Have questions about submitting to Pitch Wars or just want to know what it is? Start here!


Pitch Wars Interview with Ernie Chiara and his mentor, Kristen Lepionka

Thursday, 22 September 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

PW Interviews

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 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams.

And now, we have . . .


Ernie Chiara – Mentee

Twitter | Website


Kristen Lepionka – Mentor

Twitter | Website


Ernie, why did you choose Kristen?

Narrowing down which mentors to sub was excruciating. After reading through their bios and wish lists I narrowed it down to six, all of whom had their own qualities and qualifications I felt might be able to help my manuscript. Kristen listed things like character development, dialogue, setting, overall structure, plot untangling, and identifying inconsistencies as some of her strengths. Since those are a few of my many trouble areas, adding her to my list was a no-brainer. She also mentioned wanting to see “smart, gorgeous lit fic.” She added, “If it’s strange, experimental and/or gritty in some way, I’m there! Give me your troubled characters, [and] family secrets…” While I’m not sure about smart and gorgeous, I’m pretty sure I had the strange, experimental, and gritty parts nailed!

Kristen, why did you choose Ernie’s manuscript?

The premise grabbed me right away–a drug-dealing museum cafe waitress? That’s a story made for me. As I continued to read, I was moved by the narrative and the way it explores important social issues. I had a very clear vision for what I thought the manuscript needed, too, and I knew I could make a big impact on it.

Ernie, summarize your book in three words.

Poignant. Gritty. Heartwrenching.

Kristen, summarize Ernie’s book in three words.

Life imitates art.

Ernie, tell us about yourself. What makes you and your MS unique?

Growing up in the inner-city neighborhoods around Boston, I spent quite a few late nights doing graffiti art, where I witnessed first hand the plight of the homeless in and around the back alleys where I painted. I grew to see them not as indolent bums to be walked past and ignored, but as people with unique stories who had fallen on hard times, who might just have talents of their own that were going unnoticed as they faced their difficult personal issues.

CHASING TRISTESSE is about just this kind of person. Tristesse, the protagonist, is a young man from a broken home, struggling with addiction while living under a bridge along the Charles River, who also happens to be one of the greatest artists of a generation. He’d always used art as a private escape from his harsh reality—until Mia, the conflicted waitress who sells him drugs from a museum café, posts one of his paintings to an online art forum without his knowledge. When the image goes viral, people begin swarming to Boston in search of an artist who may not wish to be found. Unaware he’s on the precipice of discovery, Tristesse is forced to face his addiction alone. Braving the pain of withdrawals with only his strength of will and his love for Mia to drive him, he must banish his demons and the drugs forever, or risk losing the love of his life, his art, and his soul.

Kristen, tell us about yourself. Something we might not already know.

My mystery novel THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK (Minotaur Books, Spring 2017) is set in Columbus, Ohio, which is also where I live. Columbus is rarely used as a setting in popular fiction (even though we’re a proper big city!) and it was a blast writing about my city for new eyes. My main character frequents many of the drinking establishments in town, and I’ll happily treat any visitors to a bar crawl of places mentioned in the book. When I’m not writing, I’m a graphic designer, a whiskey drinker like my progtagonist, and official cat photographer to the stars (i.e. my 2 cats, who are legendary in their cuteness).

We can’t wait to see Kristen’s book in print! The Last Place You Look is forthcoming in Spring 2017 from St. Martin’s/Minotaur Books.

Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! And don’t forget to stop by the Agent Showcase starting November 3rd to see how our teams do in the final round.

Comments are closed.
We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

Pitch Wars takes a stand. ANTI-BULLYING. Click here to review our policy

Pitch Wars 2021

Blog Archives

Blog Categories

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.