Mentor Trang Thanh Tran

trangthanhtran.com
@nvtran

AGENT
Katelyn Detweiler, Jill Grinberg Literary Management

WRITES
Horror, Fantasy

BOOKS
SHE IS A HAUNTING (2023) Bloomsbury

BIO
Trang Thanh Tran is a Vietnamese American writer telling all stories scary, otherworldly, and emotional. Trang grew up in Philadelphia but now calls Atlanta home with her family and two mischievous cats. They’re an alum of the Writing Barn’s Rainbow Weekend and Tin House’s YA Fiction Workshop. When not writing, they’re busy trying new foods and watching horror movies.

PUBLISHING BACKGROUND
My publishing is somewhat unusual, because so much of it was spent not pursuing writing as a career at all—but writing unabashedly in fandom spaces. As a child of refugees, it was important for me personally to be established in a career with health insurance and savings. It never brought me happiness over the 10 years but it did eventually provide the stability I required to create and wholeheartedly begin taking every shot available to me in publishing.

In summer 2020, I started writing a YA dark fantasy that had been brewing for years. I truly wanted it to be my debut, but of course, that’s not something you can control: I burned out after 30k. Disappointment didn’t cut it for how I felt.

One week before spooky October, I needed a story just for me. My enduring love for horror and the question “What are you most afraid of?” led me to SHE IS A HAUNTING. I had a messy 40k draft by the end of December; I wrote another 15k in two weeks to make the AMM R8 deadline. Alex Brown chose me as her mentee! I was shocked and so thankful she could see what I wanted to do. I revised heavily from February to early April.

In the inaugural #LGBTNPit, my pitches got over 40 agent likes, and attention from editors. It was exhilarating. It was scary. After multiple offers, I signed with my amazing agent in May. We did another quick revision and went on sub in June. The book sold in a two-book deal at auction.

I spent 10 years laying the foundation so I would have somewhere to fall if I failed, but here I am, finally able to do what I love! It’s through the encouragement of other writers telling me my story and voice had what it took to put myself out there, and I’m eager to give back to another writer who just needs that final push.

EXPERIENCE
I have experience giving verbal and written feedback through workshops, including at Tin House’s YA Fiction Workshop in 2021, and as a beta reader. I’ve looked at many queries for my writing group and through giveaways. As an alum from AMM R8, I totally understand what it’s like to work through an edit letter in the context of a mentorship program.

OVERVIEW
Publishing is a beast to navigate, and only the generosity of other authors sharing time and experience built my confidence enough to tackle it. I want to help another writer in the same way. And honestly, I love talking writing and finding new stories to cry over and yell about.

I’m looking for someone who understands the basics of craft but wants their story to hit harder, get tighter, and possibly be scarier! I’m most drawn to smart, literary-leaning horror, dark fantasy, and magical realism/fabulism. Give me flawed characters and atmosphere! I want relationships—whether family or friends—to bite my nails over. While I like romance subplots, they’re not necessary in a sub for me.

MENTORING GENRES
Young Adult

  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
  • Horror

I love horror with a strong emotional core, where the scary thing might actually be Feelings. Gothic horror, especially by BIPOC authors, is a serious favorite.

Within fantasy, I’m looking for stories grounded in our world that have elements of horror, or dark fantasy in very contained secondary worlds—think Year of the Witching or Strange Grace. While I’m open to magical fabulism/magical realism, I’m picky! I need beautiful prose that’s backed up by a propulsive plot; I need to understand the message it’s conveying.

 

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
My mentorship style will be thorough but fairly casual. Your vision for this book is what’s most important, so I’ll want to first chat over Skype, FT, whatever works for you to make sure we are on the same page about your goals for this program/writing beyond. The initial edit letter will be focused on developmental items. Your biggest revision will be this first round. I’ll also share different revision tools that have worked for me. Even as a plantser, I will likely insist on one barebones outline to track emotional arcs.

I’m a firm believer in having goals so we’ll set a general timeline based on our schedules to stay on track. You’re free to disappear and work, but tbh, I have zero chill and will be around to chat and brainstorm in DMs and Discord!

After reading your MS again, I’ll see whether we’ll do just a line edit or a smaller developmental edit first. My line level suggestions will be minimal because it’s your voice that should shine. By then, we can start crafting query materials and even pitches for Twitter events (if that’s something you want to try).

Expect my feedback to be detailed and honest, but never cruel. I will push you to learn more about craft but also the business side of writing. I hope we can be friends and colleagues.

IDEAL MENTEE
My ideal mentee is someone who knows what they want their book to be and is willing to work through feedback to get there. They’ll say no to things that truly aren’t for their story but be excited to jump in on ideas that resonate. Ultimately, I am here to support my mentee in achieving their vision.

I’d love to work with a mentee who’s genuinely curious and hungry to break into publishing. More importantly, someone who is kind!

Your draft does NOT need to be perfect. If it were, you wouldn’t need mentorship! As an underwriter who builds their drafts in revision, what I need to see in an ideal mentee is strong writing at a line level. Your style is *your* style alone. As long as I can see that you have prose down, I’m willing to search a bit more for the bones of your story. You should know its heart, but you might need help sculpting it out. So my ideal mentee is someone who’s going to work really hard to do that.

SEND ME:

  • Lyrical prose and/or a voice that won’t let go
  • Settings that drip atmosphere
  • HORROR WITH BIPOC LEADS!!
  • Slow-burning gothic horror
  • Hauntings of all kinds and places
  • Sapphic characters
  • Unlikeable queers. Angry queers.
  • Unconventional POVs a la Sawkill Girls’ island
  • Complicated family relationships, esp diaspora stories
  • Unreliable narrators
  • Monster girls & the people who love them
  • Tightly woven narratives. I LOVE short books.
  • Literary writing with a commercial hook
  • Bittersweet, even sad endings

DO NOT SEND ME:

  • I’m not the right mentor for stories with more than 3 POVs.
  • Books over 100k
  • Retellings (unless they’re from trans, nb, BIPOC and/or disabled perspectives!)
  • Fantasies about monarchies unless it’s tearing it all down
  • Fae
  • Anything that can be comped to Black Mirror probably isn’t for me.
  • Stories containing suicidal ideation
  • On the page sexual assault
  • Gratuitous torture/violence
  • Although I adore camping horror and vampires, I’m not looking to mentor stories heavily featuring these elements at this time

FAVES

Books: The Astonishing Color of After, Some Are Always Hungry (poetry), The Haunting of Hill House, Strange Grace, Rules for Vanishing, The Hate U Give, A Certain Hunger, Calling a Wolf a Wolf (poetry), The Only Good Indians, Ninth House, Saga (comic), The Dead and the Dark, The Song of Achilles, Murderbot, Cemetery Boys

TV/Movies: The Haunting of Hill House, Train to Busan, Battlestar Galactica, Reply 1988, Goblin, Hannibal, Great British Bake-Off, Attack on Titan, The Descent, way too many zombie movies