YA Thriller/Suspense and Dark Fantasy
On Submission with a dual-timeline YA Thriller
Carlyn Greenwald is a Manhattan Beach, CA native who can’t handle the sun for more than 3 hours, a recent graduate of University of Southern California who doesn’t understand football, and a lover of books, TV/film, celebrity culture, history, dogs, and occasionally obscure indie films. Besides writing novels, she’s also a screenwriter, most recently a semifinalist in the CBS Writers Mentoring Program, and works in development/production in Hollywood.
I technically started writing terrible, wacky crime novels at age 13, but things really started getting serious when I was accepted into Pitch Wars ’16 with a YA heist novel set at Comic Con. I worked with Rachel Lynn Solomon and Kit Frick to revise the novel, and both learned depth to the craft I’d never known of before as well as cemented a path towards traditional publication. I queried out my Pitch Wars novel, ultimately gathered up 100+ rejections, and had to move on. I drafted a couple more novels, including a YA Thriller in late 2017 that called back to the wacky, dark novels I wrote as a teen. I submitted it in AMM R4 in early 2018, and was accepted by Rebecca Barrow. After revising together, I participated in DVpit, and ultimately found my agent through it. After signing in late May (and graduating college — it was a hectic week), my agent and I went through 3 developmental and 1 series of line edits on the manuscript. By early February 2019, it’s on sub. Fingers crossed!
I’ve been in the beta reading/CP world since the days of fictionpress.com as a young teen, and have since been working to give feedback local and developmental for a multitude of different writer friends, including several now represented by awesome agents. I’ve also been a mentee in Pitch Wars and AMM, and have tons of experience making query letters clear and snappy.
On the education front, I have a degree in English/Film from USC, where I took classes both in the general workshop structure as well as editing classes. So, I can help with improving the story and fixing your grammar at a collegiate level. On top of that, I have degrees in criminology and screenwriting, so if you need someone to confirm if that substance could contain DNA or want to work with more experimental structure for your novels, I got you. (And I have an honorary history minor as well.)
I’ve worked for several literary agents, and have otherwise spent the past five years working grunt jobs at Hollywood production companies and talent management companies. I’m currently a (supposedly beloved) script reader for an established production/management company in LA.
After being mentored in two different but wonderful contests across three mentors, I can without a doubt say that I wouldn’t be nearly where I am in terms of how good my craft is or how wise to the industry without my mentors. I consider each of my mentors a good friend and we continue to CP each other’s work. With that, I feel as though I’ve accumulated enough knowledge about craft, genre conventions, and marketability to both identify stories with potential and work to make those stories as great as they can possibly be. It feels like it’s time to pay it forward for future upcoming writers, and more than anything, I’d love to find a writer, nurture their talent, and become friends along the way.
Overall, I’m here for dark, dark, dark. Bring me your mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels. Contemporary, historical, or set in a different world, it’s all good to me. Bring me morally ambiguous casts of characters (particularly females), villain protagonists (and regular ole villains), crimes galore, survival stories, and stories that would be described as “unputdownable” or cause people “stress” while reading. I’m also really into infusing humor, so if your book is super dark and could make me cry, but still makes me laugh, I’ll be in love. Contemporary suspense novels are my lifeblood, but I also adore dark fantasies of all sorts. Basically, if someone gets murdered, I’m here for it. If multiple people are murdered, even better. If your protagonist causes these murders, you’ve got me. I’d also love to work with #ownvoices authors, and can help with any Jewish and OCD rep.
I love all sorts of crime novels — murder mysteries, fugitive stories, heist novels, revenge stories. If your protagonist is a criminal, I love them already. I have a particular affinity for mob stories, “gentleman” thieves, hitmen, forgers, arsonists….okay like seriously, any type of criminal (except rapists, duh). I’m down for the range of settings, from gritty realism to murders at the private school to over the top heists a la Ocean’s Eight. I love love love female criminals — mixed gender gangs or all female gangs galore.
I have a particular love for survival thrillers. I’m talking a good old fashioned “we wanted to go camping in the woods but something went wrong.” Woods, frozen tundra, desert, etc. If you happen to also have a mysterious serial killer in that survival story, that’s a gold mine for me.
I also love unconventional structure! Advertisements, script writing, emails, letters, etc within the text, when done well, is incredible. I’m also super into unconventional POV choices and timelines, especially short timelines. Contained setting stories are also very cool.
