Hey Chicago! I'm super excited about this event next month. Come join us!
Heyyy! I’m Kristen, and I'm a Pitch Wars mentor in the adult category, interested in mystery/thriller/suspense, literary fiction, and LGBTQ+ stories. If that sounds like you, read on!
First of all, I’m glad you’re thinking about entering Pitch Wars. It’s a total game changer--I know this because I was a mentee in 2015. The manuscript I worked on during the contest wound up snagging me an amazing agent a few days after Pitch Wars ended, and a 2-book deal with Minotaur Books within 2 months after that. And now, less than two years since I was right where you are now--contemplating entering the contest--my debut mystery THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK is in bookstores everywhere. None of this would have happened without Pitch Wars! I’m so happy that I get to pay it forward to another emerging writer.
I always joke that I grew up in a public library—but it’s only kind of a joke. I was at the library all the time when I was a kid, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I was that weird sixth grader reading John Grisham books on the school bus. I knew I wanted to write novels about as soon as I started reading them, and when I would go on trips with my parents, I would often take notes on locations, for “research.” Honestly, not much has changed. I still read nonstop, I recently finished up my 6th manuscript, and am currently in the heavy research phase of my 7th. (Also known as the Google searches for really weird stuff phase.)
Here’s a bit more on me, in alphabetized list form*: cat lover, feminist, fluent in sarcasm, graphic designer, INFJ, Mac user, Ohioan, queer lady, Team Oxford Comma, whiskey drinker, world traveler.
I’ve done a lot of critiquing, and I am most effective at character development, dialogue, setting, overall structure, plot untangling, and identifying even the smallest inconsistencies in all of the above. I have a sharp eye for typos, so I’ll definitely spot them, but I won’t hold them against you. Because when you’ve written upwards of 80,000 words, there are bound to be some typos. The only real deal breaker for me is voice. I want a manuscript with personality for days. Everything else, even a crazy messy plot, can be fixed during Pitch Wars, but a strong voice and a solid concept need to be there to begin with.
So what exactly does Pitch Wars entail? A LOT of work. When I was a mentee, I wound up rewriting about ⅔ of the entire manuscript during the contest. My awesome mentee from last year, Ernie, scrapped 2 entire subplots and restructured his whole book. So I know big-time overhauls are possible, and I’ll be looking for a mentee who is open to making major changes if necessary. If you think your manuscript is perfect already, or if you have a long list of things you absolutely will not change about it (no matter the reason) then I may not be the girl for you. I want to work with someone open-minded, someone humble and cool and, preferably, someone who will get my obscure music references**. A good sense of humor is important. But most importantly, I want a mentee who is willing to work hard. Otherwise, this amazing opportunity won’t help you. That being said, it’s supposed to be fun. And it will be! Inside jokes galore!
OK, now we’re onto the really fun stuff: my wish list! Show me your dark side, guys. Specifically…
MYSTERY! This is what I write, and what I read most too. I’ll also include all related subgenres: crime, noir, suspense, upmarket suspense, thriller, procedural, etc. I love it all. I tend to favor stories with urban settings, badass female characters, diversity, twisty but realistic plots, snappy dialogue, sexual tension, and edge-of-my-seat suspense. I’m not squeamish when it comes to violence, language, sex, or creepy subject matter. I usually gravitate towards the hardboiled end of mystery, but that’s not to say I don’t love a smart cozy too. If your manuscript's central conflict is a crime of some kind, I want it.
LITERARY FICTION! I’m ready to see some smart, gorgeous lit fic. If it’s strange, experimental and/or gritty in some way, I’m there! Give me your troubled characters, family secrets, sly descriptions of creepy Nebraska motels, etc. Literary fiction that flirts with fantasy, magical realism, ghost stories, or twisted, modern fairy tales = yes please.
LGBTQ+ stories! I really want to see these. I would especially love to see a queer psychological thriller (a la Memento or Girl on the Train), so if you have this? Maybe submit it just to me and don't bother with the other mentors, kthanks. Otherwise, I’m pretty open on genre here, except for what’s listed below.
I really don’t want:
Anything that isn’t Adult
Here are some of my most favorites for an example of what I like:
- Lee Child
- Joan Didion
- Gillian Flynn
- Sue Grafton
- Carol Anshaw
- Roxane Gay
- Richard Price
- Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
- BROKEN MONSTERS by Lauren Beukes
- A SEAHORSE YEAR by Stacey D’Erasmo
- THE DRIFTLESS AREA by Tom Drury
- A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan
- THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French
- WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? By Maria Semple
- THE QUICK AND THE DEAD by Joy Williams
TL;DR I like: dry humor, experimental story-telling, genre-bending, danger of any kind (be it physical or emotional), fantasy elements in a rational world, mysterious plots (even in non-mystery stories), whiskey****, and writing that slyly taps into human truth instead of beating you over the head with its themes.
If your To Be Read pile looks anything like the above list, we'll probably get along, even if your MS isn't quiiiiiite in one of the genres I mention above. If you have a question about what types of stories I'll consider, feel free to ask me on Twitter @kmlwrites
What can you expect from me? An edit letter (or an edit email conversation) shortly after mentees are announced, guidance, cheerleading, and support during your revision process, pitch/query letter help, and hopefully time for a round of line edits at the end. I’ll be available to you by email or Gchat (not a big phone call person), and trust me, I’m just as excited about Pitch Wars as you are.
*I love alphabetized lists. And footnotes.
**I’m kidding about the obscure music references***
****That has nothing to do with my Pitch Wars wishlist. I just like whiskey.
Looking for a scavenger hunt clue down here? Enjoy!
So excited that The Last Place You Look will be published in the U.K. by Faber & Faber! The U.K. edition releases in July in paperback, and it has this cool, moody cover. The latticework on the pergola actually looks rather like the house I grew up in, which is a cool coincidence. Especially since the suburb where a lot of the action in the book takes place is based on the town where my parents live. Except for the murdery parts!