrillers that keep the pages turning and have an original hook. She is also looking for general commercial fiction and welcomes a dramatic storyline and compelling characters in interesting situations or relationships. If you have a novel that has a highly original concept or voice, Jill would love to see it.

On the non-fiction side, her areas of interest include business, current events, health, self-help, relationships, psychology, parenting, history, and narrative non-fiction.

DRose: Thank you for joining us today, Jill. Let’s start with something easy. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Jill: I wanted to be a teacher. I loved playing school, much to my younger sister and brother’s dismay!

DRose: What or who influenced you to become an agent?

Jill: When I was in high school, we had a career day, and one of the speakers was a literary agent. I had never heard of the profession, but I thought it sounded fantastic. I loved books and reading and looked into getting an internship with a local literary agency. I did that during my senior year and loved it and had found my calling.

DRose: With all the manuscripts you read are there any books that you like to curl up with for pleasure?

Jill: Unfortunately, I get much less pleasure reading done than I would like since most of my time is reading manuscripts and proposals I am working on or books to stay current with the market. I have a big stack of books – both fiction and non-fiction -- that I want to read for pleasure, but only read Three Cups of Tea this past year over the holidays so that shows how far behind I am.

DRose: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Jill: Journalism.

DRose: It’s said you can tell a lot about a person by their surroundings. What does your workspace look like?

Jill: Generally, things are piled on my desk – query letters, proposals, partial manuscripts, my calendar (and full manuscripts on my bookshelf). I think it helps to have it all close at hand and know where things are, especially when you work on several projects at once. Also, I like to be able to remove a pile when I have finished something. As the desk gets cleaner, I feel I am accomplishing things.

DRose: Do you have any hobbies?

Jill: I like to exercise and am just learning to play tennis.

DRose: If you were stranded on an island… what four things would you want with you?

Jill: Books, dark chocolate, music, and good company.

DRose: What was the most dangerous or scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Jill: I swam with sharks and stingrays and was told by the guide for our group that it was safe because the sharks “know” to stay on the other side of the rope.

DRose: If you could live in another time period… when would it be and why?

Jill: I would love to live 100 years in the future to see where things are. I think so much has changed from 100 years ago and so much is changing. It would be fun to get a peak at how different things are. I would not want to live in the ICE AGE – I am always freezing.

DRose: Tell us something about you no one else knows.

Jill: I was a clown in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus.

Flash Round:

Favorite Ice Cream flavor? Coffee chip

Favorite Food? Pasta & pizza (ok, that’s two foods).

Favorite flower? Star Gazers

Guilty Pleasure? Eating desserts

Jill enjoys working with both new and experienced authors. A few of the authors and projects Jill has represented include former Assistant Secretary of State Susan Shirk's China, Fragile Superpower (Oxford), which made the L.A. Times bestseller list, world-renowned health and beauty expert Dr. Howard Murad's The Water Principle: Saving Your Looks and Your Health Through the Science of Cellular Water (Wiley), "The Love Doctor" Terri Orbuch's 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great (Bantam), San Francisco Chronicle bestselling Pat Montandon's Oh, The Hell of It All! (Harper Collins), Victoria Zackheim's The Other Woman (Warner), Dakota Banks Dark Time: The Mortal Path (Harper Collins), Angi Morgan’s See Jane Run (Harlequin Intrigue) and Martin Limon's The Wandering Ghost (Soho).

For more information, go to her website


  1. Hi Jill,

    I look forward to meeting you in April! If you have time for a question, I'm hoping for some information here:

    I'm working on a Romantic Suspense novel. The main character is a married woman who is motivated to rekindle her near-ashes of a marriage. My question: For this sub-genre, is there an expectation of at least one sex scene? Or would my accounts of the moments that lead up to those intimacies enough to satisfy the audience I hope to reach?

    Windy Lynn Harris

  2. Hi Jill,
    Your shark story made me laugh- I had a similar experience and was told (after already in the water) as long as I wasn’t mistaken for a seal, I’d be OK. Uh…how exactly does one try *not* to look like a seal? Especially while wearing flippers. Quick question for you re: submissions. I notice on your website you ask for a synopsis and sample pages for paper fiction submissions, but a query only for electronic. Any particular reason why? Thanks and I look forward to meeting you are the conference!