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.