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GIRL LAST SEEN

Available June 20, 2017 wherever books are sold.

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cover latestTwo missing girls. Thirteen years apart.

Olivia Shaw has been missing since last Tuesday. She was last seen outside the entrance of her elementary school in Hunts Point wearing a white spring jacket, blue jeans, and pink boots.

I force myself to look at the face in the photo, into her slightly smudged features, and I can’t bring myself to move. Olivia Shaw could be my mirror image, rewound to thirteen years ago.

If you have any knowledge of Olivia Shaw’s whereabouts or any relevant information, please contact…

I’ve spent a long time peering into the faces of girls on missing posters, wondering which one replaced me in that basement. But they were never quite the right age, the right look, the right circumstances. Until Olivia Shaw, missing for one week tomorrow.

Whoever stole me was never found. But since I was taken, there hasn’t been another girl.

And now there is.

Praise for GIRL LAST SEEN:

GCP_GirlLastSeen_quotes3[1]

“Girl Last Seen gripped me from start to finish. Lainey Moreno is a riveting heroine, a kidnapping survivor who will only escape her demons if she faces her greatest fears, and Nina Laurin brings her vividly to life. Psychological suspense doesn’t come much grittier or more packed with satisfying twists and turns.”―Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award-winning author of Unsub

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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…

I’M LOOKING FOR:

  • 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.

TROPES I LOVE/HATE:

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.

ABOUT ME:

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.

weirdos

 

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Good news! GIRL LAST SEEN is now available for request on NetGalley!

cover

Two missing girls. Thirteen years apart.
Olivia Shaw has been missing since last Tuesday. She was last seen outside the entrance of her elementary school in Hunts Point wearing a white spring jacket, blue jeans, and pink boots.

I force myself to look at the face in the photo, into her slightly smudged features, and I can’t bring myself to move. Olivia Shaw could be my mirror image, rewound to thirteen years ago.

If you have any knowledge of Olivia Shaw’s whereabouts or any relevant information, please contact…

I’ve spent a long time peering into the faces of girls on missing posters, wondering which one replaced me in that basement. But they were never quite the right age, the right look, the right circumstances. Until Olivia Shaw, missing for one week tomorrow.

Whoever stole me was never found. But since I was taken, there hasn’t been another girl.

And now there is.

Available June 20, 2017 from Grand Central Publishing.

Preorder on Amazon

Add it on Goodreads

 

The “I Have A Book Deal!” Post

I spent far too much time thinking about how to write this post–and I don’t mean in a daydreaming kind of way, as I’m sure all writers do. Of course I daydreamed, but in the last couple of months, as the daydream became reality, I was at a loss. So I’m just going to be brutally honest and describe the whole process, if only to show how long, weird, and (especially) random it can be. I’m more used to writing long screeds from the point of view of fictional characters than from my own, so bear with me.

Let’s go back a couple years. Actually, let’s go back four and a half. To early 2012, when I first decided to take another crack at getting traditionally published, wrote a YA novel with lots of psychic powers and unrequited love, and sent out a first round of dubious queries. 

Naturally, over that summer the psychic YA novel tanked, but by fall, I didn’t care anymore. I had a new obsession: a YA sci-fi horror that I fell head over heels in love with. Unfortunately, it seemed like I was the only one as rejections piled up. Finally, an agent did bite, but under one condition: in her mind, it needed massive revisions. I was just happy that someone from New York was finally paying attention to me, so I agreed. 

That manuscript never even made it to acquisitions once, and she didn’t particularly like my next two books, so they never made it to the submissions merry-go-round.

Project #4 was my first-ever adult book, a dark romantic suspense in dual POV. I told her about it and she was enthusiastic enough to ask to read it. 

One month later I got the most bizarre email I’ve ever seen. She started off saying how much she liked it and how the dark themes suited my style, then went into a list of things she’d like me to tweak. Normal so far, right? Well, each new item on the list was bigger (and meaner) than the last. The characters were cliches, she didn’t care about the plot, she didn’t find anything believable at all. And she signed off by saying I might be better off to seek representation elsewhere. When I emailed back an (understandable) question as to what this meant, she replied with a one-sentence email and that was the last I ever heard from her. Later I realized she even unfollowed me on Twitter. I guess she hated it that much. 

I spent the next few months going from denial to depression and back. My grades dropped. I’d go from compulsive Ebay bidding to hiding in my room/office to suicidal ideation within the same day. I started manuscripts but never finished anything, because why bother? Then, on an impulse, in a rare “up” moment of my spiral, I took that old adult manuscript out of the drawer. 

You know how you reread your work much later, when it no longer feels like your work, and you finally see it with new eyes? Well, instead of being mortified, like I thought I’d be, I was actually kind of blown away. I deconstructed the manuscript into scenes and rebuilt it, scrapping half and rewriting it from scratch. This time it was straight-up suspense, it was still dark as ever (even darker), and it was first person single POV. 

