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 . . .
VA Vazquez – Mentee
Ashley Winstead – Mentor
Ashley, why did you choose VA?
VA’s voice immediately grabbed me. It’s so unique: darkly funny, sardonic, and yet still a little hopeful and romantic. The instant I read her sample, I knew I was going to request her full MS, and the premise too was tantalizing and felt really fresh: a woman who runs an OnlyFans-esque murder reenactment series gets pulled back into the one case she experienced in real life–a serial killer from her hometown–but this time she’s hell-bent on solving the case, not just reenacting it. That premise alone is so rich with complexity and potential.
I’m also a big fan of complicated characters with layers, and that’s what this MS is chock full of, especially VA’s main character Darby. Darby is so many things: a survivor, a perpetrator, in control, in over her head, in charge of her sexuality, still learning about herself. It makes for such a fantastic journey being in her head. And I love that Dating in Murderville is so bold and VA is so comfortable taking risks, willing to go places that are eyebrow-raising and keep eyes glued to the page–but doing so in a way that is thoughtful, sensitive, and well-researched. Her talent just radiated from the pages, and I had a clear vision for what could happen with the MS to take full advantage of its enormous potential.
VA, why did you choose to submit to Ashley?
I read Ashley’s debut thriller, In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, when it was released this summer, and when I saw her name on the Pitch Wars mentor list, she immediately became my top choice! Her book kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time with countless twists and turns, not to mention the will-they-won’t-they romance. (#TeamCoop!) I’ve learned so much not just from her edit letter and our Zoom meetings, but also from going back and analyzing what makes her book so great. My manuscript also seemed like a perfect fit for her wishlist: a story about an online influencer struggling with her dark, strangle-y past.
Ashley, summarize VA’s book in 3 words.
Irreverent, Sexy, Compulsive
VA, summarize your book in 3 words.
Choke me, murder-daddy
Ashley, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.
I’ve always identified with this F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: “Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.”
I don’t know about being any good, but I’ve always joked that I’m many different people trying hard to be one person. That’s manifested into a pretty colorful career. Before writing full-time, I worked in the music industry, entertainment industry, advertising, academia, advocacy, and philanthropy. As a reader, my tastes are all over the map–I love it all. And as a writer, a lot of different voices crowd my head, and I’m driven to try my hand at different styles. Switching it up is what keeps me hooked, and with every subsequent MS, I challenge myself to try something I’ve never tried before. Keeps things interesting!
So my next book is actually my romance debut, rather than a thriller. I get really happy when I see trailblazer writers already doing this genre-hopping well (some of them fellow Pitch Wars mentors!). I feel like there’s less pressure to be a one-genre writer these days, which is great for all of us.
VA, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?
This will be my first time venturing into the query trenches. I knew my manuscript wasn’t ready to take the plunge, but I wasn’t sure how to fix it. I’d sit in coffee shops for hours, fiddling with commas, when what my manuscript really needed was a complete overhaul to streamline the narrative. But where to start? Ashley was able to immediately pinpoint what needed to change. Now, whenever I sit down to start revising, I feel excited to put words on the page as opposed to overwhelmed/terrified/bewildered/[insert other panic-stricken adjectives here].
VA, tell us about yourself. What makes you and your manuscript unique?
Much like my protagonist, I have an unhealthy fixation on all things serial killer. I am the girl from the SNL “Murder Show” sketch, watching the body count rise as I dig into a pint of ice cream. (My Netflix recommendations are a dark and sordid place.) I am also a connoisseur of schlocky reality dating shows, so it was easy to envision a character who might kill and combine (pun intended) her love of both. Thus, Dating in Murderville was born — a fictional YouTube channel that stages reenactments of famous murders with Tinder matches! Swipe right for stabby times.
My favorite thrillers are ones that mix horror with pitch-black comedy. Bonus points if they feature a romantic interest who enjoys BYOB painting classes, picnics in the park, and extracting spleens. My manuscript has all of the above! (Except the spleens. Maybe next time.)
Check out Ashley’s upcoming book releasing April 5, 2022, FOOL ME ONCE …
Lee Stone is a twenty-first-century woman: she kicks butt at her job as a communications director at a women-run electric car company (that’s better than Tesla, thank you), and after work she is “Stoner,” drinking guys under the table and never letting any of them get too comfortable in her bed…
That’s because Lee’s learned one big lesson: never trust love. Four major heartbreaks set her straight, from her father cheating on her mom all the way to Ben Laderman in grad school—who wasn’t actually cheating, but she could have sworn he was, so she reciprocated in kind.
Then Ben shows up five years later, working as a policy expert for the most liberal governor in Texas history, just as Lee is trying to get a clean energy bill rolling. Things get complicated—and competitive—as Lee and Ben are forced to work together. Tension builds just as old sparks reignite, fanning the flames for a romantic dustup the size of Texas.