Haleigh Wenger – #WriteMentor Success Stories
Interview by KC Karr
Haleigh, what about Brandy’s bio convinced you to sub to her?
Brandy writes YA contemporary romance and so do I, so right away I knew we’d be compatible. What really got me excited, though, is when I read an excerpt of the first chapter of her debut, Meant to be Brokenthat she had posted on her website. Her words swept me away, and I could tell I had a ton to learn from her.
Brandy, what made you fall in love with Where the Tide Takes Us?
Haleigh had me at the title of the manuscript, Where the Tide Takes Us. I mean, a contemporary romance at the beach?? YES, PLEASE!! That is my absolute jam. Then I dug into reading her sample pages, and yet again, she hit me square in the feels as her protagonist is dealing with a family loss and on top of that, it is set in the South. Haleigh’s book checked all my favorite boxes right out of the gate. After asking for the full and reading her words, I fell in love with the story, what it was and what it could be. Immediately, I saw a path for moving forward and could tell from her writing style that Haleigh was both talented and determined enough to do what it took to polish the manuscript. It was basically love at first sight (read)!
Haleigh, looking back, what was your favorite part of the #WriteMentor experience?
It sounds cliché but finding a writing group has definitely been the best part of the whole experience.
Brandy, tell us what it was like working with Haleigh.
Haleigh was a dream mentee. She listened to my thoughts on her manuscript, we chatted at length about vision, and she never once complained when I gave her the BIG homework to do. She was a champ! She dove into the manuscript with a vengeance, and she turned out a beautiful story that tugs at all of the heartstrings.
Haleigh, what was the most surprising part of the #WriteMentor experience?
The most surprising part was how much I learned about writing and about my own writing voice. I went into it assuming my MS would get better, not realizing in order for that to happen I’d have to grow and change as a writer.
Haleigh, the revision process is only three months and can be intense. Tell us about your revisions and how you dealt with constructive criticism from Brandy.What advice do you have for future mentees?
Brandy offered up a ton of great ideas, but she ultimately left all the big decisions up to me, which I truly appreciated. She did a great job of guiding me in the right direction while reminding me that in the end it was my story to tell. The best advice I can offer is to be willing to make scary changes, because they will likely be for the best!
Haleigh, after #WriteMentor, you signed a contract with Literary Crush Publishing. Give us all the details.
I connected with my publisher when they liked one of my pitches during #KidPit. Less than two weeks later, they sent me an email saying they loved my story and wanted to publish it. I loved the direction they want to take the story, as well as the idea of a publisher focused specifically on what I love to write. A few weeks after that I signed the contract!
What does your writing process look like?
Haleigh:I typically word vomit a first draft over the course of a month or so. I have a pitch in mind and usually an ending, but for the most part I’m completely pantsing it. After I let my first draft sit for a few weeks, I pick through it slowly, fixing obvious mistakes. Then I send to CPs, making big picture changes once they’ve sent it back. Rinse and repeat until I can’t stand to look at the story another second.
Brandy:Ha! Y’all don’t want to know because I go against all the common advice. LOL It takes me around four months to generate a first draft. With that being said, my first drafts are generally more like 2ndor 3rddrafts before they’re complete? Why? Because I’m an edit-as-you-go sort of girl. (I know, I know – grab the torches and pitchforks!) I literally cannot do the first draft traditional let-it-pour-out-of-you thing. It causes me too much anxiety! LOL And expanding on that more fully, I used to be a total pantster but now I find myself making detailed beat sheets before starting. I’m still not a total plotter, though, and more than once, my characters have taken off on their own tangent! Another key part of my process is to find images online that “look” like my characters and to make Spotify playlists I listen to before writing. It helps set the mood for the scene I’m currently involved with.
You’re on deadline! What are your go-to writing snacks?
Haleigh:So much chocolate! And lots of water.
Brandy: If I could buy stock in Cheez-its, I would! Oh, and don’t forget the whipped cream cheese to dip them in!
Tell us about your favorite writing spot.
Haleigh:I have a nice desk with a bookshelf above it filled with my favorite books, but I end up writing most often in bed. Once everyone else is asleep, it’s much easier to write in the quiet!
Brandy:I have a writing desk and area where I feel most comfortable, though I have been known to curl up in my front porch swing with my laptop.
What is your favorite book (or series). Why?
Haleigh: It’s so hard to pick a favorite! The big nostalgic ones for me are Harry Potter, Little Women, and Ella Enchantedbecause they remind me of the magic of falling in love with reading for the first time.
Brandy:Well, I’m going to go total predictable here with the first one: Pride and Prejudice. Can you write romance and NOT love this story? Another all-time favorite book is Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides.Southern and full of family drama? Yep, that has Brandy written all over it!
Where does your inspiration come from?
Haleigh:A lot of my inspiration comes from reading other books, watching movies, and talking to other people. I often see questions I have about life and the world around me reflected in the themes of my novel.
Brandy: Life in general, including news stories, music, personal stories, etc. It can’t go without saying that my characters’ internal journeys always do have a twinge of “Brandy” in them as well. It sort of bleeds in. 😊