Jill Marr at Sandra Dijkstra Lit Agency
Merial Wiles writes speculative historical stories about grief, love, and spooky gothic buildings, for teens and adults. She holds two Masters from University of Edinburgh in Romantic and Gothic Literature and Creative Writing, respectively. Though a native New Yorker Merial now lives in Switzerland with her husband and an overwhelming collection of tarot cards.
What does mentorship mean to you, and why do you want to be a mentor?
For me mentorship means being another pair of experienced eyes on a story, that is just as passionate about the MS as the author, but has the distance from it to see it in a new way. During my previous RM round so much of work with my mentee was just bringing both of our views and ideas for the story into a collaborative vision, and helping the mentee see things she may have missed that could make her story bloom even more. At the latter stage of the process I think mentorship is about being a trusted person for the mentee to turn to during the querying process, which can be so disheartening and secretive. Having someone like a mentor in your corner, who know the MS so well, can really make a difference in how someone approaches querying.
What is your mentorship style? What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses?
My mentorship style is very collaborative - I never want to be telling a mentee what to do, but instead bring my ideas for revisions to them and work out together how to make their story even better. My strengths are definitely creating atmosphere and tension, especially romantic tension in main or subplots. I also put a lot of work and study into crafting character arcs which is now something I can bring to a manuscript. My main weakness is probably pacing - it’s always something I’m fixing in my own revisions. But this also means I’ve had to develop quite an eye for when pacing doesn’t work and crafting a solution.
What makes a great mentee? Describe your ideal mentee/mentor relationship.
Someone who loves their story but is also willing to work on it. My previous/current mentee was so open to feedback and new ideas - she knew the skeleton of her story that she didn’t want to change, but was receptive to revisions that could make it even stronger. We were able to chat for hours about so many layers of the story and bounce off one another about how to make it it’s best. It can be really difficult to hear feedback on a story you love but the ideal mentee (with the help of an understanding mentor) can still be excited about diving into revisions whilst also standing by the parts of the story that they think of as “non-negotiable”.
How would you describe your normal working speed?
Usually motorcycle but with a chance of Vespa depending on my Spring/Summer deadline
What kind of communication can your mentee(s) expect from you?
First and foremost, as a neurodivergent person with chronic pain, I am always welcome and understanding of individual communication styles - there are some days where I'm unexpectedly not able to work at my normal rate or at all, so never hesitate to reach out if something comes up, plans change, or if certain accommodations can be made. With a mentee I'm open to communication through email, DMs, and texts, though I am definitely quicker to respond to emails.
I provide mentees with an edit letter and in-text notes and then like to do a Zoom call to discuss the story, my feedback, and make a revision plan together. I'm someone who works best with a deadline and am happy to set one for a mentee, however if a deadline doesn't work for your lifestyle, speed, or mental health, that's no problem -- I just ask that you let me know! Before jumping in to working together I like to discuss the expectations on both sides -- time frame, number of revisions, etc. I generally reach out to mentees at certain intervals but you are welcome to reach out to me at any point.
What kinds of communication are you able to accommodate?
Email, Zoom/Skype/Video, Text/Whatsapp, Social Media DMs
Are you able to make accommodations for mentees that request them?
Indefinite/As long as the mentee needs to complete our work together, I'm available for as long as the mentee needs to brainstorm and plot this single idea and manuscript
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, Cohort style mentorship (up to 4 mentees) - Previous mentors ONLY
How polished should your submissions be?
While Funhouse is ideal, I'm also open to Antique Mirror
YA, NA, A
Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Women's Fiction, Magical Realism
Historical fiction and all it's subgenres! I have a particular love for speculative historical fiction and historical women's fiction, the genres I write in. I would love to see historical fantasy, historical romance, and historical horror. I'm also very open to contemporary women's fiction if it features speculative elements.
Even if the story isn't historical, I will always have a soft spot for:
- stories based on real historical figures and events
- 19th century historical fiction
-books set in Scotland
- sapphic romance
- gothic fiction -- give me all the sentient manors and forests!
- jewish characters and stories
- friends to lovers, star crossed lovers, and enemies to lovers
- dark academia
- stories set in the 1960s and 1970s, especially if there's musicians, rock and roll, etc
- romantic subplots across genre
- explorations of non-romantic love (friendship, maternal, siblings, etc)
- cottagecore vibes, especially if there's a dark twist
- retellings of fairytales and folklore.
If your story has neurodivergent rep, I want to see it!
Please do not send me:
contemporary romance, sexual assault used as a plot device, military, sci fi, stories set in space
What are some of your favorite books?
Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman, Anatomy by Dana Schwartz, A Dowry of Blood by ST Gibson, One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle, Bunny by Mona Awad, One Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes, If We Were Villains by ML Rio, Small Favors by Erin A Craig, A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G Summers, A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan, My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth
What are some books, movies, shows, games, etc. that you've recently enjoyed?
TV Shows: Dickinson, The Great, Outlander, Bridgerton, Once Upon a Time / Movies: Mary Shelley, Practical Magic, Crimson Peak, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Big Fish, Emma
Is there anything else you want potential mentees to know?
I know how vulnerable and challenging writing a book can be let alone querying it or submitting it for mentorship. You should be proud of what you have already completed, and know that I have been in the same position and am so grateful that writers trust me with their words - I will always do my best to be patient and react with grace and encouragement towards memtees ad all who submit to me. Also, I welcome writers of all identities and marginalizations, always.