Yes, another Pitch Wars Success Story! We love these! Please join us in congratulating and celebrating Taylor Koleber and his mentors, Katie Golding and Michelle Hazen! Taylor signed with Jana Hansen at Metamorphosis Literary Agency. We’re so excited for them!
Taylor, what’s your favorite writing tip or trick you learned from your mentors?
MISBELIEFS. Crafting a character’s misbelief about themselves or the world around them and using that to fuel characterisation, and the deep desire that is the opposite side of that misbelief, and tying it into their internal and external conflict… it’s mostly from Lisa Cron’s “Story Genius”, but my mentors really helped me wrap my heads around it in practice, not just in theory.
Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
My mentors turned what would have been crawling a thousand yards over broken glass into something as obtainable as a marathon. My IRL circumstances honestly made it harder (working full-time at UPS *and* full-time schooling at the same time as Pitch Wars), but my mentors were the most supportive people and cheered and coached and encouraged me all the way through. They were always there when I needed them–and I needed them frequently.
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)!
Oh my gosh… I was so nervous. My mentors had already advised me and helped me develop a list of questions, and I had those at the ready, but it only helped a little. Dry throat, trembling hands, panic, urge to run… the works. But we got on The Call, Jana and I, and within maybe five minutes I was laughing, she was laughing, we were communicating… she was so cool, and professional, and understanding. We shot the breeze for a bit before we even moved into business talk, and it really helped me get into the right headspace.
Sorry–context! Jana emailed me, asking if she could call me to discuss my book. I immediately celebrated with a pie. I had to wait maybe three or four days before I could take the call? It worked out just fine. Jana answered all of my questions with that kind of confident, instant, “I knew you’d ask that and also I am excited you asked that because I want to share my answers with you” sort of enthusiasm, and I knew I had to sign with her. All up, we talked for maybe forty minutes? Fifty? It felt like a blink.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
It was instrumental. No question. The amount I learned, the way it stretched me, pushed me… It became a defining line in the sand for my entire writing journey–pre-Pitch Wars, and post-Pitch Wars. Jana requested the manuscript during the Pitch Wars showcase.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
FREAKING DO IT.
Even if you don’t get in, it’s a good habit to submit with your best foot forward.
If you DO get in… be prepared to enter your own 80’s training montage. A ton of hard work, inspirational music, and a result after a very short time that has you going “whoa”.
Katie and Michelle, tell us about your experience mentoring your mentee.
Katie: Mentoring Taylor was a blast – I fell in love with his story right away, hooked by the voice and giggling over his bad date scenes. His enthusiasm for improvement made doing edits a breeze, and I’m so proud of both him and his book!
Michelle: Taylor was bursting with so much enthusiasm and humor that it was really fun to work with him. He got very excited about the changes and possibilities, which was energizing for all of us.
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Katie: On top of doing Pitch Wars, our mentee was also working full time, and going to school! Talk about a full work load!
Michelle: Not sleep for four months? Seriously, I have NO IDEA how he rewrote his entire manuscript while going to school full time and working full time, during the holidays. He even made time to take his wife on dates in the midst of all that, which was perhaps the most impressive part of all of it, in my mind.
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Katie: I would say: Get as close to a finished, polished manuscript that you can. Then prepare yourself to completely rethink it. Prepare to work, because no one gets out of Pitch Wars without learning something.
Michelle: Polish your manuscript as much as humanly possible, get query critiques, make friends with other hopefuls and swap pages…and then get yourself into the mindset of wanting to learn everything you can about writing, no matter what path that takes you down.
Then, once you submit, REST. While mentors are choosing a mentee, take the time to binge Netflix, go rafting, take your friends out for a beer…because if you get in, you won’t have any time to do those things for 3 months. And if you get a mentor, you want to start fresh, not already exhausted of editing and sick of your manuscript.
How about some fun questions for these three?
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Taylor: My office. Sit in my super-comfy chair. Sound-cancelling headphones on. Cue the bass-thumping EDM.
Katie: The bathroom!!! I have a special Thinking Stool my husband and son got me (because I was sitting on the floor in front of the cabinets.) So now it’s my Thinking Space. OR I may go to my Store because it’s just me and furniture. Peace and quiet, and lots of cushy cushions.
Michelle: My office. We just moved into a new apartment and I have a glorious office now with its windows totally lost in the branches of big trees. It has pictures of New Orleans, paintings of horses, a meditation corner, a treadmill desk, and the most perfect comfortable reading chair that has ever existed. I love it so much my husband basically has to pry me out of it every night.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Taylor: Oh, TOUGH question! Three choices immediately come to mind.
a.) Neil Gaiman, whereupon we would do whatever he wanted to do and I would just enjoy being around him and maybe also he could teach me things and just yes please
b.) Molly Harper, and we would go to some fun Southern small town and she would show me things about her Half-Moon Hollow series or something.
c.) Sally Thorne. I would spend the entire day trying to get her to explain to me how and why the enemies-to-lovers trope is so beloved, because I cannot understand it.
