May 7, 2012

Author Interview: Sarah Mandell

Celia on the Run
Please welcome to A Three Way Tie, the lovely author, Sarah Mandell!

When did you first start writing?

Fairly recently! I finished my first manuscript in 2008 and I’ve written eight more since then. Celia on the Run is the first one to be published, but hopefully not the last. I’ve really caught the reading and writing bug over the last few years and I don’t see that fizzling out anytime soon. I think what held me back until now is that the required reading in school was pretty much the opposite of what I wanted to read. All that time, I assumed I didn’t like reading in general, but as it turned out, I just didn’t like reading Jane Austen and the like. Am I allowed to admit that here?

What music do you listen to when you write?

It depends on the story. When I wrote Celia on the Run, I listened to what the main characters would have listened to during their road trip (Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix). Right now, I’m working on a story that takes place on a farm out in the middle of nowhere, so I’ve been listening to mellow roots music (Dour Burr, Iron & Wine). I guess the background music is how I “get into character” when I’m writing.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Hmm. I have a couple of talents, but they’re not all hidden. I’m a professional interior designer by day, and when I’m not creating environments in the field of commercial architecture, I’m running my hobby-turned-small-business where I make and sell handmade goods on Etsy. I create jewelry out of old leather garments and I’m addicted to the time-intensive craft of needle-felting. Luckily for me, there’s a market to sell these things online and in local shops and galleries. I suppose the one talent that nobody knows about is that I can hula hoop for hours on end without dropping the hoop. A totally useless talent, it’s true!

What was your inspiration to write this story?

I can’t say there was any specific inspiration for writing Celia on the Run, but I’ve always got characters and plot lines floating around in my head, so when they actually come together and make sense, I just get going and don’t stop writing till the story is done. Sometimes it takes months, other times only days. Celia on the Run was perhaps a combination of all the things I crave in the stories I read, but rarely find, so my only solution was to write the book I wanted to read. I love mismatched characters like Nick and Celia, carefree road trips, and a heavy dose of danger. I also love the emotional roller coaster of a good story and I’m happy to have my heart ripped out and patched back up through realistic fiction. No predictable sappy love stories for me, I want a bittersweet ending that leaves me feeling a little beat up but somehow relieved.

What books of yours should we be looking out for release next?

I’m glad you asked! My most recent work is burning a hole in my pocket at the moment, but I’m trying to focus on getting the word out about Celia on the Run before I dive back into the process of trying to get published again. My most recent story is tentatively titled Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe. It’s not nearly as dark as Celia on the Run, but I’m in love with the characters all the same. What they go through is all at once humorous, ridiculous, and heart-breaking. Plus, what’s not to love about a soap-eating giraffe and two brothers going after a stubborn redhead?

Here’s my work-in-progress blurb for Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe:

The McElroy brothers find trouble easily. Dylan, the impulsive one, plunges headfirst into it while quiet and reserved Daniel cleans up behind him. That’s the way it’s always been, ever since their mother left and they bounced around the foster system for the last ten years, causing trouble wherever they went. The soon-to-be euthanized giraffe they just stole from the Northside Zoo in Chicago may be their biggest predicament yet, in more ways than one, but there's no undoing what's been done.

Lost in Nebraska without a plan, clueless how to care for this ornery old beast in the back of the trailer, they stop to rest at an abandoned-looking barn. A pretty redhead with a snappy temperament and a shotgun discovers the boys and their sixteen-foot stowaway. Her name is Josephine, she lives on this farm with her father who is spoken of but never seen, and her root cellar bears more locks than a bank vault. She’s got a secret for every hour of the day, as well as the interest of two brothers who swore they’d never let some girl come between them.

What book are you reading now?

Sadly, when I’m deep into revise-and-edit mode with my own writing, I have a hard time reading other books that might distract me. Right now, I’m so absorbed in my work-in-progress Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe, I can only think about that particular environment and those characters. Since this story takes place in a world completely foreign to me (Nebraska farmland), I’ve been researching quite a bit to make sure the details are plausible. So between my background research and editing, that’s about all the time I have for reading for pleasure at the moment. The last book I finished was In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith. Really enjoyed the gritty storyline and setting!

