Ernie Chiara

Writer of Adult Fiction, Pitch Wars Mentor, Assistant Literary Agent, Freelance Artist & Designer

Pitch Wars 2020 Wish List

portal with link back to Kristen's blog post

portal with link back to Kristen’s blog post

Oh, hey. We’re glad you made the jump from Kristen’s Blog.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

Show us your dark side, folks. Specifically…

MYSTERY! We’ll also include all related subgenres: crime, noir, thriller, procedural, suspense, upmarket suspense, domestic suspense, suspenseful women’s fiction, etc. Give it all to us. We both tend to favor stories with urban settings, strong female characters, diversity, twisty but realistic plots, snappy dialogue, oodles of sexual tension, and loads of suspense. We’re not squeamish when it comes to violence, language, sex, or creepy subject matter. We tend to be drawn towards the hardboiled end of mystery, but we do love a smart cozy too. If your manuscript’s central conflict is a crime of some kind, send it our way.

LITERARY FICTION! We’re not so much into stuffy, self-important lit fic, but if you’ve got something gritty, strange, and/or experimental in some way, we’re totally into it! We have two pairs of grabby hands for all your troubled characters, family secrets, sly descriptions of creepy inner-city alleyways, etc. If your literary fiction flirts with mystery, fabulism, magical realism, or twisted, modern fairy tales, we’ll be all over it.

URBAN FANTASY! We’re looking for Urban Fantasy stories that feature gritty action, a noir feel, a procedural mystery, complex characters, creative or unusual plot structure, or any combination of the above. We tend to gravitate more toward mystery-fantasy genre-benders, such as MAGIC FOR LIARS by Sarah Gailey, THE DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher, or RIVERS OF LONDON by Ben Aaronovich, but we’d also love to see something completely original like OCEANS AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman, NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo, or THE STARLESS SEA by Erin Morgenstern.

LGBTQ+ stories! We really want to see these. We would especially love to see a queer psychological thriller (a la Memento or Girl on the Train) or domestic thriller, so if you have this? Maybe submit it just to us and don’t bother with the other mentors, kthanks. Similarly, please send us your queer female version of Jack Reacher. Kristen will literally throw a tantrum if you wrote that and don’t submit it to us, so please send it our way! Otherwise, we’re pretty open on genre here, except for what’s listed below.


Anything that isn’t Adult (this is important, kids)
Fantasy (unless it’s urban fantasy)
Science Fiction (unless the central plot is really a mystery, or the story is super queer)
Anything that attempts to portray homophobic, racist, or misogynistic characters in a favorable light, even for the sake of redemption

Nothing personal. We just don’t want to work on those types of stories, and we want to make sure you submit your work to a mentor who is open to it–and there are many fine mentors who would be better suited to it than us.

What do our TBR or RRaL (that’s “recently read and loved,” and Kristen just made it up) piles look like?


MEXICAN GOTHIC by Siliva Moreno-Garcia
THE WITCH ELM by Tana French
MAGIC FOR LIARS by Sarah Gailey
MAGGIE TERRY by Sarah Schulman
BROKEN MONSTERS by Lauren Beukes
Kurt Vonnegut
Stephen King
Emily St. John Mandel
Rene Denfield
Neil Gaiman
Peter Swanson
Tom Drury
Richard Price
Dennis Lehane


STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel
THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
MAGIC FOR LIARS by Sarah Gailey
Claire North
David Mitchell
Haruki Murakami
China Miéville
Jo Walton
Erin Morgenstern
Neil Gaiman
Kazuo Ishiguro
Dennis Lehane
Alix E. Harrow
V. E. Schwab
Stephen King

TL;DR we like: dry humor, experimental story-telling, genre-bending, danger of any kind (be it physical or emotional), fantasy elements in a rational world, mysterious plots (even in non-mystery stories), and writing that slyly taps into human truth instead of beating you over the head with its themes.

gif of two ruffians with weapons

gif of two ruffians with weapons

If your TBR or RRaL piles looks anything like the above list, we’ll probably get along, even if your MS isn’t quiiiiiite in one of the genres we mention above. If you have a question about what types of stories we’ll consider, feel free to ask either one of us on Twitter @erniechiara & @kmlwrites.

We can’t wait to read your words!

Kristen & Ernie


A note on “New Adult” from Kristen: We aren’t taking New Adult manuscripts, but in past years, I’ve received some submissions labeled “New Adult” that totally…aren’t. New Adult is NOT “anything with a college-aged main character.” If you are writing specifically for that age category, with themes of being away from home for the first time, found family, etc, then you might have a “New Adult” manuscript. If you are writing an adult thriller that just happens to have a 21 year-old MC, you have an Adult manuscript. Yes, it’s confusing. No, this probably doesn’t help. But remember TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? It has a middle-grade age protagonist but is not a middle grade novel. So the age of the MC doesn’t automatically dictate the category of the story.


Here’s a link back to the the main Pitch Wars Mentor Bog Hop page:

Pitch Wars 2020 Mentor Blog Hop

And here are individual links to the Pitch Wars 2020 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists:

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