Mentor Edward Underhill

www.edward-underhill.com
@EdwardUnderhill

AGENT
Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

WRITES
YA Contemporary, Romance, Historical Fantasy

BOOKS
ALWAYS THE ALMOST
(2023) Wednesday Books/Macmillan

BIO
Edward Underhill writes music for animated TV shows by day and words for teenagers by night. He grew up in Wisconsin and earned his bachelors in music composition from the Oberlin Conservatory (while also writing queer ghost stories for a campus magazine). A queer trans man, Edward is a recipient of the SCBWI-LA Mentorship Award and currently resides in Los Angeles with his partner and a talkative black cat. His debut young adult romcom ALWAYS THE ALMOST will release from Wednesday Books/Macmillan in spring 2023, with a second novel to follow. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @edwardunderhill.

PUBLISHING BACKGROUND
I pitched ALWAYS THE ALMOST during PitMad in September 2020. I figured I had nothing to lose and forcing myself to craft a short, snappy pitch seemed like great practice. (I was about to cold query – I had a query letter written and an extensively-researched spreadsheet of agents!) That PitMad tweet led to three offers of representation, and in October, I signed with Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon. I spent several months revising with her, and we went out on submission in January 2021. A few weeks later (!), ALWAYS THE ALMOST sold to Wednesday Books in a two-book deal, and will be coming out in Spring 2023!

This might look fast from the outside. But before any of this happened, I revised the book (for months) with a wonderful mentor, after winning a mentorship in an SCBWI contest. Before that, I revised the book (for months) by myself. And before I even wrote ALWAYS THE ALMOST, I queried another novel for over a year that I was *sure* was going to be The One…only every agent passed on it. Before that, I wrote books and books and books. I’ve been writing novels since I was a teenager. Some of them were genuinely terrible. But I learned something new with each one I wrote. Each one was a stepping stone to the writer I am now, and each one led (at least a little bit) to ALWAYS THE ALMOST.

Querying and publishing is a wild ride (with great highs and terrible lows), and I’m *still* learning. Having friends and mentors and people in my corner has made a huge difference. It’s invaluable to have someone who believes in you and your work, who can push you to make it better, share their knowledge with you, and remind you how much you love writing on the days when you wonder what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into.

EXPERIENCE
I’ve been on the other side of mentoring – as a mentee – so I know what it’s like to get extensive feedback on work that you have poured your heart and soul into. I’m currently part of a critique group, and I’ve learned a lot from the mentors who have helped me, as well as from my agent and editor, about how to think about both the big picture and the nitty gritty details of a story. Otherwise, I’m more or less self-taught as a writer, but this also means I don’t believe there’s one path to crafting a good story, much less publishing it.

OVERVIEW
One of the most important steps on my journey to publication was being selected for the SCBWI-LA Mentorship Contest. My mentor not only helped me polish my manuscript, she also helped me craft a query letter, and then talked me through three offers of representation. The publishing industry can be opaque, even when you’re wading into it, and I am forever grateful to her for sharing her experiences, answering my questions, and guiding me through the stresses of revising, querying, and submission. My hope is to pass on what I’ve learned to someone else. We’re in this because we love writing and we love telling stories. My goal is to help my mentee hold onto that love, while also getting ready for the big (and sometimes scary) leaps that lie ahead.

I’m looking for YA contemporary, romance, romcoms, historical, historical fantasy, and contemporary/urban fantasy. I have pretty wide-ranging tastes! In general, I prefer character-driven stories over intricate, complex plots, but I’ll read anything that’s in search of emotional truth. I love books that are both heartfelt and hilarious, and queer, trans, and/or nonbinary rep is always a plus! If you’ve got a character who feels real, deep, and messy (in other words – a teenager), I will follow them anywhere.

MENTORING GENRES
Young Adult

  • Contemporary
  • Romance
  • Fantasy
  • Historical
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy

Tropes/Genre Preferences:
-LGBTQIAP+ rep
-Found family
-Gentle boys
-Ambitious girls
-Complicated friendships
-Ride-or-die friends of any gender combination
-Friends-to-lovers
-Enemies-to-lovers (but I’m picky about these – it really needs to be nuanced and complex!)
-Musicians, artists, podcasters, budding paleontologists… I love characters who are obsessed with nerdy things.

 

I WILL PROVIDE:

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

WORKING STYLE
I’d describe my mentoring style as warm and encouraging, but also honest. I will not rip your manuscript to shreds (I promise!) but I am here to help you make your work the best it can be, and hold you accountable to a high standard (because I believe in you!). I will probably start with an overall edit letter (bigger picture feedback), and from there we can have a phone call or a video chat and discuss everything. I’m not necessarily going to give you all the answers, because it’s your story! Instead, I’ll ask you questions and talk through your story and your characters with you, so you can go deeper and find what really makes your book tick. We’ll craft a revision plan together and come up with a plan that feels good to you.

