Kiana Nguyen

YA Fantasy and Thriller

On Submission


Alex Higgins is a college student majoring in English. She was born and raised in Maryland as the oldest of three girls, and she spent most of her childhood with her nose stuck in a book. When she is not juggling writing and schoolwork, she enjoys watching tennis, scoping out the latest true crime documentary, and going on walks with her dog.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I started seriously pursuing publication in 2016. The beginning of my career really started when I was chosen by Kayla Olson in round 1 of AMM in January 2017; I’d written two completed books prior to the one I submitted for AMM. My AMM book didn’t get any agent offers, but my next book did, and I signed with my agent in February 2018. I’ve done at least three major revisions since then, including one rewrite. My book has spent more than a year on sub, so I’m no stranger to the wait times in publishing.

I’m an English major and I’ve taken a couple creative writing courses, so I know my way around the building blocks of a story (plus, I’m a diehard plotter–ask me about beat sheets!). Many of my CPs have signed with agents, and many have also gone on to sell their books to major publishers. As for mentoring experience, I’ve been a mentee and a mentor in AMM before.

I’m mentoring in AMM not just because I love helping other writers, but because I want to give back to the program that helped me get to where I am. AMM and my lovely mentor had a huge impact on how I improved my craft and signed with my agent–I wouldn’t be here without AMM. Being picked as a mentee in round 1 honestly changed my life, and it would be an honor to help another writer the way my mentor helped me.

I’m looking for someone who knows the basics of craft but wants to level up and make their stories even better. AMM is all about growing and pushing yourself to be a better writer, and I’m here to help my mentee do just that. I want to be there for my mentee every step of the way, from revising to querying to submission and beyond, no matter how long that may take.

My tastes are split into two genres: 1) contemporary or “quiet” fantasy books, and 2) mysteries and thrillers. Speculative fiction is my jam, but I’m also craving a thriller that can sit on the shelf beside authors like Kara Thomas and Karen McManus. Regardless of genre, I’m looking for a story that grabs my attention and doesn’t let go until long after the last page. It might hit a few points on my MSWL, or it might not have any of those things–at the end of the day, I’m really looking for a story that has heart in it.

Ideally, I’m a mentor for life. I want to fall in love with my mentee’s prose and their “brand,” and I’m here to offer help and companionship as they go on their publishing journey.

  • Fantasy
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • #ownvoices
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror

I love a good contemporary fantasy with a mystery element, like THE WICKED DEEP or THE DEVOURING GRAY. For second world fantasies, I like “quieter” stories with smaller worlds, like THE GRACE YEARS. I also love a mystery/thriller with no fantasy elements–anything that can comp to Kara Thomas or SADIE is on my must-have list. For all genres, I’m particularly fond of stories with queer main characters.


  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
  • Freestyle in chat

I’d describe my mentoring style as a cheerleader who isn’t afraid to dispense some tough love. To start, I’d like to get to know my mentee a little better and learn what they want their finished book to look and feel like. After that, I’d start with a big picture edit letter and offer as much help as my mentee wants with making a revision plan. I’m a HUGE fan of plotting and I have plenty of exercises and resources I’d love to share with my mentee (but it’s okay if they’re a pantser, too). We’d do as many rounds of edits as it takes for them to feel happy with the big picture story before we move on to line edits. I can’t promise I can edit every single line–my area of expertise is big picture edits–but I can leave in-line comments to help identify scenes and sections of prose that can be made stronger. Once my mentee is happy with their book, we can move on to making a strategy for querying. I want to help as much as I can–writing is a big part of the journey toward publication, but an equally important part is navigating the publishing industry. I’m here for my mentee for all parts of their journey. Ideally, I’m a mentor for life, not just for the AMM book.


  • Isn’t afraid of hard work
  • Determined
  • Communicative and willing to ask for help when they need it
  • Able to take constructive criticism
  • Someone who can find positivity in anything. Writing is hard, and so is publishing in general, but you need to find joy in it, too!
  • Overall, I’m looking for someone who is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to make their book stronger.


  • Queer girl protagonists
  • F/F romances
  • Multi-POVs
  • Enemies to lovers, or hate to love
  • Love triangles that HURT
  • Villain romances
  • Strong romantic subplots
  • Vampires, witches, and werewolves!
  • Stories that can comp to THE RAVEN BOYS, SAWKILL GIRLS, and/or SADIE
  • Dark and gritty mysteries (a la THE DARKEST CORNERS)
  • Characters from a variety of socioeconomic levels
  • Stories that have unique structures (flashbacks, multiple timelines, transcripts like the ones in SADIE, etc.)
  • If you have a YA Kylo Ren, I want it
  • The “there’s only one bed” trope
  • Horror, especially body horror
  • A story that is so creepy and scary, it makes me sleep with the lights onThese are things

These are things I’d love to see in my inbox, but don’t let this limit you! Ultimately, I’m looking for strong writing and an interesting concept.


  • Stories that focus on sexual assault or use it as plot points
  • Long lost heirs to the throne, or overthrown heirs trying to get their thrones back
  • Mermaids
  • The bury your gays trope (queer characters can have unhappy stories, but stories where their pain is tied to their sexual identity are not for me)


– WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power
– SADIE by Courtney Summers
– THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black
– THE RAVEN CYCLE by Maggie Stiefvater
– Everything by Kara Thomas, but especially LITTLE MONSTERS
– THE WICKED DEEP by Shea Ernshaw
– SAWKILL GIRLS by Claire Legrand
– The Grishaverse books by Leigh Bardugo
– ALL THE MISSING GIRLS by Megan Miranda

– Stranger Things
– The Office
– Game of Thrones (we don’t talk about the last season…or anything after season 4 honestly)
– Killing Eve
– The Vampire Diaries
– Mindhunter
– Dexter
– Scooby Doo (what can I say? it was formative to me as a mystery lover!)
– The Staircase and Evil Genius and other true crime documentaries
– Ozark
– Hemlock Grove
– Outlander

– Gone Girl (love the book, too, but my favorite Flynn is DARK PLACES)
– The Village
– 10 Things I Hate About You
– Pride and Prejudice (the 2004 version!)
– Twilight Saga
– The Hunger Games series–Catching Fire is my favorite movie
– Silence of the Lambs
– Beauty and the Beast
– Knives Out