We’re so excited whenever one of our mentees gets an agent offer or a publishing deal. Celebrating these successes is one of our favorite parts of the Pitch Wars process. We hope you can join us in congratulating Jason Hine and his mentor, Michelle Hauck. Jason signed with Lauren Spieller of Triada US., and we couldn’t be happier for him!
Jason, what was it about Michelle Hauck that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application?
I’d read Michelle’s blog (Find Here) prior to entering Pitch Wars. It’s an invaluable resource for any writer on a journey to publication. Not only does she have interviews posted with dozens of agents, she’s an absolute pro at all things query letter (Seriously! My query letter went from about a 10% request rate to a 70% request rate after working with Michelle).
But the biggest reason I submitted to Michelle was her Pitch Wars profile. Her posting was humorous while having this competitive, challenging tone to it. I knew she’d be a lot of fun to work with and I could learn a lot from her. Best of all, the list of her favorite titles was nearly identical to mine.
Michelle, what was it about Jason Hine’s NIGHTMARE INK that hooked you?
Let me just say upfront that never in a million years did I think I’d fall in love with an urban fantasy. Or something with just a single POV. But the voice. The voice on Nightmare Ink was incredible. It’s just something you can’t get out of your head. And the humor. Humor is so hard to hit right, but this story nailed it. When Wayne’s car broke down in the second chapter and caught on fire, but then he kept driving the burnt out shell, I knew this one was special. In addition Nightmare Ink comes at the genre in a refreshing way. The pacing was solid from the start. The secondary characters were unforgettable. Intense action. An all-around winner. I’m sure it’s going to be a fantastic book.
Jason, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Pitch Wars presents an interesting revision challenge because you’ve got two months to wrestle with a ton of new ideas and info. I’m a prolific first drafter, but I’ve got a tendency to get stuck on minutiae when revising. Having the shortened time frame forced me to focus on big picture of the changes I wanted to make.
I’d also like to add that getting an edit letter from Michelle is arguably the single coolest gift I’ve been given. To see someone other care about your work that much—to get that invested in it. Speechless.
Michelle, tell us about your experience mentoring Jason Hine.
Jason was very eager to get started. He didn’t want to wait for my notes on the full manuscript. He dived right into the edits the minute I laid out some suggestions in an email, and things just kept moving from there. He got a sensitivity reader lined up to double check all the diversity in Nightmare Ink. We worked on character arc. As the agent round got closer, we had fun polishing a query and pitch. I think we only did one round on the query because the first draft came out so strong. Jason really attacked edits. He was very driven to produce the finest manuscript possible.
Jason, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Lauren Spieller of Triada US. Please, tell us about “The Call.” We love all the details about the offer, how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions . . . How long did you have to wait and how did you distract yourself? Anything! We love hearing about all of it.
Oh, so many feels.
Lauren was on my short list from the time this contest opened. She was the first person to request a full of NIGHTMARE INK through Pitch Wars but, another Pitch Wars agent actually offered representation first. I’d made it—after years of hard work I had a solid offer and a book that I felt proud of.
But something still felt missing. (I know, weird, right?)
I pushed that aside and notified the other agents who had my manuscript. I set a two week deadline because of the holiday. Every day I woke up super early (Pacific Standard Time) after barely sleeping, and checked my email for news from NYC. More offers came in, but no Lauren. Time was almost up.
I’d been following Lauren on Twitter since this whole thing started (and if you aren’t already, you need to be. Do it. Do it now!). She is damned funny and whip smart, and I thought it’d be a great match. I was holding out hope that I’d hear back from her before my closing date.
Days before my deadline, I woke up to an email from Lauren saying she’d finished NIGHTMARE INK and couldn’t stop thinking about it. We had our call the same day, and her enthusiasm was obvious. Unlike my other calls, we dug deep into editorial for about two hours (it felt like fifteen minutes). She had caught onto little things that would make a book I already loved just that much better. As soon as our conversation ended, I fired off an email to Michelle saying, “I don’t need to think about this anymore. Lauren is the one. She gets it.”
I slept easy that night for the first time in ten days. (In fact, I slept a little too easy and was late for work the next day)
Jason, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I wouldn’t be doing an interview about how I found my agent without Pitch Wars. Not just because of Michelle’s generosity and the way she helped me build confidence in my planned revisions—but also because of the mentee class of ’17. My fellow mentees were so amazingly supportive during this process, and it’s awesome to add so many gifted writers to my network.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
Somewhere in the (known or unknown) universe, you’re in a high-speed chase and have to escape the bad guys. Who are you running from and what fictional character is your side-kick?