I prefer to read full manuscripts all at once, at least at first, but after that, I am happy look at specific pages or chapters you might be stuck on, or answer questions as you go. Depending on my own deadlines, I may not be able to respond immediately, but if I’m going to be delayed for any reason, I will let you know as soon as I can. I’m also happy to help you craft a query letter, consult on agents you might want to query, and help you through the querying process if you would find that helpful.

IDEAL MENTEE
My ideal mentee deeply loves their story but understands that revision is a necessary step on the path to publication, and sometimes that means big overhauls, not just changing a few paragraphs around. I’d love to work with a mentee who is ready to put in the work to take their project to the next level and is open to feedback. I’ll point out anything I don’t feel is working, and I’ll probably even make suggestions for ways to fix these things, but it’s up to you to dig in and figure out how to make changes in the best way for your characters and your story. It is always okay to ask for help, and I’d prefer you ask for help when you’re stuck, rather than just bang your head against the wall. In my experience, discussing a problem is always helpful – chances are, even if my suggestions aren’t quite the right fit, talking it through will help you think of new things to try!

My ideal mentee also respects teenagers as real, messy, and whole human beings who aren’t stand-ins for adults but also aren’t here to be preached at. I love teens who make mistakes, who are passionate, and who have all the feelings, and I hope you do, too!

Finally, I do have deadlines and my own work, and I’m sure you will have things come up as well. So my ideal mentee would be okay being a little flexible from time-to-time. I’ll communicate when I need that flexibility, and I hope you will, too!

SEND ME:

ROMCOMS: I love a good romcom, but I’m the best fit for one that isn’t JUST about the romance (what else does your MC want?). If your romcom is queer and/or trans/nonbinary? I need it immediately.

CONTEMPORARY:
I would love to see queer and/or trans rep, characters who care deeply about nerdy things, dreamers who find the reality is complicated, artists and musicians, anything taking place in the Midwest or outside the typical Big City Centers, anything that could be described as snarky, voicey, deeply emotional, eerie, quirky, or weird. Here for sad if it also has some light moments.

HISTORICAL/HISTORICAL FANTASY:
In the interest of being transparent, I am much more likely to go for these genres if you make it queer. Give me your gay sailors, your cross-dressing pirates, your trans cowboys! Any era and any place, including anachronistic takes or alternate realities. For fantasy, again, much more likely to go for it if it’s queer, and if it could be described as witchy or gothic on top of that, I WANT IT.

URBAN/CONTEMPORARY FANTASY:
Vampires, werewolves, monsters, and witches are all welcome, but again…more interested if it’s queer. I’m not the right fit for vampires creeping on girls, or for traditional straight/hetero romances in these categories. If it has the energy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with the rep of Cemetery Boys, I’m in.

ACROSS THE BOARD:
While I have a special love for (and experience writing) queer and trans rep, I am also open to stories from all marginalized voices, including (but not limited to) BIPOC, disabled, fat, and ND voices. **Please note: While I love trans and queer stories, you yourself as an author do not need to be out publicly and do not need to come out to me (though you are welcome to!). All I ask for is responsible, thoughtful rep on the page.**

A FINAL THOUGHT:
If you have something that isn’t mentioned above, but you think (after reading my profile) that we’d be a good fit, send it! I am always open to being surprised by something I never knew I needed!

DO NOT SEND ME:

  • Gory or extremely violent horror
  • Weight-loss arcs
  • Trans stories told through the eyes of a cishet MC (I’m not here for “my brother/sister is trans and it’s hard for me” – sorry)
  • Bury your gays (zombie gays welcome)
  • Stories that feature the “magical healing” of a disability
  • Graphic depictions of sexual assault
  • Sword-wielding girls taking on court intrigue (I love reading these books, but I am not the best mentor for them)

FAVES

Movies: While You Were Sleeping, How To Train Your Dragon, Pacific Rim, Spirited Away, Gosford Park, 10 Things I Hate About You

TV: What We Do In The Shadows, Ted Lasso, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Fullmetal Alchemist, Veronica Mars, Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Books: Too many to narrow down effectively, so let’s do this: If your book can be comped to HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones, IT GOES LIKE THIS by Miel Moreland, THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzi Lee, THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE by Patrick Ness, INDESTRUCTIBLE OBJECT by Mary McCoy, or the romcoms of Becky Albertalli or Sophie Gonzales, there’s a very good chance I want to see it, because I deeply love these books.

Random other things I love: Plants and cats. That’s it. That’s my whole personality.