I am a dreamer. When I was a child, I used to gaze up at the stars and wonder if anyone ever reached them.
I am a dreamer. When I was a child, I used to gaze up at the stars and wonder if anyone ever reached them. I was born in a small town on the border between the north and south of Ireland. Even though the place l grew up in was surrounded by borders, there were never any borders in my heart and imagination, only places to explore.
I loved books. Our house wasn’t big, I didn’t have a room of my own, so I would hide behind the sofa to block out the world and read and read. Books were like friends to me and they nurtured my hungry, searching soul. I could also spend endless hours daydreaming … that’s also good for the soul. On my thirteenth birthday, my dad gave me the complete works of Shakespeare. Not what I was expecting! But looking back, even then he saw in me something I hadn’t yet seen in myself: the connection I had with literature.
The landscape wasn’t particularly beautiful where I grew up, so I always looked towards the sky: the blueness of it on a clear day gave me a sense of infinity and possibility, the clouds reminded me that life was like that sometimes too. Sunsets move me, I recall a line from Emily Dickenson – ‘Bring Me the Sunset in a Cup’ – which burns in my heart still … I feel a strong spiritual connection with nature, it is, and always has been an integral part of my life. There was a cinema in our small town and when I was old enough, I got a little job there at weekends, shining the torch to show people to their seats. I didn’t get paid, but I could watch every movie for free and as often as I wanted.
Books, films, and nature were portals to other worlds, ones that enriched me in ways nothing else could.
Books, films, and nature were portals to other worlds, ones that enriched me in ways nothing else could. Years later, I would think of lines from Emily Dickinson, along with the poetry of Yeats, Pablo Neruda and Patrick Kavanagh … I was always searching for inspiration and for something bigger, something that would set my soul on fire.
I went on to university to study English literature and Spanish, simply because I wanted to continue reading. I didn’t have a game plan but, looking back, I must have followed some guiding force; it was there, showing me the way. Shortly after I completed my degree, I became very interested in fashion. I saw in it another form of creative self-expression, an exploration of ideas and powerful storytelling. I discovered designers like Dolce & Gabbana well before they were famous – and years later I even met their grandmothers at their after-show dinners! I went on to open the first concept store in Dublin, where I curated and sold collections by international avant-garde designers and Ireland’s Lainey Keogh. Even then, I never lost my feeling for art and literature, showcasing the designs amongst artwork and beautiful furniture, with extracts from my favourite writers on big panels that hung on the walls.
But my vision for Dublin was at odds with the economic times we lived in then and my dream ended. For many years, I felt the brunt of that failure and couldn’t shake it off. Years later I would come to understand what Guillermo del Toro, the Oscar-winning film director, once said: ‘Failure is the fuel, success is the brakes’. Or, as actor Denzel Washington said: ‘Failure is the best way to figure out where you are going.’ I knew in my heart then that I was not on the right life path. A part of me was yearning for something else, another way of life, but I couldn’t articulate what that was.
"Failure is the fuel, success is the brakes"
Guillermo Del Toro
I’d first met the author Niall Williams at college and then, years later, he asked me to read the manuscript of his first novel, Four Letters of Love. If I loved it, as he hoped I would, he wanted me to bring it out into the world. I felt a seismic shift reading Four Letters and knew instinctively how to get it published. I gave the manuscript, wrapped in gold leaf paper, to Peter Straus, who was then Editor-in-Chief at Picador (today he is a Literary Super-Agent and still a dear friend. Relationships are a big part of the scaffolding of this industry, indeed in all aspects of life, and I treasure them.)
As a result of falling in love with a novel, I became a literary agent – that was it!
Peter acquired the novel and Four Letters of Love was translated into multiple languages worldwide and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US. I sold the film rights to Fox Searchlight with Stanley Tucci to direct. Shortly afterwards, twice Booker-shortlisted author Patrick McCabe signed with me for Breakfast on Pluto and so, as a result of falling in love with a novel, I became a literary agent – that was it! I knew in my heart that this is what I wanted to do. I had found what I was looking for. And, to borrow a quote from writer and poet Ben Okri, it was ‘A time for New Dreams’.
‘A time for New Dreams’.
Over the past 22 years I have had the privilege and honour to work with incredibly talented people across a broad range of genres. I’ve negotiated several seven-figure deals, and my agency has sold translation rights in over 50 different territories. I have negotiated film and TV rights deals in Hollywood, the UK and Europe. Today, I work in close association with the powerhouse CAA – Creative Artists Agency – in Los Angeles, for film and TV, so I know my clients have access to the best possible opportunities in the world. The foundations of my agency have been built on my love and passion for books, for storytelling in all genres. But none of this would be possible without the unconditional love and support of my husband, my soulmate who has always given me the freedom to dream.
We have all been lulled by those magic words,
'Once upon a time...
We have all been lulled by those magic words, ‘Once upon a time…’ That little girl escaping into a mesmerising story, hiding behind the sofa or staring up at the sky, remains a big part of me still. The adrenalin rush of discovering a new author, a new talent, a great story in any form of creative expression is something I live for! As I said, I am dreamer. But I also set goals for myself and for this agency all the time.
I wanted to create an agency of Dreams and to be in ‘the business of making dreams come true’.
My gift is being able to see potential and greatness, even when it isn’t yet obvious to others, and then making a real, often life-changing, difference to creative artists by helping them realise their dreams and potential. I wanted to create an agency of Dreams and to be in ‘the business of making dreams come true’. I hope that my agency will be able to do this for you.