Miriam Kriss joined the Irene Goodman Literary Agency just as she was finishing her master's degree in Fine Arts at New York University in early 2004, and quickly became one of the hottest young agents in town. Going from Michelangelo to Nora Roberts was not as great a leap as it might seem, as Miriam had been obsessively reading commercial fiction since she found a copy of Judith McNaught's classic Whitney, My Love in a rented lakeside cabin when she was thirteen. A few pages in, not only were some gaps in her Catholic school education filled, but she was hooked. She reads fast: one hundred pages an hour, a novel a day, and well, that adds up to a lot of books a year. Miriam likes to say Irene knows the market because she's been doing this for over twenty-five years and is savvy as all get out, but Miriam herself knows the market because she is the market. And that knowledge has paid off for both her and her clients in a big way.
Miriam's focus remains on commercial fiction and she represents everything from hardcover historical mysteries to all subgenres of romance, from young adult fiction to kick ass urban fantasies, and everything in between. If it's fun to read, she probably represents it. She doesn't look for specific stories, focusing instead on finding a voice she can fall in love with and champion. This strategy of taking on only clients she's passionate about has lead to six-figure deals for first-time authors and numerous clients appearances on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists. During one memorable week, she had two authors appear on the Times list at the same time.
Thank you so much for spending the day with us, Miriam. Let’s start with something easy. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Who was it who influenced you to become an agent?
Irene Goodman has been my mentor and my inspiration as an agent. I couldn’t have a better role model.
With the amount of books you get on a regular basis, what books do you read for pleasure?
Everything, especially my authors, because I only take on authors whose work I love. What I read but don’t sell are books of New York City history and cookbooks, especially those with a narrative component.
Is there another profession other than your own you would like to attempt?
I’ve found the perfect job for me, I can’t imagine doing anything else. But someday if I were retired I’d like to run a rundown bookshop with maze like shelves.
What one word would you use to describe yourself?
It’s said you can tell a lot about a person by their surroundings. What does your workspace look like?
As a general rule a bit cluttered. But I know where everything is. I come by it honestly; my father’s an attorney and every horizontal surface in his office, including most of the floor, is covered in paper but he can find a brief from 15 years ago in less than a minute. If you cleaned it he’d never find anything.
Do you have any hobbies?
I knit, take pictures, cook, bead, brew beer, design websites, pack myself bento boxes, read (obviously), cross stitch, scuba dive, I even do a Victorian papercraft called “quilling”. I’m a bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to hobbies.
If you were stranded on an island… what four things would you want with you?
These days you can cheat at this question and answer the equivalent of “I wish for more wishes”. I’d want a laptop with a satellite internet connection because I’d not only get rescued but I could catch up on my reading while I was waiting. But if I wasn’t stranded, if I was just on vacation, I’d want my hubby, a new thick book by a favorite author , a drink with an umbrella and a bookstore for when I finished the book. On our two week Hawaiian honeymoon my husband and I went to the bookstore three times to stock up.
What was the most dangerous or scariest thing you’ve ever done?
I regularly read and walk at the same time in NYC. One day I will be hit by a bus. Beyond that: night diving. When it’s dark, everything that you brush against, be it a rock, your dive partner, the ground, they’re all sharks. And they’re going to eat you.
If you could have lunch with anyone living or dead… who would it be?
Queen Elisabeth I
If you could live in another time period… when would it be and why?
The future, because if you think the tech we have today is cool…
What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word?
Least Favorite: turnip
What was your most embarrassing moment.
I once managed to upend an entire glass of water onto myself while talking too energetically with my hands on a panel.
Tell us something about you no one else knows.
My middle name is misspelled on my high school diploma
Favorite Ice Cream flavor? Mint Chocolate Chip
Favorite Food? Risotto
Favorite flower? Tiger Lily
Favorite Sport? Baseball
Guilty Pleasure? Falling asleep while watching a movie with my husband on our couch.
For more information on Miriam or the Irene Goodman Agency, go to their website:
Throughout the day Miriam will be stopping by to answer questions, so don’t hesitate to ask her anything.