Jessica Hare, The Agency (London) Ltd
Finn Longman is an author and medievalist, currently based in London. With an MA in Early and Medieval Irish and a BA in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, they spend most of their time having extremely niche opinions on the internet. They write adult and YA fiction and have a particular interest in genre-bending fiction that explores identity and tests moral boundaries. Their debut novel, The Butterfly Assassin, will be published in May 2022, with a sequel to follow in 2023.
What does mentorship mean to you, and why do you want to be a mentor?
I was a mentee during Author Mentor Match Round 6, and I credit it with turning The Butterfly Assassin from a mess into something publishable. My mentor's encouragement gave me the courage to make far more radical edits than I would have made on my own, transforming the book into something much stronger than before. I want to be part of that journey for somebody else. I see mentorship as being about asking the right questions, the ones that prompt a mentee to interrogate the little details about their book that they've been letting slip through the cracks until now, and then being there for them as they bounce ideas and come up with the answers. It's also about being that extra pair of eyes to help somebody keep perspective on their work and the industry as a whole: when you have somebody to turn to who has already been there, it's easier not to spiral into despair and confusion! Having been helped my a mentorship programme myself, I want to give back to the writing community -- and perhaps make new writing friends in the process.
What is your mentorship style? What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses?
This is my first time mentoring, so I'll absolutely be looking to be led by my mentee and what they're looking for out of the partnership (and I do see it as a partnership!). I'm particularly strong on character motivations and asking the tricky questions about "why" things are happening; this can include relationships between characters as well as plot points and decisions made. I want events and emotional beats to feel "earned", so I will ask hard questions if I don't think they are. My weakness is probably continuity – I have a poor memory, so don't always spot lapses or plot holes, although if I read something enough times, I will! I'm great at line edits and nitpicking grammar and punctuation, although I am British, so my style conventions may not match yours in that regard. That's okay, I'm adaptable :) I try and always be kind in my feedback, but I'm also thorough, so you can expect lots of comment bubbles in the manuscript and my trademark Extremely Long Emails, although I'll try to keep them under control. Not being a super visual person, I'm unlikely to be the sort to make a mentee an aesthetic, but I might make a playlist (if you're really nice to me...). I'm there for my mentee as they embark on querying, if that's the direction they want to go in, although my expertise with navigating the publishing industry is more UK-based.
What makes a great mentee? Describe your ideal mentee/mentor relationship.
A great mentee will listen to your feedback and sit with it, even when they're initially unsure about it. They won't be afraid to argue their perspective, but they'll be open to trying different approaches. I want a mentee to feel able to stand their ground about the elements that are important to them without being closed off to feedback about those aspects. A great mentee/mentor relationship is professional but becomes a friendship over time, because in the end, we're all just people, at slightly different stages in our writing journey. I'm not a super gushy, emotionally demonstrative person, but I am chatty, so I'm up for a mentee who will communicate and tell me how they're feeling about my feedback and what they're planning. I'd like it to feel like a conversation, not a one-way process.
How would you describe your normal working speed?
What kind of communication can your mentee(s) expect from you?
I'm fairly flexible about communication, although I hate audio-only calls because my auditory processing is crap, so I'd prefer to avoid those. Please bear in mind that I'm in the UK, so if you're looking for synchronous communication, you'll need to bear timezones in mind! (This also means that while I can do WhatsApp, if you're overseas I can't be texting you.) I hate Slack but will use it if you're desperate. Better forms of communication for me are Discord, Messenger, Email, WhatsApp, Instagram DMs, Twitter DMs. For longer discussions and edit letters etc, I'd usually use email or Discord; for casual everyday chatting, it would be Discord, DMs, WhatsApp etc.
I'm chronically online, so usually quick to respond. Occasionally I'm slower because of pain/fatigue/brainweasels, and sometimes this means things slip by me, so please do nudge if you're expecting a response as I might just have got lost. I'll try to keep you posted if I think I'm going to be out of contact for a while.
I do work part-time so might not be able to respond to more detailed queries immediately if they require me to go back to the manuscript, but for chatting I should never be out of reach for long.
What kinds of communication are you able to accommodate?
Email, Zoom/Skype/Video, Social Media DMs
Are you able to make accommodations for mentees that request them?
I will always do my best but I don't presume to be able to predict every possible disability need that someone might have! I have chronic pain in my hands which occasionally interferes with being able to, say, caption/subtitle videos, and my auditory processing isn't great, so I avoid purely audio-based communication. I will try my best to accommodate other requirements where I can, though.
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?
Submission package critique (Query, Synopsis, 50 page sample), Partial manuscript critique (50 pages), Full manuscript critique, Multiple manuscript passes and query support, Line notes/edits
How polished should your submissions be?
Funhouse Mirror, Antique Mirror
I'm looking for a mentee who has done what they can to edit and revise a book alone, but has maybe hit the point where they think they can't get any further by themselves and need that extra pair of eyes. It should be in relatively good shape, but the mentee should also be willing to do larger edits or rewrites if that turns out to be necessary.
YA, NA, A
Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary, Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism
I'm up for mentoring both YA and Adult, as well as books that fit in the awkward crossover space in between. Bear in mind if you're aiming for the trad publishing route that NA isn't an established genre, and I'll probably advise you to sway one way or the other; however, my debut is upper YA/crossover, so I know a bit about what it's like to be there! I queried with YA and have more experience with it on a publishing front, but I have an adult novel on sub at the moment and have probably written as many adult novels as YA ones.
