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Pitch Wars Team Interview: Nicole Willson with mentor Peter McLean and C.J. Simone with mentor Dawn Ius

Saturday, 28 October 2017  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 1st-7th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2017 Pitch Wars Teams.

And now, we have . . .

Nicole Willson – Mentee

Website | Twitter

Peter McLean – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Nicole, why did you submit your manuscript to Peter?

It’s funny; Pete’s mentor bio said that he’d probably be a tough sell for horror but that a good occult or demonic horror might catch his eye, so I wasn’t quite sure what kind of a chance TIDEPOOL would have with him. When he mentioned a list of horror novels he enjoyed on the Pitch Wars forums, I was really encouraged; my novel is similar in tone to the kind of horror he said he prefers. And his posts on Twitter and on the forum made me think he’d be both a good fit for my novel and a nice person to work with.

Peter, why did you choose Nicole’s manuscript?

Nicole’s book has everything I love – a historical setting, a sinister seaside down, Lovecraftian overtones and a beautifully written sense of creeping dread that just wouldn’t let me put it down. It’s like she wrote it especially for me!

Voice is all-important to me in writing, and Nicole’s book just spoke to me. This was my first year mentoring in PitchWars and I was blown away by how high the standard of submissions was in general, but I knew within the first few pages that this was going to be the one for me.

Nicole, summarize your manuscript in three words.

Hungry ocean gods.

Peter, summarize Nicole’s manuscript in three words.

Lovecraftian historical fantasy.

Nicole, tell us about yourself. What makes you and your manuscript unique?

My husband and I live in the Washington DC area with our cats and a rotating cast of backyard wildlife. I love Baltimore (where I was married) and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and I had a lot of fun writing a story set in these places. I’ve never written a novel that took place in the past before, and even though most of TIDEPOOL is set in a tiny oceanside Maryland town of my own creation, I enjoyed researching what Baltimore was like in 1913 to get a sense of the city my main character inhabited.

When I’m not working on my novels, I write and post short fiction. I’m especially fond of the 50-word horror stories I’ve been writing for the Writing Cooperative’s 52-Week Challenge over on Medium.com.

I’ve loved writing almost all my life. When I was laid off from my job in 2016, I decided to really buckle down and pursue publication. And I’m forever grateful to all the writers who take time from their own lives and careers to help people like me, as well as to the agents who participate in these contests.

Peter, tell us something about yourself. Something we don’t already know.

I’m a British author from the east of England, writer of the Burned Man series of urban fantasy novels (Drake, Dominion & Damnation) and the forthcoming epic grimdark, “Priest of Bones” October 2018). Something you wouldn’t know about me? Hmmm… I really do talk like my characters do!

And next, we have  . . .

C.J. Simone – Mentee

Website | Twitter

Dawn Ius – Mentor

Website | Twitter

C.J., why did you choose to submit to Dawn?

As soon as I read Dawn’s bio and wishlist, I added her to my top mentor picks. She’s a successful author of multiple novels and my manuscript fit with her interests (I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be too dark for her). But it was when I read her sample chapters on Amazon that I knew she’d be the right mentor for me. I really connected with her style and found some similarities with mine. She’s been awesome to work with!

Dawn, why did you choose C.J.?

I was drawn in by the first line of C.J.’s manuscript and read, riveted, to the end. I wanted something different this year, and C.J.’s book doesn’t disappoint—C.J.’s command of the craft is inspiring!

C.J., summarize your book in 3 words.

Secrets. Rescues. Mobsters.

Dawn, summarize C.J.’s book in 3 words.

​ Edgy. Powerful. #ownvoices

C.J., tell us about yourself! What makes you and your MS unique?

Like my main character Gabe Giordano in my YA Contemporary THE EDGE, I’m a third generation Italian-American, I was a troublesome teen from a dysfunctional family, and I’ve struggled with mental health issues throughout my life. THE EDGE is a unique and suspenseful story filled with mobsters and pimps and trafficked kids and family secrets and even an emotional love story, but I’d say based on feedback that it’s really Gabe—his voice and his heart—who makes the story unforgettable.

Dawn, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

Halloween is a BIG deal at our house. My yard currently looks like something out of a Stephen King movie (more Pet Cemetary than IT, though, since I’m terrified of clowns), and every year, my husband I host a Halloween feast, in which we serve themed appetizers to 50 or so of our “closest friends.

Our mentors’ latest releases . . .

DAMNATION by Peter McLean (The third book in the Burned Man series.)


Don Drake is living rough in a sink estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh, doing cheap spells for even cheaper customers while fending off the local lowlifes. Six months ago, Don fled from London to Glasgow to track down his old girlfriend Debbie the alchemist.

With the Burned Man gradually driving him mad, Don meets with an ancient and mysterious tramp-slash-magician, with disastrous consequences. Now his old accomplices must step into save Don from himself, before he damns himself for good this time.


Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is November 1st-7th, and our next #PitMad is December 7, 2017!



We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

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