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 Gia de Cadenet and her mentor, Diana A. Hicks. Gia signed with Léonicka Valcius and Samantha Haywood of Transatlantic Agency, and we couldn’t be happier for her!
Gia, what was it about Diana that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application?
I liked her voice. There were so many talented mentors to choose from. It was a very, very difficult decision. But ultimately, I chose to send her my application because of her sense of humor and clear passion for helping the writing community succeed. The inspirational photos she posts on her blog and Facebook page (inspirational for fellow steamy writers) didn’t hurt, either. 😉
Diana, what was it about Gia’s NOT THE PLAN that hooked you?
From the beginning I wanted to mentor a manuscript that featured a strong heroine. The query hooked me right away with a heroine who knew what she wanted, and a clever plot. When I read the sample pages, I knew Gia’s MS had something special. After some mild stalking on social media, I knew working with Gia would be great. And as they say, the rest is history.
Gia, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Can we just call it Writer Boot Camp? Without the yelling, of course. Diana had a great schedule set up. The path was clear, and while there was a lot of work to be done, I could see my MS getting better as we went along.
I’ve battled depression for years, and unfortunately, I had a major episode during Pitch Wars. It was severe, and for a while, I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone write. Diana was understanding and supportive, encouraging me to take care of myself when I felt bad for letting her down and not taking advantage of the opportunity. But her approach was exactly what I needed. She modified her initial schedule and spoke with the coordinators about my options. I was given an extension, which I was able to meet. It was a lot of work, but writing brings me joy. And seeing the progress and even greater improvement in my work boosted my confidence and helped me emotionally.
Diana, tell us about your experience mentoring Gia.
I’m not gonna lie, Pitchwars is not for the faint hearted. Once the mentees were announced and we had a night of celebration, it was time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Gia was eager to get started and was totally not freaked out when I sent her first assignment. Yes, I had homework for her. There were spreadsheets to fill out, reading, and some CP dating. She jumped right in and got it all done before I was finished with her editorial letter. Then it was time for actual editing. Again, Gia jumped right in and made some major changes to the story to get the results we were after. She did all this while battling some major health challenges. I was very proud of her for not giving up.
Gia after Pitch Wars, you signed with Léonicka Valcius and Samantha Haywood of Transatlantic Agency. 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.
Léonicka liked one of my tweets during #DVPit. I’d participated in pitch events before Pitch Wars and had some interest, but pitches are not my forte. During Pitch Wars, I started making friends with fellow Warriors through the Facebook group. Those developed into a close circle of critique partners that I call my Coven. Gearing up for #DVPit, I asked them to critique my pitches. In previous events, I’d gotten three or four likes each time. This time, my Coven-polished pitches brought in THIRTEEN likes. Critique partners – yet another invaluable benefit of participating in Pitch Wars!
I sent the requested materials to the different agents and editors, and Léonicka was one of the first to ask for my full MS. I’d looked into her and really liked her experience and drive to increase diversity in Canadian literature.
I was at the playground with my children when Léonicka emailed me to set up a call. I did not know how to be. I couldn’t hold still, couldn’t think straight, didn’t know how to handle myself at all. My kids are too young to understand, and there were other parents around, but publishing works very differently in France (where I live), so people don’t get it. All I could do was walk in a circle around the playground, over and over, trying not to scream or jump up and down. Naturally, I emailed the Coven immediately.
After a great initial call with Léonicka – where we learned that we went to the same high school in Florida, how crazy is that?! – we scheduled a second call with Samantha, the president of the agency. She’s my co-agent as Léonicka is new to this part of publishing. Breathing was difficult during this time. I had to distract myself with anything and everything. And I ate way, way too many churros.
My cheeks hurt from smiling after the second call. Things clicked so well with Samantha, and again with Léonicka. And the feedback I received from the clients Samantha got me in touch with sealed the deal.
There were a number of small celebrations along the way – with my Coven after the email, with my husband at each call. We’d planned a family weekend in Paris, and I signed my agreement with Transatlantic a few days before we left. So we got to celebrate my husband’s birthday, and this milestone in my career.
Still had to wait another two weeks before the public announcement, which was difficult, but worth it!
Gia, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Pitch Wars is the reason my MS was ready for an agent. Before that, it was a hot, hot mess. I had a story somewhere in there, but I knew nothing of craft. And I’d always been too overwhelmed by all the resources available. Also, I’d felt like it was too late to learn, like I’d let my chance go by in my twenties.
Diana cut through all of the mass of information that was freaking me out, gave me a clear guideline, specific resources that matched my needs, then encouraged me as I made my way through. I re-wrote at least two-thirds of my original MS. And it is so, so much better.
Now for some fun! 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?
GIA: Have to bend the rules a little here. I’m not running from anyone. I’m standing my ground and letting the bad guys bring the fight to me. With Mameha from Memoires of a Geisha by my side. She reminds me of a mentor I had at a job I loved back in Florida. Beautiful, kind, but ready to stab someone if necessary. While keeping a smile on her face.
