What was your first job in the book world?
I had just graduated in English Literature from University College London and so desperately wanted a job in the book world. As I had worked for a short while in the children’s dept of a major bookshop, Foyles, I applied to be a junior children’s editor for a job going at Macdonald Futura and was taken on. A few months before, I had been studying Oscar Wilde and F Scott Fitgerald and now I found myself working on Enid Blyton’s Noddy series – join the dots to see which animal Noddy meets at the circus! It was a humbling experience but it was my first foot in the door and I loved every moment. I have always enjoyed children’s publishing and forty years later, I find myself agenting some of my very own children’s authors!
What is your favourite Italian food?
I love food – eating it and cooking it. I grew up in a family of cooks, and as we originated from a small town in Northern Italy near Parma and Piacenza, the food was of the region – anolini in brodo (small parcels of ravioli stuffed with cheese and bread and served in a light broth, or pisarei e faso – basically beans and pasta cooked in a tomato sauce or porcini mushrooms cooked with fettucine pasta. Those were the stables but as I grew older, I began to love eating fish – growing up deep in the countryside, there was no fish but when we went to the seaside, I was introduced to spaghetti alle vongole and fell in love. There is nothing more heavenly than a bowl of clams cooked with pasta and served with a glass of crisp white wine.
Have you met famous authors in person, and if so, describe the experience?
I have met many famous authors over the year and it has been a huge privilege meeting them. There are few things that surprise me about meeting authors but one of the most unusual was when I met the romantic novelist Dame Barbara Cartland. I was working as an editorial director at Penguin Books and I was contacted by her secretary who told me that Dame Barbara wanted to have a bite to eat with me to discuss a possible non-fiction book on beauty! She was in her late 80s by then and wanted to write a book about her beauty regime and how women could learn how to keep their looks if they followed her secrets. I thought it would be fun meeting her so agreed and was told that a table had been booked at the Clarridges hotel in London. On the dot of one, a pink Rolls Royce arrived outside the hotel and Dame Barbara, dressed in head to toe in pink chiffon, descended from the car. What followed was one of the most unusual, bizarre, and entertaining lunches I have ever had. We did not talk about her beauty regime once. Instead, she talked to me about all the many famous men she had met in her life, how she had danced with Marconi when she was a young teenager and how he was very flirty with her but she was put off because he had a glass eye that kept staring at her; how Wallis Simpson bewitched the former King Edward V111 with sexual skills she had learnt in her youth (she then proceeded to tell me what those were). Our conversation then moved on to the triangle that was the present Queen Camilla, His Majesty King Charles and the late Princess Diana and what Diana had told Dame Barbara about their relationship. Goodness knows if it was true but it was an eye-opener and hugely entertaining. I never did publish her book on Beauty and nor have I ever had an author lunch quite like it.
What is your favourite film based on a book?
My favourite film based on a book was The Talented Mr Ripley directed by Anthony Minghella. I had always loved Patricia Highsmith’s dark novel, the yearning for aspiration, for a different culture and class and milieu than your own, along with repressed desires and frustrations – all of these I could understand but it took the genius of Anthony Minghella to bring this to life; that and Matt Damon’s terrific performance as Tom Ripley. I think one of the reasons it was so brilliantly done was because Minghella, like me, had grown up in a small Italian community and dreamt of life outside that world – he could so relate to Ripley and this came to life on the screen. The acting throughout, not just Matt Damon but also Jude Law and Philip Seymour Hoffman was breathtakingly good as was the photography and the haunting music of Gabriel Yared.
What do you consider to be publishing’s greatest threat at the minute, and why?
I think AI is a huge threat to our industry. The illegal theft of many authors’ works which is then used to train a computer to replicate their sentence structure and style, to develop plot and characterisation, is very threatening to our whole existence. If strong boundaries are not created, I can see a world where AI will create storylines by theme – romance, thriller, adventure, crime, etc and someone will market these at a next to nothing price to a public that ultimately will not care as long as they are cheap. It is the biggest threat we have right now
What one thing would make your job significantly easier?
Editors replying to emails, preferably with a large offer in their reply.
Luigi set up his own agency in 2005. He has been personally responsible for discovering and launching the careers of many bestselling authors. In 2010 he was awarded the prestigious title of Literary Agent of the Year.
Stay tuned for our next interview, coming soon …
For more information on visiting or exhibiting at BBPlus24, click here.