Having our mentees land an agent or a publishing deal is one of the highlights of being part of Pitch Wars. We’re so excited for Christine L. Herman and her mentor, Amanda Foody. Christine signed with Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Christine and Amanda on their Pitch Wars Success.
Christine, what was it about Amanda that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application?
It was really hard to narrow down the field of awesome Pitch Wars mentors to just a few candidates, but Amanda’s profile stuck out to me immediately. It wasn’t just that she was looking for a book that sounded like the one I’d written. It was her obvious work ethic, her sense of humor, and her taste in other books that clinched it for me. I knew in my gut that her strengths as a mentor matched up with the weaknesses in my manuscript — and, most importantly, that she would understand how to work with me to fix it. I was beyond thrilled when I saw her name next to mine on announcement day!
Amanda, what was it about Christine’s manuscript that hooked you?
On a pitch-level, I loved the concept of a New England small town with magical secrets, and I could tell within the first page that Christine had an extremely developed writing style. After requesting, I finished the whole manuscript in a sitting. I was totally drawn into the characters. I found myself squealing at all the right moments and laughing at others. It’s just a really fun and haunting read, but with eloquent, atmospheric writing to match.
Christine, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
It was intense, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Amanda refused to let me finish Pitch Wars with a product that was anything less than my best work, which meant that I pretty much spent every free moment from the end of August until early November revising my manuscript. We did one round of big-picture revisions, then a line-edit that smoothed out my prose and polished my scenes, while also addressing a few lingering loose ends from the first round. Amanda and I had a very collaborative mentor-mentee relationship, so I felt fully comfortable asking her for advice and clarification whenever I had a question or a concern. Amanda was really great about telling me when something wasn’t working, but allowing me the time and space to develop my own solutions to fix it. She always knew exactly how much to help me.
Amanda, tell us about your experience mentoring Christine.
Well, mentoring Christine started as general revision notes on plot and world-building, which turned into a lot of Skype conversations, which turned into a near constant stream of Google chats from 9:30am to 4:30pm. It just so happened that we’re the same age, have a silly amount of things in common, and share the same mindset about books and writing. We probably had one of the more hands on processes, as I was with her every step of the way. Christine had a clear vision of where my revision notes would take her manuscript, so I mostly was there to talk about her ideas and help solve issues where they arose.
Christine, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary 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.
After Pitch Wars ended, there was an immediate flurry of attention and offers amongst the other mentees. But none of that attention was directed towards me. I was proud of my manuscript, and proud of the requests I had gotten during the agent round. But it’s really easy to doubt yourself when people around you are achieving their dreams on what feels like a daily basis. I distracted myself by cold-querying a bunch of agents, congratulating my fellow mentees who had gotten offers, and working on my next project.
In early January, I got an e-mail from Kelly saying that she’d read the first eighty pages of my manuscript…and she was loving it! She told me she would try to finish the manuscript that night, so I spent the next eighteen hours or so holding my breath, trying not to get my hopes up. But Kelly e-mailed me the next day, gushing about my book and asking to schedule a call! We spoke on the phone that evening, and I was immediately so comfortable with her. She’s smart, passionate, a fantastic agent, and showed such genuine enthusiasm for THE DEVOURING GRAY — plus, we clicked on a personal level. Although I was lucky enough to receive multiple offers from other great agents, I knew in my heart that Kelly was the agent for me as soon as I hung up the phone.
Christine, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Before Pitch Wars, I thought THE DEVOURING GRAY was broken. I’d tried to do everything right — revising it, getting input from critique partners, working tirelessly to improve it. But while my critique partners had pointed to a foundational flaw in the manuscript, I couldn’t quite pin it down, and I couldn’t fix it. It broke my heart, because I knew this book was the most honest, complex piece of writing I had ever done. But I had unofficially shelved it and was working on something new when I entered it into Pitch Wars.
Amanda showed me that my book wasn’t broken after all. Through Pitch Wars, she gave me the tools I needed to shore up the foundations of my manuscript and make my book everything I had always wanted it to be. I am so glad she chose me — not only was she a fantastic mentor, she’s become a valued and wonderful friend.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
If you could live in any fictional world and take everything you love with you, where would you choose to live? What would you do there? And why this world?
