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Pitch Wars Team Interviews: Rheea Mukherjee with mentor Kristen Lepionka & Cori Vella with mentor Natasha Neagle

Wednesday, 27 September 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 . . .

Rheea Mukherjee – Mentee

Website | Twitter


Kristen Lepionka – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Rheea, why did you choose to submit to Kristen?

All 4 mentor picks were looking for compelling adult experimentations on some level. Kristen’s wish list however really hit a chord. She wanted smart, gorgeous Lit Fiction that was gritty and all kinds of open to ‘family secrets’. I am not sure if my manuscript hits all those winning terms but I sure wanted it to. Kristen also said she wanted someone humble to work with. That drew me in to her as a person. I am not saying I am humble, but I put a lot of value on humbleness and for me, appreciating that quality in a person is indicative of the kind of person they are. Kristen has turned out to be cool, straight-forward, supportive, and incisive when it comes to her vision for my book. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Kristen, why did you choose Rheea?

I choose Rheea because her manuscript is beautiful and delicate, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’m so glad I’m able to work with 2 mentees this year! Choice would’ve been impossible otherwise.

Rheea, summarize your book in 3 words.

Philosophical, Intensely Psychological, Existential

Kristen, summarize Rheea’s book(s) in 3 words.

Philosophy and obsession

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

l I live in Bangalore India although I’ve spent many years in the U.S as well. In fact most of my life has been spent in-between the U.S and Bangalore. I write fiction and non-fiction. I am dog-obsessed and I am a pretty decent vegan cook. I co-run a content and design laboratory called Write Leela Write, so that’s my day job. Malaise is a intimate novel that explores traditional relationships, mental illness, and sexuality. I think what I love most about it is the weaving in of philosophy and history. I spent 2 intense months researching to become ‘the voice’ of my MC. She’s way smarter than I am, which get tricky. What ends up happening is that I forget half of the stuff my MC is well versed in. As I edit in the next couple of months, I already know I have to go back to my history and philosophy research in order to keep the confident stream of knowledge my MC has running in her head. Note to self: Maybe next time write about a character that isn’t so precocious.

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

I’ve wanted to be a mystery writer for as long as I can remember. I was a super weird kid who’d write crime stories for school assignments–but whatever, I was just practicing! 🙂


And next, we have  . . .

Cori Vella – Mentee

Website | Twitter


Natasha Neagle – Mentor

Website | Twitter


Cori,why did you choose to submit to Natasha?

I submitted to Nat first in 2014 with a different manuscript, and it was an auto-reject because I was so sold on her wishlist that I neglected to look at the age category she was mentoring that year (Oops. Cautionary tale, folks!). Her rejection email was very kind, and even though she didn’t have to, she included some brief feedback for my submission. When I decided to apply for Pitch Wars again this year, her name stood out, and thank goodness, her wishlist and age category corresponded.

Natasha, why did you choose Cori?

Her novel grabbed me from the first page and I couldn’t get it out of my head. When I talked to her she was very open to revising and creating an even more powerful novel with my assistance than what she initially presented.

Cori, summarize your book in 3 words.

Magic, romance, and malevolence.

Natasha, summarize Cori’s book in 3 words.

Witch spells lovers

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

Toni Morrison said, “”If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”” This MS is a combination of things I find fascinating: witches, history (especially as it applies to witchcraft hysteria in colonial America), pirates, ghosts, romance, and creepy old houses. With horror elements, like human sacrifice and magical manipulation, and a disabled romantic lead who does more than exist as inspiration porn or a blow-by-blow entry on TV Tropes, SOMETHING WICKED was a manuscript I desperately had to write for myself.

Also, on a research trip to Massachusetts for this MS, I may or may not have stolen dirt from the grave of a pilgrim…Cough.

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

When I’m not writing novels, I’m writing engaging lessons and activities that I sell to other teachers across the globe.


Our mentors’ latest releases…

THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK by Kristen Lepionka (June, Minotaur Books)

Kristen Lepionka Books

Since her cop father died in the line of duty, private investigator Roxane Weary’s only active investigation is the bottom shelf of her liquor cabinet. When she becomes a death row inmate’s last chance at proving his innocence, she uncovers a string of missing teenaged girls and a tangle of secrets in an Ohio suburb. As her investigation gets darker and darker, Roxane has to risk everything to find the truth. Lives depend on her cracking this case–including her own.


THE BODY PARADOX by Natasha Neagle (Entangled Teen , 2018)

A genetically altered teen becomes trapped in the same body as her worst enemy and must overcome their rivalry in order to survive the organization that turns against them.


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



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