It’s time to celebrate another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating and celebrating Ruby Barrett and her mentor, Helen Hoang! Ruby signed with Kiana Nguyen at Donald Maass Literary Agency . We’re so excited for them!
Ruby, what’s your favorite writing tip or trick you learned from your mentor?
The best writing tip I learned from Helen was the importance of little details.
Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
I had to add in a whole new POV to my manuscript which required extensive rewrites but it was totally worth because it made the story so much stronger.
Please tell us about The Call. We’d love as many juicy details as you’d like to share (e.g. how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions, how long you had to wait, anything you’d like to share)!
Kiki asked for my full on a Tuesday and requested a call by Friday. I was so excited that I immediately FaceTimed another PW mentee (and bestie) Meryl Wilsner. They celebrated with me and cheered me on. Kiki and I had our call the next week and I immediately knew that she felt like a good fit for me. She had a vision for my characters, she was interested in my career, and our personalities clicked.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Pitch Wars helped with your success because it put me in touch with so many talented people and networks. I don’t just mean that I got the opportunity to work with Helen Hoang. The relationships I’ve created with my fellow mentees and the Romance community as a whole has been integral to my success. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without the support and love my PW class.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
Do it! But manage your expectations. But still do it!
Helen, tell us about your experience mentoring your mentee.
Ruby was super professional, dedicated, and enthusiastic. She never complained about the amount of work I asked her to do, and she was game for ambitious changes. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentoring experience.
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Ruby entirely rewrote half of her book during Pitch Wars, and then after I read her changes and asked her to rewrite the ending, she did that too. She has an incredible work ethic that I think is going to take her far.
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Write the best book they can, edit it ruthlessly, and research how to write a query letter.
Let’s check in with agent, Kiana Nguyen. What drew you to Ruby’s manuscript?
I am such a fan of adversarial romances that the pitch drew me in right away. But what really hooked me were Ceilidhe’s first pages where the leads, Wes and Corinne meet. I found the first pages as funny as I found them deeply indicative of Wes as a character who attempted to make light of his insecurities and struggles – the kind of character that I want to follow as they grow. I’m literally obsessed with how sincere and sensitive Wes is and how that plays into his connection and interactions with Corinne, whose vulnerability expressed outwardly in hostility. There’s so much heart here, in them individually and as they learn more about each other. All I had to do was settle in for the ride!
How about some fun questions for Ruby and Helen.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Ruby: My backyard balcony. It’s quiet and cool but I still get WiFi.
Helen: If you’re extremely crunched for time, I’d recommend the bathroom. That way if you have to go, you’re right there.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Ruby: I would love to spend the day with Helen Hoang and not just because she was my mentor. Her debut, The Kiss Quotient, was a book of my heart. It meant so much to me for so many reasons. But beyond her talent, Helen is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I’d love to just have a cup of tea with her, talk about our favourite romance novels and authors, and laugh about inappropriate things.
Helen: Ruby Barrett! She’s a tea drinker, so I’d love to sit down and have a cup with her.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Ruby: Hermoine Granger. Why? Because she’s the brightest witch of her age.
Helen: I’d like to meet Crowley from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. I think he’d be a ton of fun and unjudgy.
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Ruby: Harry Potter
Helen: Is there a Pride & Prejudice fandom? No? Then Voltron maybe.
What inspired you to start writing?
Ruby: I’ve always loved stories, reading them and telling them to myself and one day I decided to write them down.
Helen: Reading romance novels.
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Ruby: I try to get up at 5am Monday to Friday to get in an hour of quiet writing (a necessity with a 4 year old) though I’m not always successful. I used to be a pantser but I’ve moving very firmly into plotter territory and love it. And my current writing process wouldn’t be possible without my PW mentee besties and CPs Meryl Wilsner and Rosie Danan. They are my best writing sprint partners, cheer leaders, and idea bouncer-offers.
Helen: As someone who’s in the beginning of their writing career, I feel like my writing process is still in process, so I’m not sure how to describe it. I’m working on my third book now, and I can say that it’s been different for each book and each one has gotten progressively more difficult. What worked for the first, didn’t for the second, and what worked for the second, isn’t for the third. I’m still figuring it out.
When not writing, Ruby is reading, playing with her daughter, and snuggling with her husband. Ruby loves: Romance and all its sub-genres, action and adventure movies, cooking for her family. Ruby’s dream is to be a full-time writer but for now she’s an operations manager for an inbound marketing company.
Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since.
In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired THE KISS QUOTIENT.
She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish.
Helen is represented by Kim Lionetti of BookEnds Literary Agency.