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Pitch Wars Team Interview with C.J. Dotson and Mentor, Rochelle Karina

Friday, 27 November 2020  |  Posted by Angel Zhang


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 . . .

CJ Dotson

CJ Dotson – Mentee

Website | Twitter

Rochelle Karina

Rochelle Karina – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Rochelle, why did you choose CJ?

It was the story!

I had such a broad wishlist it was really tough to narrow it down, but CJ’s story was unputdownable. It grabbed me and had me turning pages. Horror is life long fave of mine, and this story hit so many good points, blurring lines of paranormal thriller, psychological horror, and a good old fashioned ghost story. There is a character who is so deliciously horrible, but discovering that is this insidious process that just gets its hooks into you and does not let go.

And I could see a clear path to help refine and polish the whole thing. A couple of follow up questions to CJ and it was pretty clear she would be on board with the changes and tweaks I would suggest.

Paranormal thriller, psychological horror, and a good old fashioned ghost story, oh my! And CJ, why did you choose to submit to Rochelle?

There were a couple of reasons! On Twitter, everything about Rochelle seemed friendly and approachable, and I felt like our personalities would vibe well. This novel is really personal, and I couldn’t imagine going over it with someone who I couldn’t connect with or talk to. Also she says she writes “kissing books,” lol, and one of the strongest points in that genre is character writing. That’s something that I think horror has in common – no genre works great without strong characters, but especially those two. Plus there’s a steamy scene in my book and I’ve never been able to write those well, so who better to help with that part?

Rochelle is very friendly and writes great “kissing books”! Now, Rochelle, summarize CJ’s book in 3 words.

Vengeance served hot (or creeptastic vengeful ghosts…)

Love vengeance served hot! So, CJ, summarize your book in 3 words.

Anger problems! Ghost?

Fantastic! Rochelle, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

There are things about me people don’t know? OK, seriously, I guess… despite the fact that I love and write mostly romance, it was Stephen King who turned me into a fiction writer. Reading his book, Danse Macabre unlocked something in my brain and my first serious attempts at fiction were horror. (And they were awful – pre-teen proto-goth me didn’t think so, but hey… we all learn and grow!)

Yes, we do all learn and grow. Back to CJ! What do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

I’ve already gotten a ton out of the experience. This is the first time I’ve written any kind of query letter, with the plot synopsis, and all that official-query-type stuff. Which also means that when Rochelle emailed me requesting the full manuscript for “These Familiar Walls,” that was my first full MS request. That alone was a huge confidence boost. With the request were a handful of getting-to-know-you type questions, and as I answered them I surprised myself with the realization that writing professionally is something that I’m ready for in a more thorough way than I had understood, before. Now as Rochelle is (amazingly, wonderfully, fantastically) going through a full line edit with me, as we work our way deeper and deeper into the novel and she’s pointing out places where I can tighten, focus, and strengthen my work, I am filing away every improvement that I’ve been able to make. My writing in general, going forward, is going to be so improved. That’s more than enough to hope to get out of the PitchWars experience! But of course I’d also love to get an agent in 2021, haha.

Welcome to the family! CJ, tell us about yourself. What makes you and your manuscript unique?

I’d normally start “about me” type stuff with something like “I like reading and writing” but this is PitchWars, we all like reading and writing. So. I also love painting and drawing, but with a lot less skill than my writing. And I enjoy baking and decorating cakes, and sometimes I’m good at that but sometimes my imagination really outstrips my ability. I have a teenage stepson, a son in kindergarten, and a toddler daughter. You know how in cartoon families there’s the mom, the dad, the son who looks like the dad but with the mom’s hair color, and the daughter who looks like the mom but with the dad’s hair color? That’s my husband and our son and daughter, just a real-life version of a goofy cartoon family.

Something that makes my manuscript unique is that I probably would never have written it if not for my son, and Twitter. Ever since he could talk, the boy just spouts creepy nonsense all the time. I’ve always had a fun time sharing his eeriness on social media, and in June when we moved into our house he made a series of unsettling comments that I posted on Twitter. One in particular seemed to resonate with people in a horror-story way, and a bunch of people started following me specifically for updates about the house (which is creepy, but is not the haunted house in my story) and about scary things my little boy says. A common theme in the comments was “this sounds like the start of a horror novel,” and eventually I went with it. I wrote the first draft of “These Familiar Walls” in three or four weeks and finished the second round of revisions with only, I think, three hours left for the PitchWars submission deadline.

I look forward to seeing These Familiar Walls! Thank you Rochelle and CJ for the interview, it’s always great to get to know the teams!

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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