Meet My #WriteMentor Mentee Part 2: Brianna Bourne

My favorite thing about being a writer is giving back to the writing community. When I had a chance to join #WriteMentor, I jumped head first. After scouring queries and manuscripts, I narrowed my selection down to three mentees, who I will be featuring in the coming weeks.

My second mentee is Brianna Bourne. When Brianna's query arrived in my inbox, I got literal butterflies of excitement. I had to have her manuscript, and I had to have it NOW. I love the twist in her story, and how two very different characters find common ground in each other.

Here's Brianna:

Please tell us how you started writing:

I was always captivated by school projects that involved writing a story-or even a sentence-from scratch. I tackled my first big project at age 8, writing by flashlight and staying up way past my bedtime. It was a mash-up of The Boxcar Children and Rainbow Brite. My projects have bigger word counts now, but I still write until way past my bedtime.

What does your writing process look like? Location? Laptop/pen paper? Preferred drink? Music?

I write in my garret (okay, it’s just the spare bedroom at the top of my house) at an airy Ikea desk. When I go upstairs for a writing session, I always pause before crossing the threshold. I don’t let myself do anything else in that room. I protect my writing time fiercely because it’s so easy to get distracted.

I write fresh scenes in a plain spiral notebook before typing them into Scrivener on my Macbook. I always have a cup of tea and a box of chocolate seashells close at hand. My secret weapon is Brain.fm. It’s an app that plays ambient music designed to increase focus and productivity. I’m so addicted—I can’t write without it anymore.

What inspired your #WriteMentor manuscript?

I wanted to explore how a connection with someone from a different walk of life can coax you out of your comfort zone. Especially if who you are inside is different from everything you grew up around.

Once my two characters, Hannah and Leo, started taking shape, I wanted to give them some space to be truly alone, so they could set about the messy business of digging down to their real selves. My runaway imagination got involved, and that space became an empty city with some secrets of its own.

Why did you enter #WriteMentor?

I’d been tweaking my draft for ages, but needed to make the bigger, scarier changes that would take my manuscript to the next level. I entered WriteMentor with the hope of getting fresh eyes on the project, and perhaps some reassurance that I had a good idea of what those big changes needed to be (spoiler alert: I didn’t!). I’m so grateful to have landed not one but two mentors, each of whom is so perfectly suited to bring out the two (often opposing) facets of my story.

How did you feel when you saw your name on the mentee list?

There may have been some prancing.

Now that we’re deep into revisions, what advice would you give writers who are interested in entering writing contests such as #WriteMentor, #PitchWars, or #AMM?

Don’t be afraid to tear your book apart. This applies even if you’re not quite ready to enter a contest. If you feel like something in your manuscript isn’t working, consider making a drastic change instead of many surface changes. Try going back to the beginning of your idea and examining the core of your story.

What would wild success look like to you? What are your hopes and dreams for your book?

Wild success would be the ability to spend eight hours a day writing at my desk and not feel guilty.

I hope that one day my book will give readers a few hours of enchanting escape. Maybe some swoony butterfly feelings. I’d love it if Hannah and Leo’s story inspires them to take a step or two outside of their own comfort zones.

Tell us about your manuscript:

I’m going to be really cryptic at this stage because I want my query to be fresh when it hits the agent round, so I’ll just say this:

It’s about Hannah, a seventeen-year-old ballet dancer who’s repressing her true self. And about Leo, a charismatic eighteen-year-old rocker who’s doing the same. In the sprawling city that’s supposed to be home to 2.6 million, they’re the only two people left.

Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your project?

For me, writing is a huge part of my mental health maintenance. Regardless of where this project goes, I feel exponentially more whole when I carve out time to write.

Also, one of my characters is a huge Scorpions fan. To stay connected to him, I listen to Rock You Like a Hurricane at least five times a day.

In your manuscript, when your characters find themselves alone in their city, it soon becomes apparent that things aren’t quite as they seem. What drew you to the spec elements in this story?

I wanted to give readers a chance to step away from classrooms and hallways and lockers, away from the things they see every day. My two protagonists get to see what a world without parents, school, and structure would look like. It’s all about them getting to know one another on a really deep level and drawing things out of one another that no one else could.

Turns out the world has a few surprises in store for them…

Born in Texas and raised on three different continents, Brianna Bourne now lives in the north of England with her British husband and semi-British daughters. In her previous career, Bri worked backstage at four of the world’s leading ballet companies, where she was able to use her superpower (making color-coded spreadsheets) to its fullest extent. When she’s not writing young adult fiction, Bri likes to eat fried okra, daydream about fictional couples, and stuff things into closets so the house looks tidy.

Photo Credit: Barnaby Aldrick