2017 #PitchWars Wishlist

MY OFFICIAL BIO: Nina Laurin is a bilingual (English/French) author of suspenseful stories for both adults and young adults. She got her BA in Creative Writing at Concordia University, in her hometown of Montreal, Canada. Her first novel is GIRL LAST SEEN, available now from Grand Central Publishing. Nina is represented by Rachel Ekstrom of Irene Goodman Literary Agency.


I’ll start off by saying hello, potential mentee, and welcome to the madness. Keep in mind that this year I’m mentoring only Adult manuscripts.

Let’s begin…


  • Psychological suspense, domestic thrillers, and character-driven mysteries. And everything they encompass.
  • I’m also open to the idea of any of the above with a slight speculative twist: a mystery set in the not too distant future, or a paranormal suspense like Lisa Unger’s Ink and Bone. But no outright urban fantasy.
  • Send me your damaged heroes, antiheroes, and villain protagonists.
  • I do like a sociopath at the heart of a suspense, be they the arch-villain or the hero. Think Dexter and Hannibal.
  • Unreliable narrators are great too.
  • So are vigilantes.
  • But it doesn’t have to be extreme like that–I also like slow-burning, literary domestic suspense a la Megan Abbott.
  • Give me ALL your gritty, dark, UGLY, disturbing stories. I do not shy away from anything gruesome and/or gory. The darker the better.
  • I prefer protagonists who are ordinary people, not cops/PIs/journalists. But I’m open to the idea, as long as they meet the above criteria or fall within my special interests (see below).

SPECIAL INTERESTS, aka How are you different from the other mystery/suspense mentors and why should we sub to you?

My loves, regardless of subgenre:

  • Goth, punk, metal subcultures: send me your disaffected goth chicks committing murders. Seriously, I’d kill for a good disaffected-goth-chicks-on-murder-spree book. No pun intended.
  • The eighties and nineties. If your manuscript is set in these decades, I want to see it.
  • The arts: from the obvious (painters, musicians, dancers) to the less traveled: tattoo artists, piercers, body modification, etc.
  • Teenagers who are up to no good–teens who are sociopaths (or act the part) or even evil kids. Teenage friendships that spiral into ugliness. I love the idea of subverting innocence.
  • Psychology: characters grappling with mental illness, especially when it drives the plot.
  • Anything set in or involving Canada or Eastern Europe.


I think it’s silly to hate tropes. Tropes are like atoms, everything is made of them. It’s all about how they’re used in context. However, I find some tropes easier to love than others. For instance, I’d like to see:

  • The downward spiral narrative. It can be a hero’s journey to rock bottom (the journey back is optional—I love a good flawed hero tragedy!) or a villain’s origin story a la Breaking Bad.
  • Playing with chronological order. I love stories told in flashbacks, from multiple viewpoints, or backwards (like All the Missing Girls). They’re like a puzzle I must piece together.
  • Angst. The more the better. Send me your tormented, dark, angsty characters.
  • Sanity slippage: I want to see your protagonist slide slowly into madness. What is real and what isn’t? How much can we believe?

Tropes I don’t love as much (or at least they’d have to be done EXTRA well to hold my attention):

  • The Stockholm syndrome romance. You know, where it’s portrayed like a surefire way to meet the love of your life. Yeah, don’t send me those please. Unless you have a huge mind-blowing twist on it, that is.
  • TTW the reveal to your mystery setup is paranormal/supernatural. If I’m reading a paranormal mystery, I want to know right off the bat, otherwise I feel cheated.

Finally, I’m not looking for:

Straight-up science fiction and fantasy, anything set in a secondary world (i.e. not rooted in the real world), romance that dominates the plot (elements are fine). Political, medical, and legal thrillers–I’m not the right person to judge their quality because I don’t read enough of them. Same goes for military thrillers. No cozies please–although elements of (dark) humor are welcome to lighten the mood, I prefer my suspense dark and gritty. And finally, please don’t send me manuscripts that do not fall in the Adult category.


The first thing to know about my mentoring style is: I don’t expect, or want, something perfect. (If you’re already that good, what do you need me for, right?) On the contrary, I want to give a well-deserved boost to a manuscript that might otherwise have a tough time: too quirky, too dark, straddling genres, dealing with delicate or difficult tropes. Send ’em all my way. Don’t self-reject, I don’t care if your query or even pages need some work.

However: I’m typically honest and (sometimes) blunt in my feedback, but I do my best to go for the proverbial compliment sandwich. Another thing to know about me is that English is my second language, so I’m not the ideal person for extensive copyedits; I prefer to focus on plot issues, pacing, character development, stuff like that.

Finally: you don’t need to be super-active on the hashtags or to have a massive internet presence, but before I make my final choice, I may look you up, just to get a general idea of your personality. Common interests and shared taste in books are a plus, but not needed!

And to repeat myself, whoever sends me that disaffected-goth-chicks-on-murder-spree manuscript wins my heart.



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3 thoughts on “2017 #PitchWars Wishlist

  1. Hi, Nina.

    Thanks so much for your wish list!

    If a book has much of what you’re asking for, I’m curious what level of speculative would be too speculative. If the book was, say, alternate recent history with a whole pile of murder, a damaged, angry, superpowered anti-hero MC, told as alternating front story/back story, would that go too far?

    Thanks so much for being a mentor, and have a great day 🙂



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