Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary
YA Fantasy/Sci Fi/Historical
Emma Theriault was born and raised in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, and thus has a penchant for gothic revival architecture and a constant craving for Beavertails. She has been everything from an enthusiastic bookseller (who once sold a book to Prime Minister Trudeau) to a purveyor of whitewater rafting adventures in the Interior of British Columbia. When not writing books about curses and blood magic, she can be found eating burritos, hiking with her boyfriend or cuddling with her cats, Gatsby and Harriet. She also shares a birthday with George R.R. Martin, which must mean something cosmically, she just isn’t sure what.
My first books were about girls finding magical portals to hidden kingdoms which they would then rule over benevolently (there was a distinct lack of conflict in my early writing). I went to a specialized arts high school for writing, which was a wonderful experience, but I always saw publishing as something I would pursue when I was older and wiser. When I became a bookseller after high school, I was a slightly reformed book snob who all of a sudden had to read YA for the first time in a very long time. I fell in love instantly (instalove?) and knew I didn’t want to wait, I wanted to see my own YA books on shelves. Since then I’ve written three books, one of which will never see the light of day (written in the height of the post-Hunger Games dystopian frenzy). I signed with my agent with my second book, BY SEA OR SWORD. It’s a book about immortality and witchcraft and the lies we tell ourselves. Together, we cut 23k from my query draft and it nearly killed me. Now we are on submission and I am hard at work on book four, a book about the power of memory and the pursuit of revenge for two very different girls attempting to overthrow the same tyrant king.
I’ve been critiquing since high school, where our work would be put up on the overhead projector in my literary arts class for everyone to tear apart in a group setting. It was a generally daunting experience but it made me a competent writer and editor. In university I majored in history and minored in anthropology. I took a lot of courses about kingship in Anglo-Saxon England, Vikings, mythology, Paleolithic cultures, etc. I am also an active critique partner and have critiqued published books (and some NYT bestsellers!).
The publishing industry can seem like an unconquerable beast to those peering in (and to those in the thick of it!) Along the way, I’ve had several people ahead of me help to light the way, so to speak. Friends and critique partners are immeasurably important parts of anyone’s writing journey. I’d love to help light the way for anyone coming up behind me.
As a mentor and critique partner, I tend to be more of a big-picture sort of thinker, helping identify plot holes or missing pieces of character arcs, and brainstorming ways to work through them. If something isn’t working, I’m going to let you know (while also leaving lots of positive comments on sentences that I love). I love reading character-driven stories with strong voice, but am probably not the right mentor if you’re still trying to figure out the whole voice thing.
I have a bit of a thing for worldbuilding. I invented prayers, nursery rhymes, epic poems, folklore, warrants, work songs, fairy tales, hypotheses from fictional historians, book excerpts, letters from crown emissaries, and recipes for my book. If this sort of attention to detail appeals to you, I am the mentor for you. (Side note, if this sort of attention to detail frightens you, I might still be the mentor for you! Worldbuilding like the above is my jam, but subtle worldbuilding has its charms, too!)
If your book has sword fights, magic, witches, devious plots, fallen kingdoms, disguises, curses, deep worldbuilding, diverse cultures and points of view, supportive female friendships, an appreciation of history, etc, I am the mentor for you. I want to be taken on a journey I didn’t expect. I want your book to creep up on me, to make me cry silently next to my snoring boyfriend at 3 am. First and foremost though, your characters have to feel real. I want them to make impossible choices and grow into different people than they were before.
- Magical Realism/Fabulism
- Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
Tropes I love: Hate-to-love romance. If your characters start off as mortal enemies, sign me up. I am also a sucker for disguises (girls dressing as boys to get into places they normally couldn’t, wholly invented backgrounds for nefarious purposes, etc).
Tropes I hate: Girl hate. I need strong female friendships, aka girls who support and cherish one another. I will not abide by slut shaming or “I’m not like other girls” narratives. I dislike characters who are Evil for the sake of being evil. I want a villain who could easily be the protagonist of another version of your book. I’m also pretty tired of clumsy main characters. Not everyone is clumsy! (I say this as someone who is incredibly clumsy. I once had to have hand surgery because of my clumsiness). I think that “clumsiness” as a character trait is a crutch for creating sympathy or depth, and it never works in my opinion.
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Freestyle in chat
When I’m critiquing I love to pour all of my feelings into a large edit letter. After a few rounds of big-picture edits, I love focusing on sentence-level stuff in a line edit. But of course, I’m willing to work with my mentee to decide what is right for us!
My ideal mentee wants to form a lasting partnership, and isn’t afraid of constructive criticism, because the best writing is born out of feedback from others. I am looking for someone who is passionate about reading and writing, someone who isn’t afraid of hard work, and who understands that the publishing industry is a marathon, not a sprint.
Historical fantasy from time periods/places we haven’t read about yet (vikings! the Song Dynasty! Teotihuacan! etc), dark fantasy with morally grey characters, superb attention to worldbuilding details, SIX OF CROWS-esque heist novels in fantastical settings, fresh retellings (not Shakespearean, and I love a good twist!).
DO NOT SEND ME:
I am not the mentor for mermaids, instalove, abuse masquerading as “romance”, assassin books with little to no killing, characters who don’t have to make hard decisions, books without consequences, or entirely cishet casts of characters.
Authors I love: Gail Carson Levine, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Rosamund Hodge, Marie Rutkoski, Sabaa Tahir, Victoria Aveyard, Alwyn Hamilton, Guy Gavriel Kay, GRRM, Louise Rennison, Holly Black, Victoria Schwab, Madeline Miller, Naomi Novik, Tamora Pierce.
Movies: LOTR extended editions, Moon, Blade Runner, Ex Machina, There Will Be Blood, Ever After, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Prestige, Belle, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sunshine, Cold Mountain, Howl’s Moving Castle, Now & Then, Dead Poet’s Society, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.
TV Shows: My Mad Fat Diary, Veep, Seasons 1-4 of Game of Thrones, Outlander, Silicon Valley, LOST, Freaks and Geeks, Sense8, Battlestar Galactica, Stranger Things, Lovesick (formerly Scrotal Recall), Black Mirror, The Crown, Gilmore Girls, pretty much any documentary dealing with royalty, castles, historical murders, food etc.
I’m forgetting so many things.