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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Briana Una McGuckin and mentor, Elizabeth Little

Tuesday, 12 January 2021  |  Posted by Brenda Drake


Our mentors are mentoring, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase starting on February 10, 2021, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2020 Pitch Wars Mentor and Mentee Teams.

Next up, we have . . .

Briana Una McGuckin – Mentee

Website | Twitter


Elizabeth Little – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Elizabeth, why did you choose Briana?

Briana is such an exciting writer—her prose is dynamic and elegant, her imagery fresh and insightful. Throw a sense of humor into the mix and you have something pretty irresistible. But honestly, these strengths were more or less gifts with purchase: What initially drew me to On Good Authority was Briana’s ability to immediately conjure up the crackling energy generated by a well-matched pair. (Which I suppose could also be called “chemistry,” but that’s always seemed a strange word for something you can neither manufacture nor predict.) And from then on, I was hooked. I had to find out what was in store for Marian and Valentine.

Chemistry is so important! And Briana, why did you choose to submit to Elizabeth?

There are manuscript-related reasons (e.g., Liz called for mystery/murder “with a side of sunshine”). But I was really drawn to what she said about her therapist-like mentoring style. Any revision undertaken in partnership with another human has the potential to be either revelatory or deeply painful. Your writing is a vulnerable thing – and, in order to defend vulnerable things, you put your back to them, which means you’re not seeing them anymore. That’s problematic for revision, for obvious reasons; the only solution is to not get into a defensive posture in the first place. I had a sense that Liz was a person who would critique to a high standard with kindness. Also, her sense of humor clearly matched mine, and every working relationship is easier when you can laugh.

Ha! Love, murder with a side of sunshine. I love this take on how we can turn our backs on revisions when feeling vulnerable. So Elizabeth, can summarize Briana’s book in 3 words?

Lyrical. Smoldering. Subversive.

Briana, what three words do feel summarizes your book?

Victorians. Kink. Power.

Oh, all those are intriguing words. I’m hooked! Elizabeth, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

I am a pretty decent writer, but my true calling is playing expert level on the 2004 Bandai Namco video game masterpiece, TAIKO: DRUM MASTER.

I bet you’re an expert writer too! Briana, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

Everything I can. And I say that with gratitude for all that I’ve gotten already, from the morale-boost of being chosen in the first place, and the support coming from all directions within the Pitch Wars community, to Liz’s commitment to a manuscript that I was starting to think no one would fight for but me. Anything more is just gravy (though I do love gravy, and will take some if it is passed down the table to me).

Some? I’d take a lot. I do love gravy too! Briana, tell us about yourself. What makes you and your manuscript unique?

I think ON GOOD AUTHORITY sets itself apart for being a below-stairs Victorian gothic – focusing on servants. I’m also using the power differences inherent in the Victorian household to tackle heavy themes. This book idea was born because I was troubled about the way kink is conflated with abuse in pop culture. As a responsible member of the kink community, I wanted to show the difference between respectful BDSM (cathartic, empowering) and abuse of power (devastating). I wanted to tell a story in which the Dominant man is a feminist; the submissive woman is not a doormat, and; both entrust their vulnerabilities to one another. The BDSM in the story is not the problem to be solved; it is my leads’ means of coping with a lack of control over other aspects of their lives (not least of all their abusive employer).

I do love Victorian gothic! Thank you Elizabeth and Briana for the interview!


Check out Elizabeth’s latest paperback release of PRETTY AS A PICTURE …

Penquin Random House

A Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, and CrimeReads Best Mystery Book of 2020

“Funny, fast-paced, and a pleasure to read.” –The Wall Street Journal

An egomaniacal movie director, an isolated island, and a decades-old murder–the addictive new novel from the bestselling author of Dear Daughter

Marissa Dahl, a shy but successful film editor, travels to a small island off the coast of Delaware to work with the legendary–and legendarily demanding–director Tony Rees on a feature film with a familiar logline.

Some girl dies.

It’s not much to go on, but the specifics don’t concern Marissa. Whatever the script is, her job is the same. She’ll spend her days in the editing room, doing what she does best: turning pictures into stories.

But she soon discovers that on this set, nothing is as it’s supposed to be–or as it seems. There are rumors of accidents and indiscretions, of burgeoning scandals and perilous schemes. Half the crew has been fired. The other half wants to quit. Even the actors have figured out something is wrong. And no one seems to know what happened to the editor she was hired to replace.

Then she meets the intrepid and incorrigible teenage girls who are determined to solve the real-life murder that is the movie’s central subject, and before long, Marissa is drawn into the investigation herself.

The only problem is, the killer may still be on the loose. And he might not be finished.

A wickedly funny exploration of our cultural addiction to tales of murder and mayhem and a thrilling, behind-the-scenes whodunit, Pretty as a Picture is a captivating page-turner from one of the most distinctive voices in crime fiction.


Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is February 10-15, 2021. Make sure to stop by then and check out all our mentees’ entries when it opens.


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