Christine: Most of the fictional worlds I read about, I’d probably survive in for less than a day. But I’m going to pick Percy Jackson, as long as I get to be a demigod, because I love Greek mythology and I’d get to keep all my modern amenities.
Amanda: Hogwarts as a muggle-born with wifi. Not only is Harry Potter a childhood favorite, but it’s one of the few fantasy worlds that I would be excited to live in since the world situation is not entirely terrifying.
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?
Christine: I would be very bad in a high-speed chase. But I think I’d want Inej from SIX OF CROWS next to me, because she’s smart and sly and would probably find somewhere to hide me while she distracted whoever we were running from.
Amanda: My side-kick would be someone who could teleport. I’m a really bad runner. Unsure who I’m running from, but Team Rocket are definitely my favorite bad guys.
What do you think is the most fascinating invention from fiction and what book is it from?
Christine: The subtle knife from the GOLDEN COMPASS books. I don’t think I’d want to cut off my fingers to use it, but I love the idea of a weapon that can carve a door through worlds.
Amanda: I’d kill for a time turner. I’m not sure that’s a super intellectually fascinating invention, but it would be very practical.
Share with us your writing process. Do you write everyday, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
Christine: Writing with a full-time job is challenging, but when I’m writing or revising to meet a deadline, I try to write 5/7 days a week — with an emphasis on the weekends, to bolster my word count. When I draft, I tend to handwrite a skeletal outline of the scene I’m about to draft first, then type it into my scene file on Scrivener. Something about a pen and paper frees up my mind, and typing it in immediately afterwards allows me to be a perfectionist about my prose without losing the essence of the scene.
Amanda: I don’t have much of a process. I avoid handwriting, as it’s slow and I like to have a visual of the typed page. If I’m alone and actually able to focus solely on the writing (which is unusual), I tend to write 2-5k at a time. I usually have a goal for how much I intend to write that week, and so, when I have the time, I write until I can check off whatever portion I assigned myself for that day. Like homework.
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?
Christine: I cannot snack while writing because food is basically sacred to me. But I do drink a ton of water when I draft, and I’d probably go hide out in the nearest branch of my public library. I like being surrounded by books while I’m writing, plus, it’s quiet there.
Amanda: I don’t really eat or drink while writing because I am easily distracted by food. However, I’ve been known to keep some bourbon at my desk for dire circumstances. I do most of my writing in bed. Pants are optional.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Christine: I have always been intrinsically motivated to write. I’d do it even if I knew I would never be published. As much as my friends and critique partners have formed a support network in recent years, writing will always be something I am driven to do on my own, which is why it’s so important to me.
Amanda: Myself. Even though I had people who supported me when I was young and starting out, I kept my writing very private. The drive to start and finish projects, to get back up after rejection, and to step up to a challenge all came from me and my general love of writing and watching ideas come to life. I figured that even if I faced endless rejection, I wouldn’t know how not to write. So I might as well keep trying.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Christine: Pitch Wars changed my life, and I am so grateful I’ve had this experience. I think the biggest thing I learned this fall is that surrounding yourself with great people can really help take your writing to the next level. Also, future Pitch Wars mentees: embrace the community! The 2016 mentee Facebook group was a total lifeline during revisions, the agent round, and querying.
Amanda: I’m so thankful that I was able to participate in Pitch Wars 2016. I was an “unofficial mentee” back in 2012, and I have forever been a fan of the community. I look forward to cheering on this year’s mentee class in all that they achieve.
Thank you for sharing your success story with us. We wish you all the best in your publishing journey! CONGRATULATIONS!
Christine L. Herman
Christine Lynn Herman was born in Manhattan, but grew up in Japan and Hong Kong. She came back to the United States to study at the University of Rochester, where she traded out a subtropical climate for harsh, snowy winters and an Honors English degree of questionable real-world value.
She returned to NYC post-grad to work in publishing by day and write novels by night, and is represented by Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.
DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY is her first novel. Her second, ACE OF SHADES, will follow in April 2018.