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Lesley McDowell

Lesley McDowell - Editor

Lesley is the author of fiction and non-fiction as well as short stories and is a literary critic for The Herald.

Lesley McDowell is the author of two novels (The Picnic, 2007 and Unfashioned Creatures, 2013) and a work of non-fiction (Between the Sheets: The Literary Liaisons of Nine 20th Century Women Writers, 2010). She has a PhD from the University of Glasgow on the work of James Joyce, and for two years was Teaching/Research Fellow at the School of English, University of St Andrews.

After leaving academia, she carved out a new career for herself as a literary critic, reviewing and writing for such publications as The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Herald, The Scotsman, and The Independent. During that time, she won two Creative Scotland writing awards, and in 2014 was Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone’s Library. Her own work has been reviewed in The Independent, The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, The New York Times Review of Books, and she has been shortlisted for the Scottish Book of the Year.

She is currently signed to Ian Drury, literary agent at Sheil Land, London, and has completed her third novel, A Peck of Dust, about a Victorian woman accused of murder.

From us


Lesley is our go-to editor for anything historical or women’s fiction. Her knowledge in these markets and enthusiasm shines in every report she does.

From them


Having worked for twenty years as a literary critic and been solely concerned with the published, finished product, it’s a real delight to focus on the other end of novel writing – the stage where writers are finding out who they are and what kind of stories they want to tell, and helping them realise their goals. There are few things more exciting than reading a manuscript with real potential, and seeing through to recommendation to an agent publisher.

Because I did spend so much time professionally at the finished ‘end’, I have a good idea of what the market wants, and is prepared to feature in newspapers and magazines. I’d like to think I can see that finished product, which is important when you’re starting out – you want to be able to fix the small things, but you need an accurate vision of the final product, too.

My favourite topics are women-centred stories, preferably from the past. I like experimental work, too, but am equally happy with traditional novel forms. My favourite writers are Joyce Carol Oates, Shirley Jackson, and Marina Warner, but I also like crossover genres like literary crime, like Megan Abbott.

Genres Lesley specialises in

Literary (Including ‘bookclub’)
Crime / Thriller / Action
Other Narrative Non-fiction

Lesley's published books

Unfashioned Creatures

Unfashioned Creatures

The Picnic

The Picnic

Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets


“Lesley McDowell gave me a brilliant in-depth editorial report. I fully appreciate the amount of time and thought she put into reading the manuscript, and the conciseness of her criticisms and suggested ways forward. Well worth the money! thank you for providing this service.”

- Susan M.

“That sort of constructive criticism was exactly what I wanted (and is what can’t be obtained from well-meaning friends, who inevitably say how much they’ve enjoyed the read but don’t ick out any weaknesses).”

- R. Webster

"Thanks again for this very useful and constructive feedback. I will definitely incorporate it into my next round of revisions."

- C. Bentley

“Your appraisal is very positive and has provided me with much food for thought as to how best to proceed.”

- Christopher E.

"I’m pretty much floored by your analysis. You’ve done me a great service. The report is clear, well organized, and brimming with insight. As I worked on the draft, I worried about some of the issues you raise. Just didn’t know how to fix them. You’ve given me a path toward a new draft."

- Paul H.

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