DIANA: I feel like I have to explain my answer. I just finished writing a romantic suspense novel. Whenever I write, I also try to read as much as I can, but it has to be something that’s outside of my genre. So right now, I definitely see myself running away from the Italian Mafia. My side-kick would have to be Anita Blake from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Vampire Hunter series.
Share with us your writing process. Do you write every day, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
GIA: Ideally, Monday to Friday, from 9ish to 1pm. On my laptop, at my desk. I had to stop working full-time a few years ago, and the semesters I don’t teach, I can swing that schedule. I tried the 5am writers club, but it turned into the “5am fall back asleep on the keyboard” club for me. I have to keep a notebook handy when I’m not at the computer. All of the ideas come when I’m doing something else.
DIANA: I don’t write every day, unless I have a project that’s fully plotted (yep, there’s a spreadsheet). When I’m working on a project, I write every day from 7:30am-2pm. My goal is to at least write 10 pages a day. I sit in front of my computer in my office, spend a few minutes thinking about my scene and where I want it to go and how my characters feel, then I just fast draft. I’ve done sprints, but usually, I just write until either the scene is complete or my alarm goes off at 2pm. I don’t revise or read any of the stuff I write until after the entire book is finished. Yeah, revision time is a lot of fun for me. When I’m in between projects, I don’t write every day, but I do try to do something that’s writing related every day, like critiquing, reading craft books, or putting together marketing plans.
You have one day to finish the last pages of your next bestselling novel. What food/drinks do you get and where do you go hide out to meet the deadline?
GIA: Double chocolate muffin, large coffee and one-liter bottle of water from the épicerie near my kids’ school. Lock my bedroom door, hunker down at my desk, turn on my light box (I’m from Florida, French winters do not have nearly enough light for me) and put on some white noise. I’ll stop for lunch, and to pick up my kids, but continue on into the night if I have to. And I’ll love every minute of it.
DIANA: Superfood coffee, water, and a protein bar. My office is where I’m most effective. My kids know that if the doors are closed, they need to go find dad if they need something.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
GIA: Oh? This is the crying part? Sneaky! My husband. He was the one who turned lemons into lemonade when I couldn’t work full-time anymore. He pointed at my laptop and said, “There you go. No more excuses for not writing.” He knew I’d always wanted to but wouldn’t let myself because I felt guilty not actively contributing financially to the household. When we moved to a new city last Fall, he was the one who encouraged me to treat my writing like my “real job” for the first year. That year started the same day as Pitch Wars. Think it was fate.
DIANA: My husband is definitely my biggest supporter. He reads all my stuff and tells me how great it is (He’s my favorite liar).
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)?
GIA: Probably Jedi Academy. Would love to learn to use the Force.
DIANA: Battle school in space. I love the idea of exploring new worlds in space.
Whose work inspired you to start writing?
GIA: I can’t pick any particular author. I’ve told stories since I could form sentences, so I really started before I could read. If there’s an author who is special or encouraging to me, I’d say Isabel Allende. When I was in high school, her work opened my eyes to what was possible on the page. Today, I’d say Paulo Coelho. Another author who goes beyond the expected.
DIANA: I don’t have an answer for this one. I’ve always wanted to write. When I started writing I did it because I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters in my head. I love hearing other authors talk about their craft and their journey though, and that always inspires me to keep going and push my limits.
What fictional character would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her/it?
GIA: Can I only choose one? If it’s one, Sophia from the Golden Girls. If I can get away with four, I’d choose all the Golden Girls. I’d like to spend the day talking about men and eating cheesecake. I’d bring an alternate dessert for Dorothy – Bea Arthur hated cheesecake, but she ate a lot during the show’s run. The things we do for our art!
DIANA: I would love to spend the day with Hermione Granger (the 20 years later version of her). Maybe we could do a bring your friend to work and then do drinks at the Three Broomsticks before dinner.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
GIA: Only an encouragement to other writers thinking of participating in Pitch Wars. Don’t hesitate! I only learned about the program about a week before the submission deadline, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve dreamed of becoming a published author as far back as I can remember. Pitch Wars brought me closer to my goal faster than I imagined.
DIANA: Shameless plug here….if you write adult or new adult romance send it to me!
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!
Gia de Cadenet is a business school professor, former translator and editor for UNESCO. A native Floridian, she took her first French class at age seven and fell in love with the language. After achieving her dream job in politics, her desire to live in France became too great to ignore. She put her professional life on hold for two years to get a master’s degree in international relations in Paris. But a few short weeks after arrival, she bumped into a red-headed Frenchman and her fate was sealed.
A decade later, Gia got serious about another big dream: becoming a published author. Her first manuscript, a contemporary romance titled NOT THE PLAN, was showcased in the 2017 PitchWars mentorship program. She’s enthusiastic about her upcoming projects which focus on the impact of mental health and race on the expectations we have of ourselves and on the way we love.
Diana A. Hicks is the author of steamy romance and science fiction. Her latest release LOVE OVER LATTES, Book 1 in her Desert Monsoon Series is available now!
When Diana is not writing, she enjoys kickboxing, traveling, and indulging in the simple joys of life like wine and chocolate. She lives in Atlanta, and loves spending time with her two children and husband.
Connect with Diana on social media to stay up to date on her latest releases.
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