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Pitch Wars Interview with Kate Micheal and J. R. Yates and their mentor, Kelly Siskind

Wednesday, 23 September 2015  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

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Welcome to the Pitch Wars Team Interviews by Marnise Nicole

Bringing you a closer look at each Pitch War Team and their project.

Be sure to comment with support, comments, and questions.


Meet J. R. Yates and Kate Micheal and their mentor, Kelly Siskind


w/ JR Yates’ UNSPEAKABLE: Team Canuck,

w/ Mary Ann Marlowe (co-mentor) for Kate Micheal’s THE MONTH OF FIREFLIES: Team fireflies

Kelly SiskindKelly Siskind (Mentor), tell us a little about yourself.

Aside from being an obsessive writer, I’m a caseophile and moved from the city to open a cheese shop with my husband in Northern Ontario. When I’m not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find me, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in my head. I devour romance novels and laugh at my own jokes. I’ve been known to eat my feelings—Gummy Bears heal all—and I’m seriously tech-challenged.

https://jryatesauthor.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/img_3484r.jpgJ. R. Yates (Mentee), tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a word nerd through and through. I’m a pediatric speech-language pathologist and mother of three young children. I joke that I spend all day at work trying to get kids to talk, and the rest of my time at home trying to get my kids to stop! I’m a voracious reader and can sometimes polish off four novels in a week. I especially enjoy reading anything with an underlying love story, but I’m not exclusive to it. My tastes are quite diverse. Some of my more recent favorite reads are JoJo Moyes’s ME BEFORE YOU (Women’s Fiction), M. R. Carey’s THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (Adult Science Fiction), Rainbow Rowell’s ELEANOR and PARK (YA Romance) and Brighton Walsh’s CAGED IN WINTER (Sexy Time NA Romance). I tend not to read anything historical, but Lawrence Hill’s THE BOOK OF NEGROES (published as SOMEONE KNOWS MY NAME in the U.S.) is so beautifully written and haunting that it will stay with you forever.

Fun Facts: I hate feet. My husband doesn’t get why I’m allowed to touch him with mine, and he can’t touch me with his. Really?

My mother wouldn’t let me wear white when I was kid because I was such a klutz. The ‘no white’ rule is still a good rule for me.

In elementary schools, I sometimes get mistaken for a student because most kids in grade 6 are taller than me.

Kate Michael

Kate Micheal (Mentee), tell us a little about yourself. (Kate is mentored by co-mentors Kelly Siskind and  Mary Ann Marlow.) 

Hi! Kate here. I write NA/A contemporary romance and dark fantasy (with romance, of course, because kissing books are NOT inconceivable) and I’d love to tackle straight-up horror one day—not sure I can pull it off, but we’ll see. I’m a pantser. I have a good idea of the beginning and end of a story, but all the stuff in the middle? Yeah, I don’t know any of it until I type it. I love reading lush, lyrical prose, the kind where you read a sentence, or a paragraph, or a whole page, over and over and over again, giddy and completely in awe with the poetic beauty of it, but I also like the gritty, in-your-face edgy kind of styles. I read widely, but I tend to gravitate more toward the genres I write. Some of my favorite authors are Jacqueline Carey, Juliet Marillier, Anne Bishop, Stephen King, Amy Lane, Adrienne Wilder, Brenna Yovanoff, Leah Raeder, Maggie Stiefvater, Hannah Moskowitz, Roni Loren, Brom, Kate Forsyth, April Tucholke, Heidi Cullinan…I could probably keep going, but you get the idea. Other than reading, writing, and playing with my family (and obsessing over ALL the pretty things on Pinterest) I’m fairly boring, but I do have sharp, pointy eye-teeth, like a vampire, so that’s something.

Kelly, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?

For me, Pitch Wars is about giving back to a community that has given me so much. Last year, I was a mentee and worked with the amazing Brighton Walsh. The process helped me improve my craft, and I met an invaluable network of writers and critique partners. If I can help another writer on their journey, I’ve done my job. Plus, I get a sneak peek at raw talent and beautiful words. These two writers are so freaking gifted it blows my mind.

Kate, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?

