The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we are so happy to have Aimie Runyan and her Pitch Wars mentor Susan Spann here for a little Q and A. Emily recently signed with Melissa Jeglinski with The Knight Agency. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Aimie, you were chosen for Pitch Wars, which was such a great accomplishment with over 2,000 applications and about 660 writers entering. What made you decide to send an application to Susan?
I had the pleasure of meeting Susan at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ conference in September. I enrolled in her Pitch Prep sessions and I knew she understood my work. I bought her book at the conference and was *hugely* impressed. She knew how hard historical research is and I knew she was someone who could help me if I was lucky enough to be selected. When the selections were announced I made Animal the Muppet look as collected as Lady Violet Crawley.
Susan, what about Aimie’s application made you choose her?
As Aimie mentioned, we had met in person at the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference, so I knew that Aimie was receptive to critique (which is always an enormous plus). That was only a small factor in the final decision, however. When I read her opening pages, I knew at once that I had to work with her – her characters leaped off the page and into my heart.
Aimie, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
I learned that Susan has the nickname “The Banhammer”. We trimmed the MS from 84k to 77k. And no scenes were cut. Not one. It was all word fat. It was also awesome having someone cross-genre edit your stuff because some of my facts about injuries and physical trauma were really off. Mystery writers know that dead bodies can’t bleed.
Wow, that is a lot of word cutting. So Susan, tell us about your experience with mentoring Aimie? How was mentoring your other team members?
All three of my Pitch Wars team members were incredibly talented, motivated, and professional writers. I enjoyed working with all of them. I fully expect to see all of them agented and in print within a year or two.
When it comes to Aimie personally, she’s the best kind of critique partner –a professional when it comes to hearing and integrating critique, who’s capable of viewing her own work with a critical eye.
I bet we will see them on the shelves soon! And Aimie, what was the wait like during the agent round and the days leading up to the offer?
It’s a huge waiting game, but you have to keep busy. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “over sending” queries, but it’s not a smart thing to do. I focused on researching, outlining, and beginning the first draft of Book Two of what I hope will be a trilogy. It was more to talk about in the call that showed I have more in me than just one story.
Yes, the waiting is always the hardest part. Keeping busy helps. A little. Aimie, you signed with Melissa Jeglinski with The Knight Agency tell us about “The Call.”
The biggest question in my mind was “is this going to be ‘The Call’ or a revise and resubmit?”. We started off talking about the edits that need to happen; the biggest being that 77k is too lithe for historical fiction. We talked about how to achieve this, how the characters need to grow, what was too shallow, and what parts of the story were working well. Melissa’s notes were dead on. I’d already started pulling apart the MS and coming up with what I thought were the flaws. She nailed all of them that I’d noticed and more. She even gave me an idea that may lead to a really nice deepening of a character I’ve struggled with and I felt myself wanting to tackle revisions as we were chatting. I told her I thought all her comments were amazing, that I was thrilled with her vision, and the call became an offer of representation. Considering that she was engrossed enough in my story to lose track of time when she read it, I knew she was the right fit for me!
It’s the best feeling when someone gets your work. Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer:
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)?
Aimie: Hogwarts would be my top choice. The sorting hat would send me to Ravenclaw with the briefest of contact with my head. I’m an academic, and unashamed of it. I’d love to spend a year as an exchange student at Beauxbatons to work on my French and Charms work, as well. Starfleet Academy is my safety school. They can always use more sexy linguists ;-).
Susan: I spend my writing days with ninjas, so although Hogwarts is tempting, I’m afraid it’s the Jedi Academy for me. Like Aimie, I’m holding Starfleet as a safety school, but for Weapons and Tactics – I’m not subtle enough for the political wing.
I’m thinking there needs to be a Hogwarts’ Jedi course. So what fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Aimie: I think the 10th Doctor and I would get along swimmingly. Traveling the universe and battling untold evils? Good times. If things got romantic, so be it.
Susan: If we’re looking for traveling companions, I’d be glad to roll out with Jack Reacher, Master Yoda, or Hermione Granger.
I’m so with you on the 10th Doctor! What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try:
Aimie: Just set me loose at Honeydukes.
Susan: I’d like to spend several years building up an immunity to Iocaine powder.
Cheers, Susan, drink up! Now, you are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Aimie: Lightsaber! Blasters are just uncivilized, as Obi Wan so wisely pointed out.
Susan: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good katana at your side.
You two don’t mess around. What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Aimie: Diet soda (trying to kick the habit) or frigid cold seltzer water in warm weather, hot chocolate, tea, or flavored coffee if it’s cold. Graham crackers or Triscuits if they’re handy.
Susan: Coffee with cream. Lots of cream. In fact, just leave the cow. Food-wise, we’re talking Thai – spicy enough to melt steel.
Aimie: Oh Em Gee, that’s hard. I actually fell in love with historical fiction because of a Sweet Valley High Saga. Knock it if you will, but any book that gets kids reading is fantastic by me. More recently, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Barbara Kingsolver, Ken Follett, Stephen King, and Philippa Gregory have all had a profound impact on me as a writer and a person.
Susan: I’ve had lots of influences over the years, but the origin point for my current series has to be James Clavell’s SHOGUN – I saw the original miniseries back in the 1970s (The one with Richard Chamberlain) and immediately read the novel. That book inspired a lifelong love of Japan and the samurai culture, which eventually (and in roundabout ways) led to my ninja detective, Hiro Hattori.
Okay, last question: Which team are you? Team Brenda or Team Rae? Kidding. No really. Thank you for sharing your success story. Rae and I couldn’t be happier about it – CONGRATULATIONS!
Aimie: I’m team Raenda. You are both a gift to the writing community. A year ago I had no idea the writing community was so supportive and close-knit. I am privileged to be a part of it!
Susan: Aimie has this right – I’m so appreciative for all that both of you do. Thank you for hosting this interview too!
I’m personally Team Rae. Without her, I’d lose all my senses. Wonderful interview, you two! Congratulations on the success, and we’ll just sit here and watch you fly off in a Tardis together. Everyone else, go say hello to them on Twitter.
Why are you still here? Scram. Give them some love!