The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today I am so beyond excited to introduce you to Ron Walters and his Pitch Wars mentor Meredith McCardle for a Q and A regarding his recent success! Ron recently signed with Leon Husock of L. Perkins Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Ron, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Meredith?
For once in my life, I went against my natural inclination to wing things and actually read all the Pitch Wars mentors’ wish lists. Meredith’s was one of the first that screamed, “Perfect fit, perfect fit!” It was professional, upbeat, laid-back, and funny. What really caught my eye, though, was the fact that she was looking for books which were fast-paced and “super-actiony.” I knew right then and there that anyone who insisted “super-actiony” was a word was my kind of mentor.
As it happens, the things she wasn’t looking for, particularly contemporary romance, also helped seal the deal. I’m all about romance—in fact, I just wrote my first kissing scene; can you say awkward?—but I wanted to work with someone who’s focus was on adrenaline rather than swooning.
As if all that wasn’t reason enough to submit to her, I then read the description of her debut novel THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN. Um, time traveling spies? Yes, please! (For the record, reading it was one of those un-put-downable experiences. Loved it.)
Of course, me being a writer and thus well educated in the school of self-doubt, I never thought she’d pick me. But she did, she did!
Meredith, what about Ron’s application made you choose him?
I read a lot of great concepts and pages during Pitch Wars. But when I got to Ron’s, I sat up and took notice. The whole premise—a kid stuck in Prague who finds a pocket watch that transports him into the memories of a man running from Nazis in WWII and gives him the power to raise golems—well, um, YES PLEASE. I read his first pages and was hooked. The writing was excellent, the concept was so original, and I could see it had a ton of potential. It was an easy choice for me!
Ron, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
My memory is pretty terrible, so I hope I’m recalling this correctly …
Basically, Meredith wrote to say she loved my book but felt it needed some fairly extensive revisions. After I recovered from that heart attack/stroke combo, we spent a good week emailing ideas back and forth. As far as my specific story went, one of the biggest things we talked about was taking the “big reveal” at the end and making it part of the whole novel. It was exactly what my book needed; it totally breathed new life into the plot, and gave my main character some serious stakes that infused the whole novel, rather than just the very end.
In terms of writing as a craft, one of the most important things she taught me was how to make sure every character and every plot point connected to one other. She showed me how to take the ideas I’d already laid down, push them to the next level, and combine them into a thriving, organic whole.
Over the next month or so, I revised or completely rewrote all my chapters. As I finished one, I’d send it to Meredith. She’d either give me a thumbs up, or point out areas that still needed work, at which point I’d rewrite it again. It was arduous work—my novel was 73,000 words; I cut approximately 33,000 words and rewrote about the same from scratch—but totally worth it.
Meredith, tell us about your experience with mentoring Ron. How was mentoring your other team members?
Ron was great! Really easy to work with. I was a little scared at first because I basically told Ron he needed to throw out and completely re-write the majority of his book. (I’m really not exaggerating.) I had no idea how he was going to react! But he took it in stride, and we basically tackled it chapter by chapter. It was a very conversational revision process—lots of back and forth in emails and Twitter DMs. Ron lives six time zones away from me, so we never got the opportunity to actually talk things through, but I think it all worked out in the end!
I was lucky to have a great Pitch Wars team. My alternate, Mara, was so easy to work with as well (and her book is another amazing concept—one of those, like Ron’s, that was an instant YES PLEASE for me)!
Ron, after Pitch Wars you signed with Leon Husock of L. Perkins Agency, tell us about “The Call.” How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Leon contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
I queried Leon last summer, before I even knew about Pitch Wars. I’d already gotten a fair amount of rejections, so I was floored when he requested my full. It was my first ever full request, on any novel I’d ever queried. Of course, the request came in September, when I was smack in the middle of my Pitch Wars revisions. After Meredith talked me down from that particularly panic attack by explaining that most agents are more than willing to wait on revisions, I wrote Leon back and explained my situation. He graciously agreed to wait for the new version.
I sent him the manuscript in November, right after the Pitch Wars agent round closed. After five months, I hadn’t heard anything, so I sent him a nudge asking if he was still interested. He wrote back to say my book was the next on his to-read list. At which point my anxiety level skyrocketed.
I got “the email” on a Friday afternoon, which just so happened to be the day my wife’s spring break started. When I saw the email, I steeled myself for the inevitable “loved the concept, didn’t connect with the voice” response I’d been getting from other agents who’d requested the full. But that’s not what Leon’s email said. What his email said was, I love the book and want to offer you representation. I had to read it multiple times, because I honestly thought it was a belated April Fools prank!
