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 Helen Hoang and her mentor, Brighton Walsh. Helen signed with Kim Lionetti of BookEnds Literary Agency after Pitch Wars 2016, and we couldn’t be happier for her! Please, help me in congratulating Helen and Brighton on their Pitch Wars Success.
Helen, what was it about Brighton that made you choose to send her a Pitch Wars application?
To be honest, I didn’t originally plan to send Brighton my application. Her mentor bio basically said, “I will hate you if you make me cry,” and I thought my manuscript was angsty. But she was so very nice and approachable on Twitter, and I really liked her, so I figured I’d give her a try anyway. If I tore her heart out, I was hundreds of miles away, and it’s hard to hunt people down when you’re bleeding profusely from your chest. I was completely surprised when she picked me as one of her mentees, and even more surprised when she said my manuscript made her laugh. I guess I’m funny. Who knew?
Brighton, what was it about Helen’s RELATIONSHIP ON RETAINER that hooked you?
Helen’s voice. It’s so real and charming it immediately drew me in. And the humor is what pushed her MS over the edge into the MUST HAVE pile for me.
Helen, tell us about the revision process for Pitch Wars?
Working with Brighton was a dream come true. She’s amazingly generous with her time, caring, super funny, and easy to talk to. Her guidance helped me find the missing half of my manuscript (the hero’s arc; look at that, it takes two people to have a romance), and my writing improved by leaps and bounds. I’m so grateful for this experience and even more grateful that I’ve made a great friend.
Brighton, tell us about your experience mentoring Helen.
Helen was amazing. She worked relentlessly on editing and revising based on my notes and suggestions, inhaled every bit of information I passed on, and diligently implemented them into her work. I truly lucked out with mentees this year as they were both an absolute dream to work with.
Helen, after Pitch Wars, you signed with Kim Lionetti of BookEnds. 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.
I was lucky enough to receive multiple offers, and by the time I spoke to Kim, my emotions were so out of control I didn’t know what I was feeling. I think I was in shock. She loved the book. She laughed. She cried (YES! I MADE SOMEONE CRY!). She connected with the characters. She wanted to work with me. Ten days and several panic attacks later, I’m happy to say I signed with her.
Helen, how do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I think I owe my success entirely to Pitch Wars and my incredible mentor Brighton Walsh. I’d been fumbling along with my writing for years, and on countless occasions, I’d wished someone could help me. I didn’t know what I was doing, and it is pure misery being bad at something you love. Brighton went through my manuscript and provided the most enlightening (and often hilarious and encouraging) comments. Her words were my constant companion as I wove the missing half of the story into the manuscript.
Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer.
You’re outnumbered by the bad guys, what mode of escape would you take? (ie a Tardis, a flying car, a flying carpet, something from your favorite food, etc.)? And why?
Helen: I’d probably play dead like a possum. It expends the least amount of energy, and I can stab them while their backs are turned.
Brighton: Magic! I’d magic the hell out of there with a spell or a potion or perhaps my own powers because in a fake world I can be magical, right?
What fictional character would you like to spend the day with, and what would you do with him/her/it?
Helen: Food is one of my favorite things, so…that rat Remy from Disney’s Ratatouille. I’d dip him in bleach and then watch him toil about the kitchen, cooking me deliciouses.
Brighton: This was a hard question to answer, but I think I’d spend it with Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series. A) I’d get to see Curran the Beast Lord, and B) I’d get to (watch her) kick ass. (But mostly A if I’m being honest.)
What fictional character(s) best describes your personality?
Helen: I’m a pretty even mix of Pollyanna and Wednesday Addams.
Brighton: I don’t know what it says about me, but I haven’t yet found a character who closely resembles me.
You only have two hours to finish edits, what do you grab–coffee, tea, wine, hard liquor, or some fictional drink–to fuel you through the time crunch?
Helen: COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE. Now that I’ve quit caffeine, I’d be turbo-charged off one cup and invincible.
Brighton: Depends on the time of year—in the summer, wine. In the winter, spiked hot chocolate.
Who is your biggest supporter of your writing? What fictional character would best describe this person?
Helen: My husband has been very supportive in providing me time to write. He’s the Amy Farrah Fowler to my Sheldon Cooper.
Brighton: I’m super lucky in that I have a plethora of supportive people in my life. My husband has always encouraged me, my children (especially my oldest, the book worm) are exceptionally proud of my accomplishments, and my tribe (my writing friends) give me pushes along the way when I need them.
Please, share any last words you would like to add.
Helen: I’ve said it before, but it really can’t be done too many times: Thank you, Brighton. Also, thank you, Brenda Drake and the Pitch Wars team. You guys are doing an amazing thing. I’d love to follow in your footsteps and give back to the writing community in the future.
Brighton: Every year, I forget how much work Pitch Wars is until I’m knee-deep in it. But this, right here–seeing my mentee(s) succeed in this very fickle business–is exactly why I do it year after year.
We are so excited for you and wish you all the best! CONGRATULATIONS!
Helen Hoang writes romance about badass heroes and badasser heroines. She incorporates her love of wuxia and angsty Asian drama into her novels, as well as her own personal martial arts experience in Olympic style Taekwondo and Kendo.
After growing up in Minnesota and going to school in New York, she decided to leave snow behind. She now lives in San Diego, California with her husband and two children.
Brighton Walsh spent nearly a decade as a professional photographer before deciding to take her storytelling in a different direction and reconnect with her first love: writing. When she’s not pounding away at the keyboard, she’s probably either reading or shopping—maybe even both at once. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children, and, yes, she considers forty degrees to be hoodie weather. Her home is the setting for frequent dance parties, Lego battles, and more laughter than she thought possible.