Kiana Nguyen, Donald Maas Literary Agency
Alexandra Higgins is a college student by day and an author by night. She writes speculative fiction with a focus on horror stories that are spooky and romantic. She was a mentee in round 1 of Author Mentor Match and she has mentored for AMM in previous rounds. When Alex is not writing, you can find her playing with her dog and cat, roaming the Smithsonian museums, or watching horror movies through her fingers. She lives outside of Washington, D.C. in the Maryland suburbs.
What does mentorship mean to you, and why do you want to be a mentor?
For me, mentorship is about giving back to the community. I would not be where I am with my writing career without Author Mentor Match where I was chosen as a mentee in R1. I believe mentorship is a way to pay it forward and help another writer grow creatively and professionally. I've mentored before, and I'd love to do it again because it is a joy to watch a writer blossom in their writing abilities and in their publishing journey. Writing can feel like a solitary endeavor, but mentorship helps writers know that they are not alone and that they have support as they chase their dreams.
What is your mentorship style? What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a very hands-on mentor. I like to help with all of the steps in a writer's journey—writing, revising, querying, and beyond. That said, I am very flexible and I can adjust to fit my mentee's needs if they prefer something more scaled back. As for strengths, I am the best at helping writers untangle their plots, amp up the atmosphere, and deepen their character arcs and relationships. My mentoring weaknesses are copyediting, proofreading, and books with sprawling worldbuilding. I am a better fit for writers who have an understanding of the technical side of craft, and with books that have focused, smaller settings.
What makes a great mentee? Describe your ideal mentee/mentor relationship.
A great mentee is someone who has a strong vision for their work but is not afraid to make changes. A mentee should want to improve their book while also staying true to their artistic vision. My ideal mentee/mentor relationship is one built on a foundation of understanding, trust, and kindness. I want my mentee to know that I will do everything I can to help them with their writing journey, and my mentee should be able to communicate their needs to me. While there is a power imbalance when it comes to mentorship, I want to have a friendly relationship with my mentee. I may have an agent, but I am also another writer trying to write the best books I can so I can break into the publishing industry. I'm definitely not interested in putting myself on a pedestal (though I am interested in professionalism and meeting expectations!). I think it's important to be very down to earth so my mentee feels like they can always come to me to talk or ask for advice, etc.
How would you describe your normal working speed?
What kind of communication can your mentee(s) expect from you?
I am open to communicating in the way that best fits my mentee's needs. I am quickest to respond to texts, but I can also do phone calls/zooms or emails. In terms of time frame, I respond fairly quickly (within 48 hours). I like to check in with my mentees often to see how they're doing while they're revising, so you can expect to hear from me every 1-2 weeks even if it's just to say hello.
Please note that I am a college student, so my responses might take longer during the school year.
What kinds of communication are you able to accommodate?
Email, Zoom/Skype/Video, Text/Whatsapp, Social Media DMs, Phone calls
Are you able to make accommodations for mentees that request them?
Indefinite/As long as the mentee needs to complete our work together
Check all that apply: What do you plan to offer as a mentor?
Full manuscript critique, Multiple manuscript passes and query support, Line notes/edits
How polished should your submissions be?
Funhouse Mirror, Antique Mirror
I am willing to pick a manuscript that needs more work so long as 1) the writer has an understanding of the basics of craft, and 2) it has something on my wishlist. I've rewritten many novels myself, so I don't want to exclude any gems that might need a little more work!
I’m looking for a spooky, intoxicating YA horror novel. I love all horror subgenres, and I am particularly fond of gothic horror. I’m also a huge fan of romance, so it would be a big plus to find a submission with a strong romantic subplot. My favorite stories are often character-driven, featuring messy relationships and atmospheric settings. Give me all of the flawed, prickly main characters!
Ultimately, I’m looking for a horror story with a lot of heart—if you have that, I want to see it! Here are some things I’d love to see in my submissions:
- Horror genre mash-ups. Give me second-world fantasy horror or historical horror!
- Haunted houses or other haunted buildings (motels, castles, libraries, etc.)
- Stories in the vein of Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak
- Villain romances—that thin line between “do I want to kill the monster or kiss the monster?”
- Nautical horror, or any book featuring a creepy body of water (the ocean is scary!!!)
- Vampires, ghosts, werewolves, demons. Bonus points for unique spins on these creatures!
- Characters obsessed with true crime
- Cults cults cults cults cults!! Or any horror story that explores unsettling aspects of religion
- Dark academia
- Possession stories
- Anything that can comp to The Haunting of Hill House or The Haunting of Bly Manor
- Multiple POVs
- Stories with unique timelines
- Small towns with disturbing histories
- Queer characters!! Sapphic romance!!
- Body horror
- Stories with dark, gritty mysteries
- Complicated family dynamics
- Anything that can be comped to one of my favorite books
Please do not send me:
I am not the best fit for stories that include these elements:
- Sexual assault as the main focus of a story. It’s okay if it is part of a character’s backstory
- Stories with complicated fantasy worldbuilding. I’m not the best with sprawling worlds—I’m better suited to help with stories that have smaller, concentrated settings
What are some of your favorite books?
While I mostly write horror, my reading tastes are far more varied. I’m just as likely to be reading a romance book as I am a horror book. These are some of my all-time favorites:
- Down Comes the Night and A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft
- Wilder Girls by Rory Power
- The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
- Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
- The Wicked King by Holly Black
- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
What are some books, movies, shows, games, etc. that you've recently enjoyed?
- A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
- Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
- Midnight Mass
- Bellinger Sister series by Tessa Bailey
- Bridgerton (the show and the books!)
- Near the Bone by Christina Henry
- M. Night Shyamalan’s Servant
Is there anything else you want potential mentees to know?
If you're thinking about submitting, do it! Don't self reject!