And when I wrote the new scenes for it (overall, close to 40 000 words), something strange happened. I felt the lifeblood come back into my writing. It no longer felt like pulling teeth. The scenes flowed. This, I realized, is the genre I was put on this earth to write. 

This time I meant business. I bought a professional query critique (best money I ever spent) and polished the manuscript until it was as perfect as I could make it. And then I sent out the first batch of queries. 

No, it wasn’t an overnight thing, and I was not immediately flooded with requests. A few came in, though, and they were impressive. Senior agents, the rock stars, were requesting fulls. And some of the answers made me alternately dance with joy and howl with frustration: there was much to love, but for various minor and arbitrary reasons, it wasn’t quite right. I even did an R&R, for which I had high hopes. I cried for a week when it didn’t work out. 

That’s when #MSWL happened. (For those of you not in the know, it’s an event when agents tweet things they’d life to see in the query inbox.) Twitter contests hadn’t exactly worked out great for me in the past: they’d just get my hopes up only for it to come to nothing, as usual. But this time, an agent’s tweet caught my eye. She was looking for dark psychological suspense. So I sent my query and pages, with #MSWL in the subject line, and made myself forget about it. 

The next day was Saturday and I was out enjoying the summer, having coffee with my boyfriend on the terrace of our favorite cafe (where I burst into tears a month earlier, when the agent who asked for the R&R finally rejected it). Suddenly my email went ping. Ignoring my boyfriend’s disapproving look (he was probably remembering the scene from a month ago…) I looked at it. It was a full request! So later that evening, I sent the full. And promptly put it out of my mind. 

The next day–Sunday–in the evening, my email goes ping. This time I was watching a movie and managed to refrain from checking it right then and there (for which I deserve a medal, IMHO). A half hour later, I looked. It was the agent! She loved the book and wanted to talk on the phone. As soon as possible. Preferably tomorrow morning. 

What do you say under these circumstances? Hell yes. So I did. We talked on the phone and she was warm, friendly, and best of all, as enthusiastic about my book as anyone could be. A week later, after two more offers from very lovely agents, I made my choice. I signed with Rachel Ekstrom of Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

As opposed to last time, I had a good feeling about this from the start. I wasn’t a wreck when we went on sub less than a week later. And sure enough, a little over a month from the day I accepted Rachel’s offer of rep, she phoned me with the good news.

Several months of contract back-and-forth followed, and now I can finally share that good news with the rest of you.

 It’s all a little unreal and I STILL can’t believe I actually get to say these words, but….

My psychological suspense novel has sold to Alex Logan at Grand Central Publishing!

 

deal (2) 

Thanks are due. First, to my amazing rock star superagent, Rachel Ekstrom, and the IGLA team. Thank you for pulling me out of the slush pile and setting me on a career path–and oh yeah, the small matter of realizing my lifelong dreams. Also, to the Barors for their stellar work and patience. Thanks to my new editor Alex Logan for seeing the potential in my book. And thank YOU. All of you who cheered me on (or at least didn’t mind too much when I complained for hours on end during the more difficult parts of the journey…)

I don’t really have any parting wisdom to share. I don’t know if it’s hard work or luck or blind faith or maybe a little bit of all these things, but dreams do come true!

How to (really) be a writer

(No offense to The Oatmeal)

So this cute little cartoon popped up about 30 times in my notifications yesterday.

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/writer

oatmeal writer

 

Mostly it was sent to me by non-writer friends, as in, har har, look at that, it’s funny because it’s true… etc. And we writers are good at self-deprecation. We’re practically self-deprecation virtuosi. “Writerly self-deprecation” has become its own subgenre: see Young Adult or just about any movie or book featuring a writer.

mavis

When we’re not being dismembered by an Annie Wilkes-type, we’re wallowing in self-pity, whining about poor sales, or behaving in various pathetic ways in a futile attempt to cure writer’s block.   And, of course, we’re drinking heavily.

drinking

But… no offense to The Oatmeal, if that’s all you do to be a writer, you’re not going to get very far. Here are things that real writers actually do:

They write.

Yeah, it’s a cliche, but they exist for a reason, and let’s be honest, it’s a much more productive cliche than the-writer-as-self-hating-alcoholic. Whatever your own definition of yourself as “writer” entails, whether it’s having written something (anything) at any point in your life or reaching the #1 spot on every best-seller list… guess what, you can’t get there without writing first. Because writers write. The end.

They work hard.

Okay, I think I’ve dropped the anvil in the previous paragraph and we’re in agreement, to be a writer, you must write. Something. Anything. But you must write. Now, to make what you’re writing publishable, it must be good. And to make writing good, you need to put in the work. Revisions. Rewrites. Writing 10 manuscripts that will go straight to the trunk. Every writer must pay her dues, whatever they are. And for that to happen…

They make sacrifices.

