Lesley Thorne

Lesley Thorne has been Managing Director since 2017 and runs the Film and TV Department at Aitken Alexander, which she founded in 2004. Alongside her work on book to screen (and stage), she represents novelists, non-fiction writers and screenwriters with a particular emphasis on guiding authors to write for screen and screenwriters who originate their own material.

She began her career in publishing on the editorial side, working first for Fourth Estate in the late 90s, then Viking and Hamish Hamilton. She joined Aitken Alexander in 1999 to assist Gillon Aitken and in 2004 began to focus on dramatic rights in the agency’s books.

Successful screen adaptations include the hit ITV series Victoria, which uses A.N. Wilson’s biography as its principal source, Andrew Haigh’s film of Willy Vlautin’s novel Lean on Pete (Curzon/A24), and Sky Atlantic/Showtime’s limited series adaptation of Edward St Aubyn’s five Patrick Melrose novels and  Clara Salaman’s 3-part adaptation of her novel Too Close on ITV1 in Spring 2021, starring Emily Watson and Denise Gough, who were both nominated for Best Lead Actress BAFTA.

Her clients include: for screenwriting and book to screen, prize-winning author and screenwriter Kevin Barry (Dark Lies the Island, 2019); for screenwriting, Rebecca Frayn (Misbehaviour, 2020); memoirist and musician Peter Hook (The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club, S&S, 2010, & Substance, Inside New Order, S&S 2016); comedian and travel writer Dom Joly (The Downhill Hiking Club, Robinson Books 2019,  best known for the international hit Trigger Happy TV); social media star and travel writer Dean Nicholson (Nala’s World, Hodder, 2020); novelist and screenwriter Clara Salaman (Too Close for ITV in Spring 2021, first published by Transworld, 2019); Australian bestselling/prize-winning novelist and screenwriter, Craig Silvey (Honeybee, Allen & Unwin, 2020); prize-winning novelist, screenwriter & music writer Matt Thorne (Prince, Faber 2012,  8 Minutes Idle adaptation, 2012, new book under contract with White Rabbit, Orion); and prize-winning novelist and musician Willy Vlautin (The Night Always Comes, Faber UK/HarperCollins US, 2021). She also represents the literary estates of Babette Cole and John Fowles. For a full list of her screenwriting clients see here.

Lesley prides herself on her clear sense of where book and screen deals can work well together. A recent example is the sale of a book proposal for a new definitive autobiography by Stephen Cleary of Nina Simone (Nina Simone: Soul on Fire, to be published by White Rabbit, Orion) – simultaneously she sold Cleary’s feature film script Nina’s Ghost to The Bureau. The script is about the two years he spent with Simone while ghost-writing her autobiography and Nina’s almost-forgotten contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.

Other recent sales for her own clients include a feature script by novelist, music writer and screenwriter Will Ashon about a woman in her seventies living in an exclusion zone after a nuclear accident, haunted by her past (Eden); an option and writing deal for Kevin Barry’s futuristic novel City of Bohane for TV adaptation using Trioscope animation tech about warring Irish gangs; an option and writing deal (TV) for Craig Silvey’s moving coming of identity novel Honeybee about a teenager called Sam with a troubled home life who comes to identify as female; an option and (feature film) screenwriting deal for Clara Salaman for her claustrophobic thriller The Boat; an option deal for Ruth Ivo’s Performance, a coming-of-adulthood memoir about the high-end club scene in Soho to producer Alan Poul/Endeavour Content, and a new book deal with Robinson Books for Dom Joly’s new travel book The Conspiracy Tourist, which will include exploration of the overwhelming increase in the last year of new and bizarre conspiracy theories.

For screenwriting approaches, high-end drama, smart genre and comedy welcome. Please see the submissions page for more guidance. Mainly focused on Film and TV, so not looking for a lot for publishing currently but enjoy working with authors who work in both mediums. For publishing, music writing, memoir or narrative non-fiction with a unique take on history, or that challenges preconceptions, or gives us insight into an unfamiliar world; literary and commercial fiction including crime/thrillers; anything that engages with family dynamics or identity themes; smart genre/high concept; humour. Anything considered has to feel a good fit for an agency that specialises in quality writing.

She is supported by Alice De Abaitua, who can be reached at alice@aitkenalexander.co.uk. However, please only submit via our submissions page (not directly to Alice) and put Lesley’s name in the subject heading if you want to flag it for her review.