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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Leigh Paulk and mentor, Carolyne Topdjian

Monday, 27 December 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 9, 2021, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2021 Pitch Wars Mentor and Mentee Teams.

Next up, we have . . .

Leigh Paulk – Mentee

Website | Twitter


Carolyne Topdjian – Mentor

Website | Twitter

Carolyne, why did you choose Leigh?

Leigh’s juicy tabloid title, whodunit premise, and witty protagonist were all strong, so HOLLYWOOD DOWN LOW immediately caught my interest. Once I got into the pages of the manuscript, I became swept up in the glitzy strip club setting on Sunset Boulevard and the struggles of Allison, a smartass waitress who finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation involving Hollywood’s A-list… and B-list. Set in ’94, the novel has this fun throwback vibe and Hustlers-like energy. It’s positively addictive!

Leigh, why did you choose to submit to Carolyne?

Reader, I chose to submit to Carolyne when I saw on her wish list: “I also love stories that can be categorized as feminist noir.”

Carolyne’s bio, interviews, and wish list all grabbed me. As a Pitch Wars mentee and two-time mentor, Carolyne has experience on both sides of the program. Her wish list mentioned many of my favorite books (The Night Circus, The Guest List, The Haunting of Hill House, and In a Dark, Dark Wood). Mave, her protagonist in THE HITMAN’S DAUGHTER, is a young woman hiding a secret who must solve a murder at a haunted historic hotel so I knew Carolyne would be the perfect person to whip my protagonist, Allison (a secret-keeping politico turned strip-club waitress turned amateur detective) into shape. Working with Carolyne has been wonderful. She (gently) zeroes in on areas where my manuscript can be stronger and gives me tools to work through the issues. I’ll be doing a lot of revising, but I’m very excited about it!

Carolyne, summarize Leigh’s book in 3 words.

Sizzling tabloid murder

Leigh, summarize your book in 3 words.

Hollywood, hustlers, homicide

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

I share a birthday with one of my favorite authors, Stephen King.

Leigh, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

Some of my favorite writers are Pitch Wars alumni so I’ve been intrigued by the program ever since I learned about it. After I overhauled my manuscript last year, I sensed that it still needed something, but I couldn’t get the necessary objectivity to figure out what that was. Feedback from family and friends only gets you so far (and eventually they just keep asking why you haven’t sold your book yet). I applied to Pitch Wars because I want to take my manuscript to the next level, learn about craft from a more experienced writer, and connect with a larger community of people who love writing as much as I do.

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

I’m an Iowa girl who moved to L.A. in the ’90s to follow my dreams and ended up waitressing at a strip club. Wait. That’s cliché! (But true.) The interesting part: a couple of years before I was hired at the strip club, my bosses conspired to murder a co-owner. The crime remained unsolved during my time there. After I went to law school, I heard that my former bosses had finally gotten caught and convicted through an undercover sting operation. So. I was this close to being a real-life amateur detective and I missed the opportunity. Instead, years later, I wrote a manuscript about a smart-ass strip-club waitress who solves a murder. I share a few qualities with my protagonist, Allison, but she’s clearly the superior investigator.

Check out Carolyne’s upcoming book releasing February 22, 2022, THE HITMAN’S DAUGHTER …

Escape into a richly atmospheric mystery-meets-ghost story…

The Château du Ciel was once the destination for the rich and famous to play, drink and ski—complete with a luxurious railway to shuttle those desiring extra privacy. Now, however, the guests are few and far between. The New Year’s Eve party was supposed to hoist the rundown hotel back to its former status, until a massive blizzard hits, trapping the guests who’ve come to celebrate the grand hotel’s last hurrah. The circumstances might even be romantic, if the Château wasn’t reputed to be haunted.

When hotel employee Mave Michael finds the resident artist dead, and shortly thereafter security finds Mave alone with the body, the reputation that Mave has fought long and hard to outrun comes back to haunt her: Her father is a notorious hitman serving multiple-life sentences in prison. She has changed her name and location dozens of times, but he somehow manages to track her down—even sending her a postcard on the eve of her birthday, January 1st. She’s the perfect choice to frame for murder, and now the number one suspect. Mave can no longer deny the lessons in survival her father taught her, or her uncanny sixth-sense in “finding” lost objects. To save herself, she not only has to stop running from her own past, she must unearth the history of the hotel, its elite guests and buried secrets—one deadly sin at a time.

Perfect for fans of chilling supernatural mysteries like The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James and Ink & Bone by Lisa Unger.

Signed copies via The Book Wardrobe 


Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is February 9-14, 2022. Make sure to stop by then and check out all our mentees’ entries when it opens. 
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