Mentor Mary E. Roach

Abbie Donoghue, New Leaf Literary

YA Thrillers, SFF, Mysteries & Horror; Adult SFF & Thrillers; MG Mystery & Adventure


Mary E. Roach is a writer of books for young adults and adult audiences. Mary has mentored through various contests (Pitch Wars, AMM, First 5 Pages) and is a Pitch Wars alum (shout out to the class of ’18!). They are also a judge for the 2021 Young Writer Initiative’s Manuscript Contest. When Mary is not writing stories for and about powerful girls, they can be found practicing martial arts, gardening, or arguing with their insufferable cat Mumford.

I write for adult, YA, and middle grade audiences! My main focus in YA & MG is thrillers/mysteries, and fantasy on the adult side of things, but I’ve got experience writing, editing, and mentoring across many genres.

In the summer of 2018, I decided to revise a manuscript I’d written and start working towards the eventual goal of publication. I entered Pitch Wars that August, was selected, and things took off from there.

I signed with my agency in the early summer of 2019, and since then have been working on multiple projects (almost none of which I can talk about yet), but a lot of exciting things are in the works.

I have experience at multiple levels of the industry and know a lot about querying, agents, and the sub process. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned!

I have mentored through Author Mentor Match Round 7 and Round 8, Pitch Wars 2021, and have worked as a long-term mentor through the First Five Pages contest. Beyond that, I’ve worked with long-term critique partners and writing groups (#llamasquad and PW18 Slackers ftw!) for several years, and worked with mentees who have gone on to obtain agents and book deals.

Finally, I’ve worked as a freelance editor for the last three years, working with everything from nonfiction to YA & Adult fiction projects, with a specialization in fight scenes and action sequences.


I have benefited so much from mentorship programs – it was a mentorship program that kickstarted my own career in the traditional publishing world! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to give back, and the opportunity to help shape a very special project.

I loved mentoring R7 & R8, and I’m so very glad to be back – thank you for trusting me with your words, friends. I am grateful for every one of them.

I would love to find a project in the YA space that is high-concept and voice-y. If it has a commercial hook and a voice I won’t forget, I’m in.

I’m open to most genres within YA (with the exception of romance, which I love but am not the right mentor for), but I have a special place in my heart for mysteries, thrillers, and horror.

In the past, I’ve mentored two scifis, a horror, a mystery, a contemporary fantasy, and a science fantasy with time travel & portals. So when I say I like a wide range of genres–I really, really do.

So surprise me! Be bold, be voice-y, write a premise that hooks me. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Young Adult

  • Contemporary
  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Historical
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror

Here is a list of tropes & things I love in the genres I’ve listed above! I am of the opinion that no tropes are dead, that we love tropes for a reason, and that marginalized writers deserve their chance to explore these popular tropes, too.

– only one bed
– found families
– mutual pining
– starcrossed romance
– enemies to lovers but ACTUALLY enemies first
– terrible morally gray characters, especially morally gray girls
– love triangles but make it polyam (my kingdom for a book like this, y’all)
– fake dating!
– friends to enemies to lovers
– impossible odds
– characters who are Not Supposed to Be Together & end up either falling in love or forging a bond of unshakable friendship
– Y E A R N I N G
– Nicknames that start out as a term of annoyance and become a term of endearment. Bonus points if they yell that nickname at a moment of great Emotional Significance. OR, equally important, call the character by their first name when they usually use a nickname or last name.
– One is hunting the other/supposed to capture the other/supposed to kill them/etc aka DUTY OR LOVE???
– character a tips character b’s chin up with a sword/knife/etc while both characters are still denying they are attracted to the other/have feelings for the other
– grumpy/sunshine dynamic
– grumpy/grumpy dynamic (seriously, if they both are grumpy assholes but are also PAINFULLY LOYAL TO THE OTHER BECAUSE THEY CHERISH THEM IN THEIR SECRETLY SOFT HEART. then i need it)
– foreheads touching.
– big emotional reveals screamed in the middle of the argument
– character who Pretends to Be Heartless but goes feral when their friend, sibling, or LI is in danger
– hurt/comfort between any characters at any time, tyvm
– character raised to be a weapon encountering the first person who sees them as something more




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

My mentorship style is fairly hands on, and very thorough. We’ll start out with a developmental pass: I’ll send you an edit letter, and we’ll talk through it on a video call. After developmental edits, I’ll do another pass, and address any further developmental notes. Finally, I’ll finish with a line edit.

Last year, I mentored my mentees to the querying stage and looked over queries, twitter pitches, and synopses. I’m happy to do that for you as well, but will leave that up to you.

While I’m thorough with my work and I am going into AMM looking to form long-term connections with writers, I want you to know that I respect that this is your book, not mine. So while I will provide suggestions and feedback, it is YOUR work, and you know the heart of your book better than anyone else can.

