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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Liz Iversen and mentor, Samantha Rajaram

Wednesday, 15 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 . . .

Liz Iversen – Mentee

Website | Twitter

 

Samantha Rajaram – Mentor

Website | Twitter

 

Samantha, why did you choose Liz?

Liz submitted her manuscript to me last year and I was immediately captivated by her story of two girls in the Philippines who are separated during the Japanese occupation, and must overcome very different obstacles to survive their experiences. I have a sister myself, and the love between the two characters in Liz’s novel felt genuine and believable. Also, I love reading about unknown and little known histories, and this manuscript taught me so much about a period of history I knew little about.

Liz, why did you choose to submit to Samantha?

I first submitted to Samantha last year after reading her Manuscript Wish List. I was surprised by how many elements of my work-in-progress, a bi-furcated narrative of two sisters in WWII Philippines, aligned with what she was looking for (adult historical fiction, a focus on other countries and cultures, strong characters, #Ownvoices, rich world building, and darker themes that address issues of social justice). She requested my full MS, and while I awaited mentee announcements, I read her novel, The Company Daughters. I fell in love with its strong female protagonist, and the book’s feminist themes really resonated with me. I knew Samantha would be able to help shape my book into something beautiful. Although she selected another mentee last year, she gave me some honest feedback: My book needed to be much longer. I spent a year revising and expanding my manuscript, applied to Pitch Wars again, and am over the moon to be working with her this year!

Samantha, summarize Liz’s book in 3 words.

Powerful sisterly love

Liz, summarize your book in 3 words.

haunting feminist history

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

This manuscript spoke to me on so many levels, but I’m teaching AAPI literature as faculty in my college’s first AAPI learning community this year, and I loved that my day job and my Pitch Wars work happened to align so well.

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

At times, editing this novel has felt overwhelming, and I’m excited to learn about how others approach the revision process. I would love for Pitch Wars to be a stepping stone toward agent representation and publication. But even if this novel is never published, I hope the experience will introduce me to a community of writers who will support and encourage each other’s writing long after Pitch Wars ends.

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

I was born in the Philippines and grew up in South Dakota, the daughter of a former U.S. Navy private and a Filipina immigrant. My parents met while my father was stationed abroad, and I was always curious about the U.S. military presence in the Philippines. During a trip to the Philippines with my mother in 2006, I learned tidbits of her family’s history: During World War II, my grandmother dressed like a boy to avoid rape; a dead Japanese soldier was buried in my grandparents’ backyard.

I returned to the U.S. and began researching WWII Philippines. After my mother’s death in 2014, I began writing a novel based on my research. Writing was both an opportunity to learn more about my Filipino heritage and an attempt to preserve in some form my connection to my mother.

In my research, I was drawn primarily to the stories of Filipino comfort women and Huk guerillas. Little is known about the sexual violence committed by the Japanese against Filipinos during World War II, and little is known about the Filipino women who fought alongside men for their freedom. My novel explores these hidden avenues of the past to reveal the strength and resilience of Filipino women.

Check out Samantha’s latest release, THE COMPANY DAUGHTERS …

Amsterdam, 1620.

Jana Beil has learned that life rarely provides moments of joy. Having run away from a violent father, her days are spent searching for work in an effort to stay out of the city brothels, where desperate women trade their bodies for a mouthful of bread. But when Jana is hired as a servant for the wealthy and kind Master Reynst and his beautiful daughter Sontje, Jana’s future begins to look brighter.

But then, Master Reynst loses his fortune on a bad investment, and everything changes. The house is sold to creditors, leaving Jana back on the street and Sontje without a future.

With no other choice, Sontje and Jana are forced to sign with the Dutch East India Company as Company Daughters: sailing to a colonial outpost to become the brides of male settlers they know nothing about. With fear in their hearts, the girls begin their journey—but what awaits them on the other side of the world is nothing like what they’ve been promised…

Based on true history, this is a beautiful and sensual historical novel, perfect for fans of The Girl With the Pearl Earring, The Miniaturist, and The Indigo Girl.

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