I'm so pleased to introduce Christina Mandelski, author of the debut novel THE SWEETEST THING. Chris is one of the sweetest people I know (so, a fitting title!) - and I've followed her progress to this exciting point since she lives in Houston and I used to live in College Station. Her premise is so yummy and timely...
Congratulations on the publication of your novel, THE SWEETEST THING. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
In my house we LOVE to watch all of the cake shows and contests on TV. It's kind of an obsession. One day I wondered what it would be like to be a teenager with that kind of talent, and my main character, Sheridan Wells, was born. She has a passion for creating one-of-a-kind cakes, and she's trying to figure out where the rest of her complicated life fits with that passion.
How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
I've been writing in one way or another for most of my life. I always assumed that I would write stories for adults, but in 2003 a friend suggested that I try writing for kids. I started with picture books (which, let's face it, is MUCH harder than it seems) but then eventually realized that I needed to write novels. I have two and a half manuscripts in my "drawer" that may never see the light of day, but they needed to be written (if for no other reason that they taught me how to write a novel!)
Can you describe your path to the publication of THE SWEETEST THING?
I was very fortunate. After a ton of outright rejections on my first two novels, I wrote THE SWEETEST THING and started to get some positive feedback from agents. In December of 2008 I submitted my first chapter to the (now closed) Firebrand Literary's query holiday. Like many writers, I have a tough time with query letters, and all they wanted was to see the first chapter, so I was ALL over that. In January I received THE email (the one that makes a writer scream and cry and jump up and down like a lunatic) from agent Michael Stearns. He liked what he read and wanted to see more. By late summer, he'd started his own agency (Upstart Crow Literary) and was submitting my novel to publishers. In October of 2009, Egmont US picked it up. There was screaming, crying and jumping that day too.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Yes! Don't quit! I have seen many talented writers throw in the towel because they either couldn't handle the wait, or the rejection, or both. At times it might seem hopeless, at times the wait might seem endless, but if you LOVE it, don't quit. You might have to write ten novels before you sell the eleventh. Prepare for that possibility. Write the novel, submit it, and start the next one. Don't give up and while you're busy not giving up -- enjoy the process!!
And of course, READ. Honestly, I didn't start really writing well until I was reading a book or two a week. I've heard some writers say that they don't read while they're writing -- and that may work for them. But I need the inspiration that other books give me. Plus I adore reading, and any excuse to do it, I'll take.
This is the best advice. Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
After years of trying to get my work published, I can finally (sort of) stop worrying about that and focus on my writing. My immediate plan is to go to my desk everyday and get something on that computer screen. I'm also learning a lot about the business side of publishing and discovering how best to get my book to my readers. I think that's what excites me most about this upcoming year -- connecting with my readers. Plus I have two pre-teen daughters of my own, so when I'm not writing, I'm a taxi service.
Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
I have a few projects in the works that are keeping me busy, one a dystopian young adult novel and the other a contemporary young adult with a paranormal twist.
Do you have a website where readers can learn more about THE SWEETEST THING?
Yes! My site is www.christinamandelski.com and I'm also a member of the Class of 2k11 at www.classof2k11.com -- come visit me!