Yup, that means cancelling social plans and skipping happy hour with your buddies and letting the kitchen get REALLY dirty and eating frozen pizza for a week straight. The sacrifices are physical, mental, emotional, financial… the list goes on. From tiny little ones to major ones (getting a pricey MFA you won’t be able to use for anything and taking a year off work to write a novel), you can’t do without them. Unless you’re a reclusive multi-billionaire living on a desert island, being waited on twenty-four hours a day. Your friends will shake their heads, your parents will judge you, your spouse will contemplate leaving. People will ask if you’ve had enough of your cute little hobby yet and are ready to get a real degree/real job.

(Those are usually the same people who, when you attain any measure of success, will say things like, “See? I always told you you could do it, you just needed a little perseverance!”)

They read.

This should go hand in hand with writing, because you can’t write if you don’t read. If you want to write good books, you must read good books. And not just what’s topping the bestseller charts and what sits in the window display of your closest chain bookstore either. If you want to write original, interesting stories, you must read widely.

They find the time to do all these things. 

I already went over this when I talked about sacrifices, but it bears repeating. I’m fortunate enough to have enough leisure time (my course load at school isn’t overwhelming, I don’t have children, and I have my own room I use as an office, with a door that shuts (very important!)). So I was very surprised to find out I got more writing done during the semester than on break, and even the quality of the writing was better. Why? Because of the adversity effect. On vacation, I’d get up at noon, have a coffee, another coffee, hang around social media, and before I knew it, oops, it was five in the afternoon and I’d written a whole lot of nothing. During the school year, though, it was more like “I must get in another chapter between writing these two gigantic research papers!” and I’d be hammering out 3000 words in my forty-five-minute lunch break because I knew it was the only writing time I’d have all day. That feeling of time crunch motivated me instead of stressing me. So the good news is, perhaps having to find time isn’t such a bad thing after all.

The point of all this is, if being a writer was only about self-hatred and booze, there would be a lot more NYT bestsellers around. Sadly, no, it takes a little more than that.

And by the way, I don’t need to drink. I can stop whenever I want.

drinking

A Little Update

You may have noticed I’ve been quiet for a while, not really blogging or reviewing. That’s because I’m hoping to share some exciting developments soon, and that also means I’m in the process of designing a more official-looking website, with news, photos, updates, and other fun things.

Stay tuned!

 

 

My top 10 of 2015

10. The Ice Twins

ice twins

It’s a well-written thriller, and despite the fact that it was nominated in the horror category on Goodreads, it’s psychological with only bits of implied supernatural happenings. What puts it in tenth place in spite of its merits is the reveal in the end, with which I had problems. But no spoilers here. Read for yourself.

9. Let the Old Dreams Die

old dreams

Yes, Let the Right One In has a followup. Except not really. Only one story in this anthology took place in the same universe as LtROI. And most of it had nothing to do with Oskar and Eli. But my favorite story in this collection was the first one, Border. That alone makes this book worth it.

8. We Need to Talk About Kevin

kevin1

Sociopathic child grows into murderous sociopathic teen. What’s not to love? This book is slow to get going and very long, but if you stick with it and power through that wordy, overwritten beginning, it has some wonderful surprises to offer.

7. The Wicked Girls

wicked girls 1

More sociopathic kids. In this book, the story is split between the murder the two main characters committed as young children and the rather predictable story of a murder spree in an English resort town. The past and the psychologies of the protagonists interested me so much more. They’re superbly written and the subject just too intriguing to pass up.

6. Before I Go To Sleep

200px-BeforeIGoToSleep

This gets the prize of “I can’t believe I didn’t get to it until now”. Despite the plot holes, it’s compulsively readable and unputdownable.

5. Save Yourself

save yourself

Sociopathic goth teens. Yes. My favorite subject. Here, I found the goth kids so much more compelling and fun to read about than the whiny and weak protagonist–although it was part of the book’s charm. Not in the top four because [spoiler] goths who drink blood… give me a f—— break.

south park goth kids

4. Snowdrops.

snowdrops

Russia in the late 90s-early 2000s was a chaotic Babylon and a godsend for crime fiction. Again, the setting and supporting characters were so much more vivid than the protagonist–but in this case, it’s clearly intentional, the better to establish a contrast between the “hero’s” white-bread Western life and the law-of-the-jungle world of Moscow.

3. Glass Bodies

corps

This hasn’t come out in English yet so I read the French translation. An obscure rock star makes personalized tapes for suicidal teens to listen to while they kill themselves. Also some much-appreciated hints as to what became of the characters from the Crow Girl series after the end.

2. The Crow Girl series

axl

It comes out in July (I think) so I read it in French translation too. AMAZING, deliciously dark and oftentimes disgusting trilogy about, among other things, abuse, murder, cults, dissociative identity disorder, and child soldiers. Not for the faint of heart.

And number one…

1. Night Film

night film

I don’t know what to say about this phenomenal book except that it blew my mind. I have broken out of the locked room. Marisha Pessl is a genius storyteller and a master of narrative structure. It’s insanely long and worth Every. God. Damn. Page.