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Pitch Wars Interview with Mark O’Brien and his mentor, Helene Dunbar

Thursday, 17 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 projects.

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

Meet Mark O’Brien and Helene Dunbar

Team: Team Ennui



Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 10.01.06 PMHelene Dunbar (Mentor), tell us a little about yourself.                           

I like books that stay with me long after finished. Books with characters I want to know. Prose that makes my breath catch. I mostly read YA contemporary / paranormal so that’s what I write. My books have angst in them. A lot of angst. Because I used to be a teenager. I have an irrational fear of spontaneous combustion, a deep love of U2, & pretty much hate driving (hence all of the car-related deaths in my books).


Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 9.59.35 PMMark O’Brien (Mentee), tell us a little about yourself.      

I love reading emotional, character-driven young adult fiction—and fittingly, that’s also my favorite genre. My writing style is heavy on three things: voice, literary descriptions, and angst. A lot of angst. I justify this because I’m a teenager. Fun facts: When I was one year old my parents had me audition for a soft pretzel commercial, and I almost got the part. Also, I started querying my first manuscript at age fourteen. Six books and four years later, I like to think I’m doing a little better for myself. Oh, and I’m married to Taylor Swift. Weird but true! (It’s not true.)


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

I’ve been trying to bash my way into PW for a while now. My first agent signed me through Authoress Anonymous’ Baker’s Dozen, so I know the value of these sorts of contests. Plus, I really wanted to give back to the writing community and I love the idea of fostering up-and-coming authors.

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

I did Pitch Wars back in Ye Olden Times (2013) and got in with Laura Tims as my mentor. Though I was an alternate, I had such a great experience with the contest and knew I’d be entering again if I didn’t have an agent by 2014. I did not, in fact, garner any offers of representation—but I also didn’t get in. In the remainder of 2014 and 2015, I buckled down, cranked out a new manuscript, and polished it as much as I could—and happily, Helene Dunbar loved it!

Helene, what are you most excited for?

I’m most exiting to see how Mark’s book develops. I immediately fell in love with these complex, flawed, beautiful characters and his OMG! How could he possibly still be a teenager prose. I can’t even imagine what this will look like when it’s “done”.

Mark, what are you most excited for?

Absolutely, one hundred percent without a doubt: working with Helene. She’s a multi-published contemporary YA author and her books are gorgeous and everything mine hope to be. Her editorial suggestions have already improved my manuscript so much more than I can say! And she’s fun to work with, which certainly never hurts.

Mark, describe your novel in 3 words.

Literarytastic, feelingsy, cryable. You didn’t say they had to be real words. 

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

Lyrical, Resonant, Heart-breaking


Check Us Out…

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Mark O’Brien, Team Mentee

Twitter | Blog

Mark O’Brien is a college freshman majoring in English, an editorial intern with a mid-sized publisher, and a writer of contemporary young adult fiction. When not writing or tweeting, he can be found solving crimes or saving the world; unfortunately, he is always writing or tweeting. Follow him on Twitter at and read his blog. Or don’t—he’s not a cop.


 Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 10.01.06 PM





Helene Dunbar, Team Mentor        

Twitter | Facebook | Website

Helene Dunbar is the author of THESE GENTLE WOUNDS (Flux, 2014) and WHAT REMAINS (Flux, 2015). Over the years, she’s worked as a theatre critic, journalist, and marketing manager, and has written on topics as diverse as Irish music, court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter and exists on a steady diet of readers’ tears.

Check our Helene’s books here. And here’s a bit about WHAT REMAINS …

What Remains New Final

In less than a second…
… two of the things Cal Ryan cares most about–a promising baseball career and Lizzie, one of his best friends–are gone forever.

In the hours that follow…
…Cal’s damaged heart is replaced. But his life will never be the same.

Everyone expects him to pick up the pieces and move on.

But Lizzie is gone, and all that remains for Cal is an overwhelming sense that her death was his fault. And a voice in his head that just…won’t…stop.

Cal thought he and his friends could overcome any obstacle. But grief might be the one exception.

And that might take a lifetime to accept…

Available now:

Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
Indigo Canada



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