– What made you apply to #WriteMentor 2018?

My story is probably a lot longer than many success stories, so get comfortable!

I started writing Chasing Blood & Scoundrels in 2015. After several revisions, a little querying, and a failed R&R, I told myself I was ready to give up on this book and focus on writing something new. I’d already revised this book as a Pitch Wars mentee and completed another major revision alone. I was getting a lot of requests, but they were consistently followed by ‘I love it, but not quite enough’. I had other WIPs that were begging for my attention and I genuinely felt people were sick of hearing me talk about this book!

However, Write Mentor kept popping up on my Twitter feed and the support and positivity of the community really blew me away. I decided to give this book one last shot. I was expecting to be told I should move on, but I ended up getting several requests from mentors. I knew right away that Melissa got my book, was passionate about stories celebrating female friendships, and I knew she’d be easy to work with. She is a fantastic person and talented writer, so I was thrilled when she chose me as her mentee!

– Melissa (mentor), what made you choose to work with Nicole’s manuscript?

I was immediately hooked by the first page, which I always read first. It was a feminist reimagining of a good old fashioned Western chase scene, reminiscent of Star Wars or even Aladdin as he’s chased through the market place. The fact that the protagonists were feisty female bounty hunters was a bonus! Then I read the synopsis and just fell in love with the story, which is full of sword fights, horseback shenanigans and female relationships. I had asked for an exciting story with strong female friendships, and Nicole delivered in spades. I think I requested the rest of the manuscript the same day it came in!

– Nicole, how was the whole experience of the programme for you?  

As stressful as working to a strict deadline can be, Write Mentor was such a positive and enjoyable experience! Write Mentor takes on fewer mentees than other competitions and that was a huge positive for me. I’m very much an introvert and having a small pool of mentees made it easier to reach out and build friendships and a support system that helped me get through querying.

Melissa and I both worked hard for the duration of the revision period. My main focus was heightening stakes and making the antagonist as compelling as I possibly could. I worked right up until the deadline, but I ended up with a book I’m really proud of.

– Tell us how you came to sign with your agent.

Once again, everything changed the second I believed I had to move on from this book.

I queried pretty intensely from the moment the Write Mentor agent showcase ended. Again, I was consistently getting requests, but it still wasn’t quite there. I tackled another small revision after getting great notes from a new CP (WM’s Claire Winn).

I did that really awful thing to myself where you hope you’ll get agented by a significant birthday (writers, don’t do this). The birthday passed, I wasn’t agented, and this book was heading for a dark & duty drawer…

And then an agent emailed to set up a call. I was very much convinced this was another R&R. I prepped notes for how I felt the book could be revised, I was a bundle of nerves for the duration of the call, but the agent offered! The next two weeks were a complete blur of disbelief and waiting for the rug to be pulled. Several agents emailed to set up calls and I ended up with multiple offers of representation. I would have been incredibly lucky to sign with any of the agents who offered, but Heather’s vision for the book really aligned with mine. She was also incredibly enthusiastic about my poor, neglected WIPs so I knew she could help me build a career and would be a wonderful advocate for my work.

– Tell us a little more about your book that has secured representation.

CHASING BLOOD & SCOUNDRELS is a YA fantasy about bounty hunting girls seeking revenge and trying to find their place in a dangerous, bloodthirsty world. It is very much the book I would have wanted to read as a teen.  It is equal parts adventure, romance, and fantasy. It celebrates female friendships and headstrong girls. I keep nervously describing it as if Gladiator, Magnificent 7 & Mad Max: Fury Road had a baby. But it’s a GIRL.

I started writing this book in 2015 and it has got me through the best and worst times—the birth of my beautiful daughter followed by struggles with post-natal depression. There were many times I felt like I couldn’t talk about my own mental health but giving these characters voices made me feel less alone. I feel incredibly lucky to be given a chance to get this book out into the world.

– Tell us a little more about your writing journey.

You are probably getting sick of me now, so I’ll keep it brief!

I’m a Welsh working class writer. I juggle writing with my day job and raising two mischievous little ones. I can’t afford to attend expensive conferences or writing course, and I definitely can’t write every day.

After Pitch Wars, I spent a solid year gobbling up every craft book I could get my hands on (thank you, library). John Truby’s Anatomy of Story & Donald Maass’ The Emotional Craft of Fiction are books I would recommend to any writer, at any stage in their career. I think the best thing writers can do is read widely & never stop learning!

And find your writing tribe! My CP’s have made my writing (and life) better in more ways than I could count. I’d be lost without them.

– What one piece of advice would you give to other writers looking for representation?

I’m going to cheat and say two.

1-Dig your heels in. I’m the most stubborn person I know (and it’s a very Welsh trait). It’s not always the most endearing quality in a person, but writing and publishing is a very long & very slow game. Dig your heels in & keep writing!

2-Be kind to yourself! You don’t want to write like a machine so don’t treat yourself like one. Get outside, read a book, close your eyes, I promise it will only help you be a more resilient writer.

Nicole A. Brake was born in a small coal mining town in the South Wales valleys. Her earliest childhood memory is convincing her younger sister that she was radioactive after she used a torch to make her sibling’s hand glow red.

After graduating from Swansea University with a degree in History, she settled on the South Wales coast with her partner and their two mischievous children. She is proud to be a member of 2016 Pitch Wars and 2018 Write Mentor alumni.

When she’s not writing YA fantasy about headstrong, capable young women or devouring an ever-growing TBR pile, you’ll likely find her fangirling over all things geek, indulging her wanderlust, or wrangling her children on a Welsh beach.

Nicole loves nothing more than curling up somewhere cosy with a great book. Her favorite authors include: V.E. Schwab, Leigh Bardugo, S.A. Chakraborty, Renee Ahdieh, Katherine Arden, Katherine Rundell, and Sabaa Tahir.

Twitter: @nicolealana