James started reading for the agency to earn pocket money, shortly after it was founded by his mother in 1995, and graduated to writing editorial notes when he finished school. He bravely struck out on his own to read music at Oxford, followed by an M-Phil in Musicology and Performance and a long, oddly angry thesis on historical vocal technique in classical singing. But all the while he was earning his keep by reading and editing and eventually, perhaps inevitably, the agency claimed him.
He comes to agenting from an editorial perspective, from a love of words and their rhythm, and of the structure and power of narrative. Funnily enough, those musical studies were helpful after all. Singing is the business of unearthing the music latent in language. And studying music is about trying to grasp the workings of narrative in its most abstract form. All this feeds happily back into the editing and the telling of stories, which he now does for a living, polishing up his authors’ stories and gleefully reading them out to editors. (The short ones, anyway.)