Katie: I would super like to go ride around with Maggie Stiefvater in her car and talk music and cars and books and maybe break some speed limits???
Michelle: Katie totally stole my answer of letting Maggie Stiefvater race me around in her car while asking her writing questions. Barring that, I’d love to tour Prague with Laini Taylor or go to yoga with Elizabeth Gilbert.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Taylor: … is it bad if I want to put one of my own characters in there? I’d love to meet Arianne, the leading lady from my romantic comedy from Pitch Wars. I feel like I know her so well, but being able to meet her in person and spend time with her in real life would be a privilege.
Failing that… I’d love to meet Superman. He’s just such a larger than life character, and I’m a sucker for the quiet, powerful, inspiring icons like that.
Katie: Can I say mine? I would like to meet my characters. I love them and they have been very good to me. Also, please don’t ask me to choose which one because I want to meet all of them.
Michelle: I could hang out in Josh’s garage from SEA OF TRANQUILITY pretty much forever. Or chill with Wes from ALL SONGS ARE LOVE SONGS.
But mostly, I’ve always loved me and Katie’s characters so much, so I would go skydiving with her hero Luca, and let LJ from my book UNBREAK ME cook me amazing dinner and make me laugh until I snorted beer out my nose. I would ride horses with Andra from UNBREAK ME and cowboy Billy from Katie’s next release FEARLESS and get a tattoo from Danny in my book PLAYING THE PAUSES.
Yeah, I would just frolic through me and Katie’s books forever. And then do unspeakable things to Michael from The Kiss Quotient. Did I just say that out loud? You didn’t hear a thing.
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Taylor: ONLY ONE
WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS
… DC comics.
Now I have to move on before I change my mind.
Katie: This is so hard! Probably Harry Potter. Or Die Hard. Maybe Good Omens? Oooh! Star Trek! Final answer.
Michelle: Okay, if it’s the FANDOM then The Walking Dead, which I’m totally obsessed with. The friendships and the depth of the relationships and the fight scenes ahhhhh! But if it’s living in the WORLD of a fictional piece, then definitely The Office because I want Jim to teach me how to properly prank people, and also I don’t want to fight zombies in real life.
What inspired you to start writing?
Taylor: I… don’t really know. I’ve just always loved stories. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve only ever wanted to be a writer. As far as what inspired me to start writing romance? My wife. I fell in love. That’ll usually do it.
Katie: Fanfic. I was reading tons of HP fanfic and I just had to explore a story idea. Then, later on, the same thing happened with watching The Vampire Diaries. I went right from the screen to the fanfic community and found my writing partners!
Michelle: Little bits of inspiration led me by the nose through three wandering manuscripts, but it wasn’t until I started writing Vampire Diaries fanfic that I believed I could ever have a writing career. Then, I met Katie when she reviewed one of my fanfictions, and basically armwrestled her into being my CP and moving into original fiction with me. Last year, we both signed our first traditional publishing book deals this year!
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Taylor: Music and Mountain Dew. Those are pretty much the only common factors. I’ll review what I wrote prior, usually tailor the music preferences to what I’m feeling at the time, but once the headphones go on and the can goes ‘pssshhhh-kkkk’, I’m good to go.
Katie: I have to have music playing that incorporates the mood of the character; not necessarily what they would listen to, but a musician or genre that encompasses their style, rhythm, word choice, and energy. I’m also a big fan of aesthetics and mood boards!
Michelle: As long as I don’t have the internet, I can write just about anywhere. With a lot of brutal practice, I taught myself to be able to draft even in short spurts and can and have written sitting outside in 115 degree heat for 12 hours, sandstorms, windstorms, and pouring rain (waterproof ipad). Don’t have much choice during the times of year when I’m living outside, but I do adore the times when I get my own office and peace and quiet!
I grew up in the forgotten corner of the world that is Tasmania, Australia. I’m a hopeless romantic with a goofy side who loves running, cosplay, writing, and video games. Newly married with a kiddo on the way, my wife turned me on to romance novels, and I’ve never looked back.
Katie Golding is sports fan with a writing problem. Based in Austin, TX, the recovering cheerleader publishes contemporary romance novels with the support of her loving husband and son, and frequently can be found tweeting about tacos and typos.
She is currently at work on her next romance novel, Wreckless Series coming April 2020 by Sourcebooks Casablanca.
Michelle Hazen is a nomad with a writing problem. Years ago, she and her husband ducked out of the 9 to 5 world and moved into their truck. She found her voice with the support of the online fanfiction community, and once she started typing, she never looked back.
She has written most of her books in odd places, including a bus in Thailand, an off-the-grid cabin in the Sawtooth Mountains, a golf cart in a sandstorm, a rental car during a heat wave in the Mohave Desert and a beach in Honduras. Even when she’s climbing rocks, riding horses, or getting lost someplace wild and beautiful, there are stories spooling out inside her head, until she finally heeds their call and returns to her laptop and solar panels.