Jason: Dorian from Dragon Age: Inquisition. I’m not a big time gamer, but I make an exception for games with an awesome storyline and tons of world-building… and I love his ideology and banter. Plus, a mage is handy backup to have in any scrap.
As for who’s chasing us, does it really matter? Hell, let’s make it the entire caravan from Mad Max: Fury Road, especially that guy hanging from cables with the electric guitar—because, METAL!
Michelle: John Wick would be my side-kick. Or more rightly—I would be his. Like John Wick’s second dog. That way I can just stay behind him and keep my head down and let him handle everything. No way John Wick is going to let anybody kill his new dog. This has got to be the safest place in a high-speed chase.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Jason: My critique group, The Papercuts. We’re a diverse collection of awful human beings who meets once a week to maim each other’s work. Most of us have been writing/critiquing together for about nine years now, and we’ve developed some really quirky traditions. I hear each of these people’s voices when I sit down to write.
Michelle: A serious question. Okay. I can do serious. I have a great support system, many of them other Pitchwars mentors. Laura Heffernan is probably the one I share my writer’s angst with the most. My family is behind me. My biggest motivator, however, is probably myself. I had goals I wanted to accomplish and they aren’t all finished yet. That keeps me going.
What fictional academy/university/school would you most want to attend? (ie Starfleet Academy, Hogwarts, Jedi Academy, Camp Half-Breed, Battle School in Space, Beauxbatons, etc)?
Jason: Brakebills. I’m a huge Lev Grossman fan. I was so excited when he liked one of my tweets that I ran laps around the house. Sorry Potterverse, but I’d be on the sidelines snarking at you with Eliot and Queen Margo, the Destroyer (the best addition to the TV adaptation).
Michelle: Star Wars came at an influential time in my life. I’d love to be a Jedi. But the logical side of my brain says “look out, dummy.” All these schools are full of bullies and people DIE there. I want to go somewhere where I’m not gonna die or be in mortal peril. Like that one-room schoolhouse from Anne of Green Gables. I pick that school. My pigtails might get pulled or I might fall off a roof on a dare but nobody’s gonna die. I can learn how to be a Jedi without the school, thank you very much.
You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Jason: My writing group (the Papercuts) is always giving me a hard time about my love of obscure weaponry. There are so many choices I could roll with here, including one from the midway point of NIGHTMARE INK (you’ll have to read it to find out what), but I’m going to rev up Ash’s chainsaw hand from Evil Dead/Army of Darkness. No matter how many Deadites he turns into cordwood, that thing never gets dull.
Michelle: Snow shovel. It’s a weapon. It’s a shield. It can act as a crutch in a pinch. I can pull stuff—such as treasure—on it. It takes care of snow or buries bodies. Versatile. Multipurpose! Plus—bonus—they’re cheap and readily available. I might even name it Clive.
What author would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her?
Jason: Jim Butcher—I would spend the day picking his brain. The guy is a master at creating the perfect foils to sell his protagonists’ growth in every novel. Plus he just goes for it. Nothing is too big, too crazy, too over-the-top. If he wants his protagonist hurling fireballs from the back of a zombified T-rex in the middle of Downtown Chicago, it’s happening.
Michelle: Mark Twain. The gentleman was funny. He was full of witty life advice. He was political for his time. He’s traveled. Journalist. Author. We could sit on his porch and drink lemonade and I could hear his take on the people of our day. Could you imagine what he’d have to say about today’s politicians?
Thank you for sharing your success story with us! We wish you all the best in your publishing journey and hope you’ll share your future successes with us. CONGRATULATIONS!
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two kids in college. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate. She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, Picture Book Party and Sun versus Snow. Her Birth of Saints trilogy from Harper Voyager features Grudging, Faithful, and Steadfast. She’s repped by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary.
Jason Hine is the winner of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s award for best Science-Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal of 2016 with Nightmare Ink. His work has appeared in Fantasy Scroll Magazine. He lives in Seattle, WA and Las Vegas, NV with his wife–flying back and forth over the weekends. A former mental health counsellor and professor of cognitive psychology, he now writes words. Sometimes other people even read them. Now represented by Lauren Spieller at Triada US.