Interview with Christina Mandelski

If you’re looking for a sweet summer read, search no further than Christina Mandelski’s novel THE SWEETEST THING. Filled with delicious cakes, a missing parent, and a bit of romance, it’s a perfect pick for a delectable vacation read. Recently I caught up with the author, Christina Mandelski and we chatted about her own cake decorating skills, finding time to write and the importance of creative tenacity.


Where did you grow-up and where do you live now?


I grew up in South Florida and most of my family still lives there. I ended up in Houston after a long stint in the Midwest, specifically Chicago and Springfield, Illinois (where I was “neighbors” with Abe Lincoln – you could see his tomb from my kitchen window!).


What is a normal “writing” workday like for you?


I have two daughters, so summer and the school year are completely different. During the school year, I usually spend an hour or two returning email, checking Facebook and Twitter, and working on publicity for my book. The rest of the day is usually me staring at the monitor, fingers poised over the keyboard, hoping that some magic happens. Of course, summer is right around the corner, and it’s always a struggle to establish a regular writing routine. Usually I get it all figured out right around the first day of school.


Sheridan, the main character in your new novel THE SWEETEST THING loves to decorate cakes. Where did you get the idea for a character with such a talent? Do you have a baking background?


Sheridan is a cake-decorating prodigy – she has so much talent that the entire town turns to her for any cake needs they might have. But at the heart of it, she’s an artist – and she’s passionate about her art. I think that I wanted to write a character who had the drive and the talent for something a little different. I did have a great time researching cake decorating, but no, I don’t do it in my free time. I took a class as I was editing the novel – and let me tell you, it requires patience and skill that I just don’t have! But I’m always game for eating any kind of cake, anytime. I’m really skilled at that.


Who are your favorite writers and why? Did any of them inspire you to become a writer for young adults?


To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book. It’s so beautifully written, the characters and setting so richly drawn – and the message is so timeless. I read it every few years, and I’m about due to crack the spine again! My decision to write for young adults was very natural for me – I think it’s such an interesting time of life, when we’re all trying to figure out where we belong and how we fit in – it’s a unique perspective that I love to explore.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?


Don’t give up! Okay, so there’s a chance you’ll never get published – who cares? Don’t think about that. Write down the story that is singing in your heart – and then rewrite it, and revise it, and then revise it again. Hone it from a chunk of rock into an exquisite work of art. And if you are determined to sell it, do your homework. Learn about different agents and publishing houses, go to conferences, find a critique group, study the market and Don’t. Give. Up! I just read last week about Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, who received 60 rejections for that particular novel. It’s such a wonderful book – can you imagine if she quit at 59?


What are you working on now?


The book I’m working on is another young adult novel that steps into the paranormal world a bit. The best way to describe it is Cinderella with a Faustian twist. It’s been great fun to work on!


If you want to learn more about Christina, please check-out her website http://christinamandelski.com/ and look for her book THE SWEETEST THING in your local bookstore.

This interview all appeared in the July 2011 issue of the HOUSTON BANNER.


Interview with P.J. Hoover

Whenever you step outside these days, heat and humidity are your constant companions. Couple our summer weather with months of drought and strange weather patterns around the world and suddenly the post-apocalyptic world of P.J. Hoover’s SOLSTICE is not that surprising. Recently I caught up with the author and we chatted about her new book, writing for different age groups and her exciting summer plans.

Tell us about your new book!

SOLSTICE is a story I absolutely adore and have from the moment I started writing it. It’s a combination dystopian mythology novel set in the future, and is kind of like a cross between MATCHED and THE LIGHTNING THIEF.

Here’s the official short blurb:

SOLSTICE, a debut young adult novel by P. J. Hoover, is an intensely romantic story set in a disturbing future of uncontrolled climate change, where, after 18 years of endless summer, the earth is dying a slow, hot death, and is about a young woman named Piper who opens a Pandora’s box of sorts which catapults her into a modern mythological world. SOLSTICE will be the first front-list title to be independently published by an Andrea Brown Literary Agency author, and is agented by Laura Rennert.

SOLSTICE is your first young adult book. Did your writing process change with this book versus your previous books that were written for a younger audience?

Totally! I mean, sure, I had to still sit my butt in the chair and write the words, and that still took time, but I found that with YA I was able to get more emotionally invested in the scenes and write for longer periods at a time. Or maybe that was just me evolving as an author. But anyway, my middle grade books are a close third person past tense whereas SOLSTICE is first person present. I love the immediacy of the present tense, and I love the ability first person gives me to be inside my character’s head.

How did you decide to publish SOLSTICE as an ebook?

I was talking to my agent, Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, one day on the phone, and she brought it up as an option. SOLSTICE is really hot for the market right now since both dystopian stories and mythology are so popular, and given the support and excitement Laura felt for the whole ebook market, I decided to give it a shot.

Who are your favorite writers and why? Did any of them inspire you to become a writer for children and young adults?

I can start with Homer because without Homer, would we even have The Odyssey? And then, I’m going to mention Joseph Campbell because he identified the idea of a hero with a thousand faces and the original hero’s journey. Also, Tolkien. It wasn’t even so much the writing but the entire world Tolkien created with Lord of the Rings.

I wouldn’t say Homer or Joseph Campbell or Tolkien inspired me to write for kids, but with their thoughts, they inspired thousands of other authors whose works influenced me my whole life.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

My advice for aspiring writers is to be flexible in everything you do. The publishing world is changing with each day that passes by, and as writers, we have to change with it. Books written twenty years ago are not the same style as books written now. Networking is different. Publishing models are changing. Write an amazing book and keep in tune with what’s going on in the industry. And above all else, believe in yourself because you rock!

What are you working on now?

I have another young adult novel I’m working on (can’t disclose info on), and I also have plans to work on a sequel for SOLSTICE. After that, I have a ton more ideas. I’m just looking for more time to write them all!

What are you up to this summer?

There are some events I’m really looking forward to!

June 10-12, 2011, I’ll be on a panel with my agent, Laura Rennert, at the Writer’s League of Texas annual conference in Austin, Texas. We’ll be talking about the author/agent/editor relationship.

On July 30th, our Austin SCBWI chapter is putting on a Critique Workshop led by the Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels (of which I am one). We’ll be talking about all the do’s and don’t’s of the critique world, and how even though feedback hurts, it can make all the difference in the world.

And finally, on October 8th, 2011, our Austin SCBWI is having a digital publishing symposium where I’ll be presenting on Bringing Stories to Life in the electronic age. I’ll be covering book trailers, websites, twitter, playlists, and anything else I can think of.

You can learn more about P.J. Hoover on her website and blog at www.pjhoover.com. Her books are available either online or at your favorite, independent bookstore.