Hillary Jacobson, ICM Partners

Gothic and Literary

In Revisions

Cassandra is an Australian YA writer. She has a Master of Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing from the University of Melbourne. Her short fiction has been published in magazines and online journals and she was a PitchWars mentee in 2017. She now lives in France and is working her way through all their cheese.

I started writing short film scripts and making films at university but I realised early on I would never be able to cope with getting up early enough to be on time to set. I wrote and produced a few short animations that I’m still very proud of. I really got serious about my writing in 2011. I joined Writers Victoria, which runs a lot of workshops for writers and is a great community. I also attended the Djerassi YA novel writing workshop in California with Nova Ren Suma. I found my wonderful agent through PitchWars last year and I am currently revising it before we go out on submission.

I have long been a member of an online writing group, where we beta read and edit each other’s fiction and non-fiction, a lot of which has since been published. I freelance as a proofreader and copy editor. I mostly do tertiary education textbooks (which has made me great at pub trivia).

My master’s thesis was about gothic sisterhoods in YA fiction. This degree also taught me a lot about providing constructive feedback and understanding the craft of fiction. I’ve also been through PitchWars as a mentee, so I know what it feels like to submit to these sorts of events.

I’ve also been an Aurealis slush pile reader and 2016-17 Aurealis Award Judge for illustrated works.

I got a lot out of my PitchWars experience and I am keen to pay it forward to another writer. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am in my writing life and the rest of my life without some really great mentors, and I would be honoured to be that person for someone.

I’m looking for something quirky, and hopefully a little bold. If you think you’ve taken a risk with something new, please send it to me. I can’t wait to really start digging around in your manuscript. I’m looking for someone for who I can make the biggest difference to their manuscript. Writing is lonely and it can be hard to find people who click with your writing. Which is why I am here! I’m keen to pay it forward as I’ve received a lot of awesome mentoring, formal and informal, throughout my writing career. I hope I can be that person in AMM.

  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • ownvoices
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Gothic / Literary

I love the metaphorical flair of the Gothic and it’s deep ethical dilemmas. The dark secrets that won’t stay buried. And all those unreliable and unlikable characters. I love a bit of gallows humour as well.

My favourite books tend to blur the edges of genre. If there’s something odd, or quirky that makes it not quite fit into one of the genres above, chances are I’m gonna love it. I love retellings, if they show the original story in a totally new light, and have something new to say as well.

I’m definitely not a fan of anything that panders to stereotypes or seems oblivious to the rest of the discourse out there around the subject they’re writing about. I expect characters to be diverse, representing the world we live in. I’m not so hot on friends to lovers, anything stalkerish. If it’s straight up fighting alien invasions, I’m probably not the best mentor for this.


  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
  • Skype or phone call

First off, I’ll probably want to have some communication with my mentee about what they are hoping to do with their story.

I am going to tough on the big picture elements, the structure, what it is that you are trying to say. I come from a classical/academic background, so I guess I’m expecting my mentee to think about the themes and why they’ve written something a certain way. But that doesn’t mean I am not open to something experimental. Quite the opposite really.

I’m prepared to be flexible depending on what the book needs, but I envisage we’ll do a big picture/developmental edit first, then we’ll look at it more closely in a line edit. Chances are we’ll be in different time zones, but I am open to Skype or online chats. I want to know what it is that you are trying to do with your manuscript and helping you do that. I don’t want to be prescriptive and say ‘do this, do that’.

Post revising, I’ll be here for you in the query trenches. Having been there myself, I know what it feels like, and how invaluable it is to have someone to support you through the process.’

I hope that this mentorship will become the start of a long association throughout our careers.

My ideal mentee is someone who is passionate about the area that they are writing in. I would expect that they would be widely read in their genre and are prepared to discuss their work in detail.

I have pretty eclectic tastes, so I don’t want to delineate too much here because I don’t want to discourage anybody who might not submit to me because they felt like they didn’t tick everything on my wishlist.

If it’s weird and twisty and you aren’t exactly sure what genre you’ve written, I’ll probably want to read it. A book that happens at the crumbling edge of reality is the type I want to read.

Some things I would dig:
Teenage girls being oh so unlikeably bad, yes please.
Atmospheric, creepy settings that are characters themselves.
murdery and or supernatural thrillers
Vantablack humour.
Smart-arse witches.
Unreliable narrators.
Characters making bad choices and then things getting generally worse.
Toxic friendships.
Ghosts doing more than just ghosting.
A YA version of the Nightvale, Alice isn’t Dead or Lore podcast series.
Non-American settings (I’m homesick for Australia!)

But! I’m very open to surprises.

I’m not the best for:
Court intrigue-type fantasies. I would have died pretty quickly in Game of Thrones.
High Fantasy, unless it features a lot of my mswl.
Epistolary stories, I have a tough time getting into them and would probably pass.
Teens being assassins or rulers or generally teens in jobs that teens don’t normally have.
Sexual violence against women by partners.

Some writers whose work I admire, to help you get my vibe:

Shirley Jackson
Frances Hardinge
Nova Ren Suma
Margo Lanagan
Patrick Ness
Neil Gaiman
Audrey Niffenegger
Angela Carter
Toni Morrison
David Almond
Penni Russon
Sarah Waters
Francesca Simon
Allyse Near

A random assortment of movies and TV I have watched recently and loved.

Pan’s Labyrinth
The Fountain
What We do in the Shadows
Stranger Things