I picked up the laptop, showed the email to my wife, and proceeded to quite literally shake for the next two hours. Leon was traveling that day, so we agreed to talk the next Monday. Which meant nearly three whole days of waiting. We wound up Skyping, which was extra stressful, because what was I supposed to wear?! But the conversation went really well. Even though I already knew I wanted to sign with Leon, I sent nudges to the other agents with my manuscript or query letter, and then hunkered down for the longest week of my life.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
There is no way I would have gotten an agent if it wasn’t for Pitch Wars. Having that one-on-one interaction with Meredith was probably the highlight of my writing career, not just because she’s an awesome person and writer, but because I gained so much insight into my own writing skills and the writing world in general. Plus, I gained a community of writer friends that I never knew I wanted or needed until I had it. I can’t imagine life without them now. They understand me when I use “writer speak” instead of staring at me all, Huh? They are all amazing, supportive people. Seriously, if you don’t have a writing community, get one.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer: You’re outnumbered by the bad guys, what mode of escape would you take? (ie a Tardis, a flying car, a flying carpet, something from your favorite food, etc.)? And why?
Ron: A stealth-powered Thai food truck, because while I was escaping at supersonic speeds I could enjoy some tasty curry or fried rice.
Meredith: Honestly, I would probably stand around analyzing my choices until it was too late and I had no choice but to high tail it out of there on foot. Indecision FTW! But I am pretty fast—interval training FTW!—so I’d have decent odds.
What fictional character would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her/it?
Ron: Fox Mulder, but before he got kidnapped by aliens. We’d totally expose government conspiracies, and then, I don’t know, spit sunflower seed shells at Scully for not believing us.
Meredith: This is SUCH a duh! sort of answer, but Harry Potter. I think I’d just want to learn spells all day. That would be awesome.
What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?
Ron: I couldn’t think of a character for this, so my critique partner, Marisa (also a Pitch Wars 2014 alum). She suggested Pinkie Pie, from MY LITTLE PONY. (Shut up, it’s a great show. There’s an actual mythology and everything.) So I’m going with Pinkie Pie. I’m not as much of a party nut as she is, but I aspire to be as upbeat and, let’s admit it, deranged as Pinkie Pie is. So there you go. I’M PINKIE PIE, OKAY? DEAL WITH IT.
Meredith: OMG, Ron is Pinkie Pie! 100%. Can I be Princess Twilight Sparkle?! Pretty pretty please????
But seriously, I’m probably an amalgamation of characters. I like to think I have Anne Shirley’s sense of romantic optimism mixed with Ginny Weasley’s “ain’t got time for your BS, son” attitude.
You just won an entry into a game show and you may only bring one fictional character with you to beat the clock. What show is it and who would you choose to join you?
Ron: The Price is Right, because I could really use a bigger car, and the Hulk, because he would literally beat the clock and probably the rest of my competition as well.
Meredith: Katniss Everdeen. It doesn’t matter which show/which game because Katniss would dominate and destroy them all. (But I’d secretly hope it was Plinko).
You only have two hours to finish edits, what do you grab–coffee, tea, wine, hard liquor, or some fictional drink–to fuel you through the time crunch?
Ron: A quadruple shot of espresso, poured into a giant cup of coffee. I call it an Italian Car Bomb.
Meredith: I’ll have what Ron’s having, with an extra pot of coffee.
Who is your biggest supporter of your writing? What fictional character would best describe this person?
Ron: My wife, not because she cheerleads me, but because her general attitude is, Shut up and write if you want to write. Which, for someone who hems and haws about EVERYTHING, is good to hear. As for which fictional character she reminds me of? I’ll just leave that up to your imagination.
Meredith: My husband, for sure. He’s always there to bounce an idea off of, to school me on why my characters would never [fill in the blank], and to celebrate the victories. He’s the Gilbert Blythe to my Anne.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Ron: If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that all rough drafts are crap. ALL. OF. THEM. Pitch Wars is proof that revisions are where the story truly comes together. So finish what you start, and worry about making it shine after it’s done.
Meredith: Pitch Wars is such an amazing opportunity! I really hope that every aspiring writer out there checks it out and enters. Because even if you don’t get chosen, you’ll connect with a really giving, supportive community!
Thank you, Ron and Meredith, for sharing your success story with us. We couldn’t be happier about it around here – CONGRATULATIONS! Everyone, rush off and say hello, celebrate with them, and if you don’t already follow them, you totally should – they’re awesome!