My ideal mentee is someone who wants to jump in, work hard, and, sometimes, receive a truly staggering amount of memes about your book.

I’m so excited to work with you!


Okay, so. My MSWL is perennially gay and chaotic, but some details on the type of gay chaos I like can be found below!

  • disability rep, in any setting or genre
  • stories by marginalized writers, period. all of them.
  • stories that focus on found families or complicated family dynamics.
  • stories by BIPOC writers, especially queer BIPOC writers
  • anti-monarchy YA fantasy
  • books that critique imperialism
  • books that reckon with climate change (any genre)
  • thrillers!! all the thrillers!! any thriller or mystery of any kind!! 
  • if you can describe your book as “eat the rich,” I would like to see it plz and thank you
  • a book that can be comp’d to Outer Banks, please, I deserve my himbo JJ Maybank MC
  • HEIST BOOKS (especially ones that could be comp’d to Grace Li’s forthcoming PORTRAIT OF A THIEF, aka marginalized people stealing back artwork that colonizers stole in the first place)
  • something that could be comp’d to Indiana Jones, but make it modern and inclusive and hopefully a little bit gay
  • books that take risks. books that are bold. voices that will haunt me. 
  • something as murderous as a Jesse Sutanto book. PLEASE. 
  • books with strong settings
  • literary writing with a commercial concept
  • books that could be comp’d to SADIE, GROWN, or THE PROJECT
  • cult books!
  • chaotic gays. do they have the vibes of 1) literally any character in the Ace of Shades trilogy, 2) JJ from OBX, 3) Klaus from the Umbrella Academy? do they look at the choices in front of them and always choose the worst
  • option? do they run from the police regularly? give them to me i want them
  • books that examine class & poverty
  • books that feature teens in foster care
  • ensemble casts. please please please. I know I mentioned found family earlier, but I will continue to shout it from the rooftops. Some ensemble casts I’ve loved are the ones found in Melina Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road, The Umbrella Academy, Sense8, Outer Banks, Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves, Sabaa Tahir’s Ember quartet, Morgan Roger’s Honey Girl, and Charlotte Nicole Davis’ The Good Luck Girls.
  • romantic books! I’ll list some tropes I love below. any pairing, any gender, bring on all the messy teenage love.
  • books with ace & aro rep!!
  • books that feature strong friendships (again, between characters of any gender).
  • messy, messy teens.
  • honest, sex-positive work that is realistic about what teens experience. An example that I love of sex-positive YA is Sonia Hartls’ Have a Little Faith in Me and Not Your Love Story.
  • retellings!! I love them, especially written by marginalized writers. non-western retellings welcome!!
  • betrayal, secrets, lies, CRIME. give me crime plz (@ the fbi this is a joke, i only read about crime and i do in fact follow most of the important laws, leave me alone)
  • characters rejecting people/authority figures/systems of power that do not serve them & characters refusing to uphold or participate in systems of oppression (aka characters who decide to burn everything down)
  • stories about teens navigating identity & religion
  • boarding school stories. Especially if they have murder.
  • again i want to reiterate! stories about disabled teens! especially ownvoices stories (though there is never any pressure to use this label or “come out” about your disability to me)
  • I would love to find a story with authentic autism rep in the YA space!!


Please do not send me anything with:

  • unchecked bigotry
  • white savior stories
  • that is specifically middle grade or adult.
  • any stories that are purely romance

One more note: I’m okay with stories that tackle abuse, assault, and other triggering content, but I would very much appreciate content warnings!


If you can comp to any of these, please please please send my way!

– Wings of Ebony (J. Elle)
-Bad Witch Burning (Jessica Lewis)
– Sadie (Courtney Summers)
– The Project (Courtney Summers)
– Grown (Tiffany Jackson)
– You Should See Me in a Crown (Leah Johnson)
– When No One is Watching (Alyssa Cole)
– Rebecca Schaeffer’s Market of Monsters series
– Marie Lu’s The Young Elites series
– everything Leigh Bardugo has ever written
– Wilder Girls & Burn Our Bodies Down (Rory Power)
– Strange the Dreamer (Laini Taylor)
– Girl Made of Stars (Ashley Herring Blake)
– The Gilded Wolves (Roshani Chokshi)
– Sabaa Tahir’s Ember series
– Melina Marchetta’s work
– The Scorpion Rules (Erin Bow)
– The Good Luck Girls (Charlotte Nicole Davis)
– Have a Little Faith in Me & #Not Your Love Story (Sonia Hartl)
– The Obsession (Jesse Sutanto)
– The Cruel Prince (Holly Black)
– Iron Widow (Xiran Jay Zhao)
– These Violent Delights (Chloe Gong)

– Hill House (I’m sorry Brit) & Bly Manor
– Umbrella Academy
– Sense8
– The Good Place
– Stranger Things
– Jessica Jones
– Locke & Key
– Now You See Me
– Outer Banks (please please my perennial request for a YA that can be comp’d to OBX!!)