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Pitch War Team Interviews: Jessa Gwinn with her mentor Brighton Walsh and Jesse Frailey with his mentors Kes Trester and Jennifer Hawkins

Monday, 2 October 2017  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 1st-7th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2017 Pitch Wars Teams.

And now, we have . . .

Jessa Gwinn – Mentee


Brighton Walsh – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Jessa, why did you choose to submit to Brighton?

Mostly, her sheer awesomeness. My sex scenes and plot arc in general needed work, and Brighton is really strong in those. Also, she’s enthusiastic, honest, and fun, and she likes dirty jokes.

Brighton, why did you choose Jesssa?

Jessa’s voice pulled me in from the very first page. It’s so fresh and fun. And she kept me up reading until 4am.

Jessa, summarize your book in 3 words.

Fun, Fast-paced, Voicey

Brighton, summarize ’s book(s) in 3 words.

Unexpected hilarious swoons

Jessa, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your MS unique?

Well, I’m super tall, like both my main characters. I’m pretty introverted–unlike either of my main characters. My heroine’s ease in almost every social situation was fun to write, as was my male lead’s penchant for saying whatever he’s thinking. Also, I’m annoyed by the lingering stereotype that romance novels are shallow, so I enjoyed my hero’s obsession with horror films, since horror is sort of the “male” equivalent of the romance genre.

Brighton, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

*pulls out completely random fact about myself* I hate walking barefoot in the grass. Blech.

And next, we have . . .

Jesse Frailey – Mentee


Kes Trester – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Jennifer Hawkins – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Jesse, why did you choose to submit to Kes and Jennifer?

Kes Trester was my number one choice. I submitted to her because her genre expertise is a perfect match for my book. She brings unique career experience because she’s worked in film and publishing, and that was another deciding factor. Because of her background, I knew she’d be great at helping me with plot, pacing, the character development unique to spies and villains, and the marketability of a commercial young adult novel.

She mentioned she was seeking diverse stories, and to find someone that understands #weneeddiversebooks was very important to me as well. My protagonist matched exactly what she was looking for in terms of being a fully realized character that is informed but not defined by the color of his skin.

And finally, we bonded over Bond…James Bond. I wouldn’t be much of a YA spy novelist if I didn’t possess any espionage tradecraft of my own. So, some peeps prefer to use the word stalking, I prefer to use the word surveillance. Either way, I checked her out and picked her brain on spies and 007 prior to Pitchwars. Clearly, we BONDED, you can tell by our team name: #TeamShakenNotStirred. Now, she’s my handler and I’m the operative bringing you a thrilling young adult spy novel straight outta Compton. Oh, and I found out like the day before the reveal (still nervous, sweating and hoping to be picked) that Kes was adding the amazing Jennifer Hawkins as co-mentor and critique partner to our mission. So, I’m very fortunate to have her on the team as well, even if she is a Clemson fan.

Kes, why did you choose ?

There were several reasons. First, I loved the concept of his ms: an #ownvoices MC who’s a black chess prodigy from Compton recruited by the CIA. There is an audience hungry for this book. Second, I sent Jesse feedback on his first chapter to see how he took criticism, and he not only welcomed it, he wanted to start revising with my notes immediately. Additionally, anyone who’s been on the Pitch Wars hash tag knows how personable and positive Jesse is. He’s the kind of person who will take the time to interact with his readers and be a welcome addition to any literary event.

Jesse, summarize your book in 3 words.

Black Bond Jr.

Kes, summarize ’s book(s) in 3 words.

Black James Bond

Jesse, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your MS unique?

I’m an educator. Previously, I taught in the public schools for about ten years. I’ve taught everything from third grade to eighth grade science. Now, I work daily with my target audience. I work at the local community college for the Trio program that serves first generation and income eligible students. I have a B.A. in Elementary Education from Murray State University, and I just finished my M.A. in Reading and Writing this summer concurrent with my Pitchwars manuscript. During this coursework, I conducted a research project and wrote an extensive research paper titled Modern Slavery: The Chain Gang of Non-Readers. I’m the type of writer that wants to provide solutions to the dilemma we have in the publishing industry-a lack of young adult male minority readers.

In a nutshell, who am I? Handsome. Intelligent. Articulate. Broke-Philanthropist. Hopefully, you read that the way Tony Stark answers Captain America in the Avengers movie. And lastly, I kinda wanna be the short southern version of Jason Reynolds! As for Prince of Pawns, my manuscript, I tried and I think I’ve accomplished bringing something new and fresh to the genre. First, the YA spy genre is well-established and not overcrowded. It has great authors like Ally Carter, Anthony Horowitz, and my mentor Kes’ debut this month. Yet, I can’t think of one minority main character in the whole genre. How is that possible? That’s why I created Wade Cannon. Checkmate. Wade is a teenage chess prodigy from Compton that gets recruited by the CIA to do a job an adult agent can’t do. He gets help along the way. Link, his sidekick, is a supercomputer with artificial intelligence that is disguised as a smartphone. They have this Ironman and Jarvis type of chemistry. Did I mention Wade Cannon has as much swag as James Bond himself, and is street smart too? I hope everyone gets a chance to check him out. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing and fun this has been to write. If readers have as much fun reading this, as I did writing it, then I’ve accomplished my goal.

And one final thing that makes this book incredibly unique! Because I was teaching in the school I attended as a child, I literally came up with the idea and started writing the first words of this book in my old first grade classroom-the original room where I learned how to read and write for the first time.

Kes, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

I grew up watching Bond films. As soon as my son was old enough, I caught him up on the entire canon. He’s about to start college now, but we still set aside the Friday night a Bond movie opens to be the first in line to cheer on 007. You can see why I had to mentor Jesse!

Our mentors’ latest releases…

My Strongest Weakness by Brighton Walsh

She’s the last thing he needs, but she’s the only thing he wants…as long as it’s behind closed doors. It was supposed to be a one-time thing. No one would find out; no one would have to know. And then once turned into twice, and twice turned into several times a week, and now pierced, punk-loving, rebellious Tia Lanning is banging Mason Brooks, the big man on campus and Mr. All American. But banging him isn’t the problem. Falling for him is. Especially when he’s content to let her remain his dirty little secret.

Amz: http://brightonwalsh.com/MSW-amz
B&N: http://brightonwalsh.com/MSW-bn
iBooks: http://brightonwalsh.com/MSW-ibooks
Kobo: http://brightonwalsh.com/MSW-kobo
Amz CA: http://brightonwalsh.com/MSW-amz.ca
Amz UK: http://brightonwalsh.com/MSW-amz.uk


Kes’s debut YA novel is A DANGEROUS YEAR

Seventeen-year-old Riley Collins has grown up in some of the world’s most dangerous cities, learning political strategies from her ambassador dad and defensive skills from his security chief. The only thing it didn’t prepare her for was life as an American teenager when she finds herself at an elite Connecticut boarding school charged with watching over a billionaire’s daughter with a target on her back.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble



Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is November 1st-7th, and our next #PitMad is December 7, 2017!


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