Have questions about submitting to Pitch Wars or just want to know what it is? Start here!


Pitch Wars Team Interviews: Natalie VanderHeydt and mentor Aimee Salter & Nicole Willson and mentor Peter McLean

Friday, 20 October 2017  |  Posted by Brenda Drake


Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 1st-7th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2017 Pitch Wars Teams.

And now, we have . . .

Natalie VanderHeydt – Mentee


Aimee Salter – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Natalie, why did you choose to submit to Aimee?

Aimee was on my submit list right away. I suspected, on the practical level, that my MS would be hit that “spark” for her. I also knew she’d be the right mentor (If I were lucky enough) because a lot of her skills: romantic subplot; emotional connection; detecting BS, were just what a concept like mine needed. On to the personal factor, Aimee is amazing, her heart came through on her blog and twitter, and all that she did to help EVERY hopeful. I felt she’d be “ALL IN” as a mentor and friend. I’m thrilled because my gut was completely right–and then some.

Aimee, why did you choose Natalie?

Substance and style: Natalie’s book checked every box for me. The premise is dramatic, relevant, and fascinating. It deals with the psychological impacts of the teenage life and culture. It asks questions that aren’t easy to answer. The voice is authentic. And there’s a touch of humor even amidst a very dark and suspenseful story.

I already wanted to work with her after I read it, but I was so excited that when I asked her questions about her process, what she was open (or not) to changing, and how she liked to work, her answers reflected my own attitudes in so many ways it was almost scary.

We’ve since discussed our shared interests and ways of working and decided God destined us to work together. So really, there were no other options. Who am I to resist divine intervention?

Natalie, summarize your book in 3 words.

Shooter spills secrets.

Aimee, summarize your Natalie’s book in 3 words.

Powerful, authentic, gut-wrenching (is that two?)

Natalie, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your MS unique?

Growing up in Canada, with a mom from Iran and a dad from the UK, I like to hope the opposing backgrounds gave me a sense of perspective. When I was younger, my family moved a lot, so my friends were ever changing, at times it was as if I was on the fence of two different worlds. Books were my constant and I knew I wanted to be the voice of someone else’s “constant” one day.

Even though my MS deals with dark topics like school shootings, bullying, anxiety, and betrayal, it still manages to bring some humour and hope to the scene. I wanted to go deep into the heart of the characters and dust around the “why” of these events. Plus, I’m really proud of the “Secret Pen-Pal” letters and all twistiness of the plot.

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

I was born in America but grew up in New Zealand. I speak in two accents daily: When I’m at home with my kiwi husband and son, I speak in the New Zealand accent and slang. When I’m in the wild, I talk like an American and use American vernacular.

Most of the time.

I’ve been known to hiccup or say strange words that make people give me a brittle smile and nod.

And next, we have  . . .

Nicole Willson – Mentee

Website | Twitter


Peter McLean – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Nicole, why did you submit your manuscript to Peter?

It’s funny; Pete’s mentor bio said that he’d probably be a tough sell for horror but that a good occult or demonic horror might catch his eye, so I wasn’t quite sure what kind of a chance TIDEPOOL would have with him. When he mentioned a list of horror novels he enjoyed on the Pitch Wars forums, I was really encouraged; my novel is similar in tone to the kind of horror he said he prefers. And his posts on Twitter and on the forum made me think he’d be both a good fit for my novel and a nice person to work with.

Peter, why did you choose Nicole’s manuscript?

Nicole’s book has everything I love – a historical setting, a sinister seaside down, Lovecraftian overtones and a beautifully written sense of creeping dread that just wouldn’t let me put it down. It’s like she wrote it especially for me!

Voice is all-important to me in writing, and Nicole’s book just spoke to me. This was my first year mentoring in PitchWars and I was blown away by how high the standard of submissions was in general, but I knew within the first few pages that this was going to be the one for me.

Nicole, summarize your manuscript in three words.

Hungry ocean gods.

Peter, summarize Nicole’s manuscript in three words.

Lovecraftian historical fantasy.

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

My husband and I live in the Washington DC area with our cats and a rotating cast of backyard wildlife. I love Baltimore (where I was married) and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and I had a lot of fun writing a story set in these places. I’ve never written a novel that took place in the past before, and even though most of TIDEPOOL is set in a tiny oceanside Maryland town of my own creation, I enjoyed researching what Baltimore was like in 1913 to get a sense of the city my main character inhabited.

When I’m not working on my novels, I write and post short fiction. I’m especially fond of the 50-word horror stories I’ve been writing for the Writing Cooperative’s 52-Week Challenge over on Medium.com.

I’ve loved writing almost all my life. When I was laid off from my job in 2016, I decided to really buckle down and pursue publication. And I’m forever grateful to all the writers who take time from their own lives and careers to help people like me, as well as to the agents who participate in these contests.

Peter, tell us something about yourself. Something we don’t already know.

I’m a British author from the east of England, writer of the Burned Man series of urban fantasy novels (Drake, Dominion & Damnation) and the forthcoming epic grimdark, “Priest of Bones” October 2018). Something you wouldn’t know about me? Hmmm… I really do talk like my characters do!

Our mentors’ latest releases…

Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter


BLURB: When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school, bullies taunt and shove her. She can’t go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self. Her older self has been through it all already–she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley. Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop. Perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and The List, Every Ugly Word is a gripping and emotional story about the devastating consequences of bullying. LINK:


DAMNATION by Peter McLean (The third book in the Burned Man series.)


Don Drake is living rough in a sink estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh, doing cheap spells for even cheaper customers while fending off the local lowlifes. Six months ago, Don fled from London to Glasgow to track down his old girlfriend Debbie the alchemist.

With the Burned Man gradually driving him mad, Don meets with an ancient and mysterious tramp-slash-magician, with disastrous consequences. Now his old accomplices must step into save Don from himself, before he damns himself for good this time.



Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! The Agent Showcase is November 1st-7th, and our next #PitMad is December 7, 2017!

Comments are closed.
We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

Pitch Wars takes a stand. ANTI-BULLYING. Click here to review our policy

Pitch Wars 2021

Blog Archives

Blog Categories

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.