I'm open to most things SFF. Fantasy, sci-fi, fabulism/magical realism, urban fantasy, real world with a speculative twist, alternate history etc. I'm not a good fit for horror or creepy books (see my anti-MSWL). I'm also open to contemporary, particularly in the YA space. If you're not sure what genre your book is because it's a weird one, we might be a good fit -- I, too, am bad at fitting in boxes.
Some specific things I like to see:
- Stories that centre platonic friendships (including but not limited to stories with ace/aro protagonists)
- LGBTQ joy (or at least misery not specific to being LGBTQ. I'm cool with Sad Gays as long as they're not primarily Sad About Being Gay, if you know what I mean).
- "Casually queer" characters and queernorm worlds, particularly in SFF; secondary characters who use neutral pronouns and never feel the need to explain themselves; stories where queerphobia just doesn't exist.
- Disabled and chronically ill protagonists in stories that aren't about them being disabled or chronically ill. Also, would love to see more characters with food disabilities/allergies, because I live with that and rarely see it represented unless it's the super dramatic life-threatening type that is only there for drama.
- Speculative twists on the real world: near-future or real world + magic or subtle alternate history changing small details...
- Interesting world-building, even in non-fantastical settings
- I love a bit of linguistic worldbuilding. Like The Goblin Emperor with its use of formal/informal "you", or A Memory Called Empire and its poetry. Are you doing something interesting with language? Expect me to ask questions.
- Morally grey characters and people doing terrible things to survive
- But also soft characters and pacifist characters, especially those who are surrounded by terrible things and still choose a different path. Bonus points if those are the same character.
- Stories that don't pull punches: sometimes a book is meant to be tragedy. Let it be one! Not everyone has to survive!
- Retellings and reworkings. Got a Shakespeare retelling? What about a Greek tragedy? Idk how you make the Bacchae into a modern novel, but if you've done it, I'd like to see it. Epic poems, folk songs, medieval romances, whatever*: have at it. The weirder/more creative the retelling the better.
- I'm always a sucker for musicians / dancers / theatre nerds / artists as characters.
- Highly specific MSWL: if you have a gay YA contemporary set in the Gaeltacht, I want it. I want to live vicariously through characters' queer Irish-language experiences. Is there any audience for this? Yes. It's me. Beyond that, no idea, let's find out.
*Please bear in mind that I'm a medievalist with two degrees in medieval Irish literature and while I may seem like a great choice for a book inspired by Irish folklore/mythology, I am incredibly fussy about things like that because I know too much. By all means, shoot your shot, but don't say I didn't warn you! I've also never been a Disney fan and don't feel any connection to a lot of popular fairytales like Beauty and the Beast, so retellings of those tend to leave me cold.
Please do not send me:
- Ghosts. I am not the right fit for ghost stories or any other creepy, 'chilling' supernatural elements. Unless it's a Hamlet retelling, in which case I'll consider it, but if it's too spooky, it won't be the one for me. Generally speaking, anything that would be described as ""unsettling"" or ""haunting"" is not the one for me. Tense yes, creepy no.
- Assassins, especially in a modern setting. Not because I don't like them, but because my debut is a thriller with an assassin protag, and this might be too close to my own work.
- Very romance-heavy YA, particularly fantasy, particularly if it's straight. A romance-focused plot is fine in YA contemporary (especially if it's queer), and romantic subplots are fine (again: especially if they're queer), but I'm not looking for ""steamy"" YA fantasy, so if you're the next Sarah J. Maas, you might find someone else a better fit.
- Extremely US-focused stories. I'm British and I cannot relate to US high school experiences.
- ""Inspiration porn"" type stories about disability. Disabled characters shouldn't be there just to teach the abled protagonist a life lesson.
- Stories where the main focus is grief (especially loss of a parent) or imminent mortality (like They Both Die At The End). I'm cool with characters dying, even main characters, but if the whole book is about them recovering from a devastating loss or facing their own death, I will not vibe with it.
- Stories primarily about grappling with transphobia. Sorry, there's enough of that in real life and I can't handle any more, no matter how important the story is :(
- While I love a dark story and a terrible character, I'm not here for gratuitous violence that doesn't further the plot. Violence needs to mean something.
- Stories dealing with self-harm, suicide, sexual assault, or eating disorders. Passing mentions are okay, but I can't work on a book where these are a central aspect, for the sake of my mental health.
What are some of your favorite books?
The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin
The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
The Raven Cycle (and the Dreamer Trilogy) by Maggie Stiefvater
Vicious by VE Schwab
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
This Savage Song by VE Schwab
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Discworld (just, like, in general) by Terry Pratchett
most things by Holly Black
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The New Policeman by Kate Thompson
What are some books, movies, shows, games, etc. that you've recently enjoyed?
Alas, I don't play games, nor do I watch a lot of films and TV. But I read a huge amount, so here are some books I've enjoyed lately:
Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
In A Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
The Girls I've Been by Tess Sharpe
Pretty much everything by Cat Sebastian and KJ Charles
Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White
Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen
Here's To Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callendar
Blackheart Knights by Laure Eve
Is there anything else you want potential mentees to know?
I'm in the UK (though I've also lived in Ireland), and my experience of the publishing industry has very much been UK-based. I'm open to writers from anywhere, but I'll be particularly useful to those aiming for the UK market.
I will never ask you to deal with beat sheets or other very regimented structure tools, because those break my brain. If that's what you're looking for, you may find another mentor a better fit. If, on the other hand, you also don't click with that kind of thing... come to me and my vibes-based approach to structure.
My debut is being released the same day that mentee announcements happen, and I'm due to be at a festival that weekend, so there may be a delay of a week or two before I can be fully present. I'll try and keep you posted and will be back to business soon afterwards! If I've had time to do an edit letter in advance, I'll shoot it over before I disappear, otherwise I'll get it to you as soon as I can.