About a year ago, I stepped outside my Fantasy genre and jumped head first into Contemporary Romance. I knew I needed to make connections in the NA realm and Pitch Wars is an incredible place to do that. (it’s how I met so many fantasy writers when I subbed in 2012)

J. R., why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?

When I wrote Unspeakable, I sought every avenue possible to make it the best I could (classes, CPs, editor, etc.). The entire time I felt that the MS had issues with the story and character arcs, but I wasn’t getting feedback that I could use to help with that. Everyone cheered me on and assured me the MS was ready to query. The very first agent I queried requested the full MS within hours of my query. My first thought was, “Hey, I got this.” My second thought was, “She’s going to see what I see; the pacing is off”. Sure enough, that was the feedback the agent gave me. I immediately stopped querying. I needed guidance in reworking the MS, but I didn’t know who to turn. I needed someone who understood the genre, and of course the industry. I subscribe to Brenda’s blog and read the Mentor Critique Workshop posts. They were so insightful, I thought, I need one of these people to help me! I’m still shocked that I have this fabulous opportunity.

Kelly, what are you most excited for?

EVERYTHING. I get to swoon and sigh and applaud my mentees as they work their butts off. I love brainstorming ways to improve plot and pacing and character arcs. Also, I need friends. Fingers crossed these two lovely ladies don’t get sick of me in the next two months.

Kate, what are you most excited for?

Two things: Feedback from not just one, but TWO mentors (Yay me! ‘Cause mine are fantabulous) and getting to know the other mentees and generally squeeing together all over the internet.

J.R., what are you most excited for?

At the risk of sounding trite, for me, it’s the learning experience. I vibrate with excitement at the prospect of seeing my novel becoming fully realized, and achieving its best possible version. But the thing that keeps my mind buzzing all day and night is emerging from this a better writer. There is no better prize than that which you carry within you forever.

J.R., describe your novel in 3 words.

UNSPEAKABLE: It Is Awesome? In all seriousness: Love Communication Silences

Kate, describe your novel in 3 words.

THE MONTH OF FIREFLIES: Boys kissing boys. (Credit for this brilliance goes to Mary Ann)

Kelly, describe your mentee’s novel in 3 words.

J.R. Yates’ UNSPEAKABLE: More than words

Kate Michael’s THE MONTH OF FIREFLIES: Smexy football fantasies

Check Us Out …


Meet J. R. Yates, Mentee

J. R. Yates is a writer, speech-language pathologist (SLP), mother, friend and wife. (Not always in that order). The writing bug hit her at a very young age; her first attempt at writing a novel was one chapter of a Sweet Valley High (-esque) story at the age of eleven. She withered with embarrassment when others read it and ended up pursuing her passion for language in other ways: reading several novels a week by night and practicing as a SLP by day. She was re-inspired to write when a colleague commented on the lack of SLPs as protagonists in the literary world. This planted the seed for the idea of Unspeakable.


Kate Michael

Meet Kate Micheal, Mentee

Twitter | Website

Kate’s a writer wrapped inside multiple  categories tied with lots of genres. She loves coffee, chocolate, and really bloody sports like rugby. She dreams of the sea. She collects books. LOTS and LOTS of books. She’s a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl. Flip flops are her favorite shoes. She’s a sucker for Walt Disney movies, watch Star Trek on repeat, and crave any kind of battle with swords–she’ll have a Gladiator with a side of 300 please. Halloween is her favorite holiday because witches, goblins, and CHOCOLATE. She listens to Loreena McKennitt and Korn with equal joy. She’s addicted to Pinterest and her storyboards can be found here.


Kelly Siskind

Meet Kelly Siskind, Mentor

2015 Golden Heart® Finalist

Twitter | Website | Facebook

A small-town girl at heart, Kelly moved from the city to open a cheese shop with her husband in Northern Ontario. When she’s not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head. She laughs at her own jokes and has been known to eat her feelings—Gummy Bears heal all. She’s also an incurable romantic, devouring romance novels into the wee hours of the morning. She is represented by Stacey Donaghy of the Donaghy Literary Group. Check out Kelly’s upcoming books here.

Her book CHASING CRAZY releases in Jan ’16, and THE SNOWFLAKE EFFECT releases in April ’16.


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