What is the most difficult thing about being a writer? What is the easiest thing?

It’s easy to write when you’re inspired, when you know the characters inside and out, and how the story will end. All you have to do is type, everything else is already there, waiting to come out. The most difficult thing, in my opinion, is that you can’t force that to happen, you can’t force yourself to come up with something good if it’s just not there. As frustrating as it is, you have to wait for the plot to come together in your head (at least partially) and you can’t rush that. It’s kinda like patiently waiting for the right publisher or agent to take notice and sign you on!

 What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

I think finishing a story that you wrote yourself, then re-reading it again just because you love the story so much, is the most rewarding thing about being a writer. Coming up with all the pieces needed to make a good story takes a lot of brain power and creative thinking, so after hours and hours of writing, IF you actually have a story you still love and care about, that’s pretty freaking amazing.

It’s also incredibly rewarding when an agent thinks your work is good enough to represent, and even better when you can link up with a publisher who believes what you’ve got going on is worth their time and effort to push out into the world (after all, they have a lot to choose from). Writing in itself is rewarding, even if you’re the only one to read what you’ve written, but if you get lucky enough to have your work published, that’s an incredible feeling and I’m still getting used to it. Now, lets just hope my book gets good reviews because that is bound to be the most rewarding thing of all!

Any advice for writers?

Write because you love to write and because you have something to say, not because you think you’ll get rich and famous if you tap the bulging literary market at just the right time. Keep your day job. Getting published is not a speedy process, so if you dare to go that direction with your work, make sure the damage will only be emotional if it doesn’t come through in a big way.

Don’t be afraid to abandon a story if it’s just not going anywhere. It’s really not the end of the world and getting some writing practice is extremely valuable, even if the story turns out to be crap. Each story you write is bound to be better than the last, it’s only natural, so keep at it. I’ll let you in on a little secret about Celia on the Run. The character of Nick Novaczek, the shy kid who’d never made a mistake in his life, who can’t help but win over the readers by the way he pursues an ungrateful girl like Celia, was actually a character I was very familiar because he was developed in an earlier story I wrote (which I’ve since abandoned). Even though that original story will probably never resurface, I got a great character out of it, so it wasn’t a complete waste.

Anything you want to say to your readers?

I don’t know how many of you there are just yet, since I’ve just recently been published, but thanks for taking a chance on a new author! I know you have a ton to choose from, but I’m so excited my ebook caught your eye. I hope you’ll be captivated by my coming of age adventure story and that even after you’re finished reading, the emotional ups and downs you went through with the characters will continue to haunt you and make you wonder what became of Nick and Celia. Sometimes I forget they’re not real, and I hope you experience that as well!

Celia on the Run

Nick Novaczek is a cautious soul, a 17-year old with a boring life, a predictable future, and a quiet thirst for danger. On the eve of his beloved grandmother's funeral, danger finds him by the motel swimming pool. Her name is Celia and she's everything he's not. This foul-mouthed beauty is hitchhiking across the country to make amends with her estranged father and doesn't carry an ounce of fear or hesitation in her tattered suitcase. She's bad news all around, but for a rule-follower like Nick, she's intoxicating.

Twenty-four hours after speaking to Celia for the very first time, following one extremely lucky night, Nick is hopelessly hooked and "borrows" his parents' car to join her cross-country mission, even though her story is full of holes. It's the mistake he's been waiting his whole life to make. Together, they dodge a train, jump off a bridge, and scam everyone in their path. Nick is blossoming into a teenage fugitive, just like Celia, and he's never been happier. She may not be who she says she is, but she's got his vulnerable heart.

After weeks of detours, with hundreds of miles left to go, their wild adventure starts to unravel. The money dries up, Celia's dark secrets begin to surface, and it's clear they both want vastly different things out of this partnership. Celia is all about no strings attached and severing whatever they may have between them once they reach their destination, while Nick is head over heels in love and wanting a future with the girl in his passenger seat. They seem to reach a new low on a daily basis, but she won't turn back, no matter how desperate things get. After all, this is her trip and Nick is just the driver. Celia's got a charming smile to pay her way, a willing accomplice, a hidden agenda, and an endless supply of lies. Not to mention a gun.

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