With fantasy, I’m a sucker for history-based or history-adjacent worlds. I’m more here for magic users over elves/talking animals/fae/etc. Legends and magic, including stories where monsters might just be more than legends. Basically, as long as someone is dying, whether from court intrigue or because the main character is a serial killer in a fantasy world, I’m down. Villain love interests are my weakness. Thinking Darkling, Cardan, Kylo Ren (does he even count?), the Phantom, those early seasons of ATLA Zuko. Additionally, if your protagonist/LI starts out a pure cinnamon roll and gets corrupted, also amazing. I’m also a sucker for anything involving circuses and the arts.
A few tropes I LOVE: unlikable female protagonist; enemies to lovers; villain love interest; small town mystery; found family; glamorous heist/group of thieves; hero-to-villain arcs; girl who will kill you and the soft boy willing to murder right beside her
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Freestyle in chat
I plan to start with developmental edits, where I’ll give a long list of everything I love about the manuscript and then go through what big picture things can be done. This can include beefing up characters, developing arcs, developing romantic relationships, tightening the plot, pacing, and developing the world/setting. After that, the mentee will revise and I’ll then go through a line edit. This will include all those funny little reaction comments (ask anyone who knows me; these can actually be quite entertaining) and spots where I’d want more description, emotion, etc to improve the prose to top shininess. Every step along the way, my DMs/phone will be open for on-the-spot brainstorming sessions, cheerleading, and memes about your characters. Once the manuscript is in its top tier/whenever the mentee wants to, we can also start working on the query letter. It sometimes helps in the developmental edit stage to write out a query to see if stakes/character arcs are there.
Overall, I’m best with developing characters and establishing tension and pacing, and am a whiz with dialogue on a line edit level. I wouldn’t be the best fit for making your prose beautiful (can someone teach me?) or try to form a plot/stakes with a contemporary/character driven story. I’m pumped to refine a plot and make it as twisty as possible, but I can’t conjure them from too little.
My ideal mentee would be someone who wants to take this mentoring experience seriously, and both use their strengths in writing to max as well as pick up new skills to improve their manuscript. Someone’s who’s hard working and has great attention to detail would be amazing; I’m a sucker for adding more and more details to my book as revisions go on, and I love developing them with people. Someone who shares my passion for darker literature and pushing boundaries in YA would be incredible, and have an irreverent and dark sense of humor would only add to it. In an ideal world, I’m here to potentially meet lifelong friends and CPs, so if you’re willing to learn, are serious about this publishing game, and our tastes align, it’d be a dream. Bonus points if you want to write fanfiction about your own book because half your ideas are just funny and don’t add to the plot.
- a contemporary heist novel with a rat pack as close as the Dregs
- female criminals
- something set in the world of the lowest rung workers in Hollywood
- anything set in LA
- SURVIVAL THRILLERS — camping stories gone wrong! expeditions gone wrong! you just got lost in the woods?
- heroes who turn into villains by the end
- fantasy criminals
- family stories
- forbidden romance
- unreliable narrators
- enemies to lovers (but like “we’re both trying to kill each other” enemies)
- disabled characters who kick ass with, even because of, their disabilities a la Kaz Brekker
- Bonnie and Clyde type duos
- magic systems that end up making its wielders waaaay better killers than otherwise
- anything that makes you go “is this too much for YA” (both in terms of violence and sex)
And I suppose it goes without saying, but diversity! I have a soft spot for Jewish characters, as well as everything on the LGBTQA spectrum, racially diverse, disabilities, mental illness, minority religions, etc.
And a short list of random things: twins, forbidden romance, snow, emo/punk music, sex positivity, theme parks.
DO NOT SEND ME:
- vague feudal English-based fantasy (pick a more specific time! even other European countries are less mined in fantasy than England!)
- Urban Fantasy/Contemporary Fantasy (other mentors want it so much more!)
- rape as a plot device
- graphic animal violence (killing to survive is the exception)
- Contemporary without suspense elements
- books that exclusively feature allocishet white people
- Sadie by Courtney Summers
- Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo (favorite: Six of Crows)
- The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
- When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn
- Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
- Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
- My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Farris
- Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
- Killing Eve
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- The Borgias
- The End of the F***ing World
- Twin Peaks
- Stranger Things
- Bates Motel
- Gravity Falls
- The Iron Giant
- Inglourious Basterds
- Bad Times at the El Royale
- Nocturnal Animals
- Logan Lucky
- STAR WARS! TLJ IS A MASTERPIECE!
- The Phantom of the Opera
- Les Miserables