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 Dianne Freeman and her mentor, E.B. Wheeler. Dianne signed with Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Literary Agency after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Dianne and E.B. on their Pitch Wars Success.
Dianne, what was it about E.B. that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application?
Emily liked history and mystery so I thought we’d be a good fit. Reading her bio gave me some insight to her personality—humor, intelligence, and kindness. I could tell she’d have a good eye for the weaknesses in my writing. I knew I’d love every minute of working with her and I was right!
E.B., what was it about Dianne’s A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER that hooked you?
The voice. It’s appropriately old-fashioned for a historical mystery, but not too stuffy, and it’s full of this great, dry humor.
Dianne, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
I had a bit of a head start on this. While Emily was still deciding on her mentee, she sent me some notes on the big-picture issues she’d want to work on, to see if I was open to them. I thought they were such good ideas, I dove right in, never thinking she’d actually pick me. So when she sent her big-picture edits, I was ready. We did a second pass for line edits, ten first chapters, and twenty first pages! Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but we really worked toward perfecting them.
E.B., tell us about your experience mentoring Dianne.
Dianne was great to work with. She was enthusiastic about strengthening her manuscript, and she took my feedback and ran with it. If I suggested something that didn’t fit for her vision of the story, she was good about talking it through with me so we could find a solution we both agreed on.
Dianne, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Melissa Edwards of Stonesong 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.
Melissa sent an e-mail saying she’d like to “chat” and we scheduled the call for two days later. I had plenty of time to prepare, so I way over-prepared. I made a list of questions for her and a list of questions she might ask me. I even filled in answers in case I got so nervous at the time, I’d forget.
I was so anxious by the time she called, I felt like the coolest kid in school was calling me—but it might just be about homework. After all, what does “chat” mean? I needed to know and she wasn’t telling me! She was chatting and I was stuttering inane replies. Finally, I just blurted, “sooooo, what did you want to chat about?” It went great from there! When she described my main character as a Victorian badass, I knew she was the agent for me!
Dianne, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I’ve written as a hobby for the past twenty years. I wrote two romance manuscripts that were so bad I buried them in the back yard, and I doubt even the earth will reclaim them. With no writing group or CPs, I was creating in a vacuum. When I learned about Pitch Wars, I’d just finished a mystery and thought it would be a good way to get some feedback. I never dreamed I’d be chosen by a mentor. I certainly never thought that mentor would have such an impact on my writing. And I never dreamed I’d find a CP and become part of this wonderful writing community. The mutual support, encouragement, and even practical advice are invaluable. Every single one of my fellow mentees has brought something wonderful into my life and I’ll treasure them forever.
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?
Dianne: This presents a problem since most of the fictional worlds I read about are historical and though I really love reading about the past, I don’t have any desire to go there. But since I can take everything I love, which for me includes modern plumbing and my civil rights, I’d go live with the Bennets at Longbourn. I’d spend my time in witty repartee with Elizabeth, putting Caroline Bingley’s nose out of joint, and learning all those complicated dances.
E.B.: I’m also a historical fiction reader who would never want to live in the past, but I sometimes read fantasy, so I’m going to go with Patricia Wrede’s magic-infused alternative Regency world. That way I get the witty Georgette Heyer-esque conversations along with the ability to fling some spells around.
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?
Dianne: I don’t run very fast so a high-speed chase would have to be in a car. For the pure fun of it, my sidekicks would be Jake and Elwood—the Blues Brothers. I’ll just insert myself into their scene where the police are chasing us as we crash through all the stores in the mall. “Disco pants and haircuts—this place has everything!”
E.B.: Fun! Indiana Jones and I are trying to keep a powerful ancient artifact from the Nazis.
Share with us your writing process. Do you write every day, in sprints, early in the morning, in the bath, pen and paper? What works for you?
Dianne: I try to write every day and I usually manage to get in six days a week. Time of day is not a big deal for me but I like to start off with a walk to clear my head and plot, plot, plot. When I get back to my desk, I jot down a few notes then open up a file and write, or revise, whatever I’m working on.
E.B.: I’m not a morning person by nature, but I’ve got little kids, so I have to get up early to find writing time. Knowing I’ve only got an hour or so until I have to get the kids ready puts pressure on me not to mess around on social media or get sucked down a research rabbit hole.
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?
Dianne: Chocolate and anything caffeinated. Hide out? I’m staying home but I’ll send my husband out golfing for the day. We both win!
E.B.: I’d stockpile on munchies—especially munchies I can dip in something savory. If it’s too loud to work at home, I’d head to Starbucks and get a toffee nut steamer.
What or who keeps you motivated, inspired, or is your biggest support to keep writing?
Dianne: I love writing and telling stories and that alone keeps me motivated. I’m inspired by all the wonderful books, and lately, the manuscripts, I’ve read. And I have support in abundance from my husband and amazing Pitch Wars friends.
E.B.: My husband is the reason I’m able to keep writing—he’s always super supportive and encouraging. I love writing for the sake of writing, but when I’m feeling discouraged, the thing that keeps me going is my history geekiness—I love finding lesser known stories and getting them on paper, and once characters take form in my head, they won’t leave me alone until their story is told.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Dianne: The best part of Pitch Wars was finding a writing community. Creating, revising, rejection, and requests are all better when you can share them with people who are going through the same experiences.
E.B.: Writing is hard, but you meet some great people doing it. Believe in the unique story you have to tell, and find the writing buddies who will help you get there.
Thank you for sharing your success story with us. We wish you all the best in your publishing journey! CONGRATULATIONS!
Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, she realized her true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. She also realized she didn’t like winter very much so now she and her husband pursue the endless summer by splitting their time between Michigan and Arizona.
E.B. Wheeler is the award-winning author of The Haunting of Springett Hall, Born to Treason, and No Peace with the Dawn, as well as several short stories, magazine articles, and scripts for educational software programs. She was named the 2016 Writer of the Year by the League of Utah writers. A true history geek, she has an M.A. in history and teaches at Utah State University when she’s not writing or trying to keep up with her kids.