April 21, 2011

Author interview (and giveaway!): Christina Mandelski

Today we are joined by YA author Christina Mandelski, whose debut novel, THE SWEETEST THING, comes out May 10.

Description from Amazon.com:

In the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she's decorating a cake. Unfortunately everything else is a complete mess: her mom ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable.

But Sheridan is convinced finding her mom will solve all her problems - only her dad's about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed.

(Click for my review of THE SWEETEST THING.)

Summarize THE SWEETEST THING in 10 words or less:

(ok, now that's HARD!)

Cake decorating teen deals with family, friends and first love.

What have been the highest and lowest points on your path to publication?

Of course, the lowest point is when you start wondering if it will ever happen. I had those moments, but wouldn't allow myself to obsess over that possibility. It's easy to obsess yourself into giving up. For the most part, though, if I really looked I could see constant improvement. My rejection letters went from form letter, to one hand-written line on a form letter to a letter written just for me with some good feedback. Until one day the letter wasn't a rejection letter, it was a "please send more" letter. That was the highest point.

If THE SWEETEST THING were a movie, who would you cast as Sheridan? What about her best friend (and maybe more), Jack? Her dad? Nanny?

I love the actress Hailee Steinfeld (me, too!) who was nominated for an Oscar for True Grit. I can see her pulling off Sheridan's extreme confidence as well as her totally vulnerable underbelly. Her dad would be Jon Hamm, from Mad Men. Looove him. Nanny I always pictured as Kathy Bates, and Jack would probably be someone like a young Jake Gyllenhaal (love him too!).

Sheridan's grandmother, Nanny, is full of colorful, colloquial phrases. Being from the South, I recognized many of them. Did you make any of Nanny's crazy phrases up? Which is your favorite?

Ha! I really enjoyed writing those. Some I made up (jumpier than a frog on fire), some I researched. Busier than a moth in a mitten was one of my favorites. I didn't make that one up.

There is a plot thread about Sheridan's developing faith - something not often explored in YA. What were the challenges in writing about religion?

It was important to me to include some aspect of faith in this book, it's part of my background and a mainstay in my life. Many young adult books stay away from issues of faith. And I think that's okay, but I also think that young adulthood is when we start asking the big questions like Who is God and what does He want with me? So that's why Sheridan is questioning and searching in the book; I wanted to make her real.

What is your writing routine like? Any odd quirks?

During the school year I sit at the computer for the majority of the day, whether I'm writing, revising, or doing promotional things like this interview. It's my job and I treat it like one. Though, honestly I usually wear pretty non-professional clothes, and sometimes I forget to brush my hair, lol. My oddest quirk, which really isn't that odd, is that I go to Facebook for coffee breaks. When I worked in the real world, I loved to socialize with co-workers, but now I'm here by myself with the cat (though he is a good companion, if a bit lethargic). So when I'm ready for a break I run to Facebook for a little virtual social interaction.

Favorite YA book?

Ah, that's tough. Really, there are too many to mention. I just finished a book called Prisoners in the Palace, about the maid of young Princess Victoria (just before she becomes queen). I adore historical fiction! But I so admire writers who can capture my attention in a genre I don't usually read. Like Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games. I'm not a big reader of dystopian, but I loved those books.

Favorite non-YA book?

My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. It's so timeless and beautifully written. More recently I really enjoyed The Help.

Can you tell us anything about upcoming/future projects?

I'm working on another contemporary YA novel with a slight paranormal twist. It's been lots of fun so far.

And finally, give us 5 fun, random facts about yourself:

1. I'm addicted to key lime pie.
2. I never miss an episode of Top Chef. Or if I do I get really cranky.
3. I played the flute for seven years though I have absolutely no ear for music.
4. I would love to be able to sing beautifully (see #3)
5. If I had a good book and a big umbrella, I could sit on the beach all day.

Thank you so much, Christina! (And PRISONERS IN THE PALACE is now on my TBR list!)

The giveaway

Christina has generously agreed to provide a signed copy of THE SWEETEST THING to one winner.

To enter, follow this blog and leave a comment telling me your favorite type of cake (or other treat, if you can't eat/don't like cake). You may also tweet or post this contest on your sidebar for an additional entry. Here is a ready-made tweet for your convenience:

Love contemp YA & cake? @thetabbycatt is giving away a signed copy of Christina Mandelski's THE SWEETEST THING! http://tinyurl.com/3bbbofv
Contest ends Saturday, April 30. US addresses only.
(Sorry int'l friends, we'll have another int'l contest soon!)


Lori M. Lee said...

This sounds like a really SWEET book! :D *dork*

Tweeted: http://twitter.com/#!/LoriMLee/status/61132993758101505

And my favorite type of cake is ice cream cake. Is that cheating? =P

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

My favorite kind of cake is Red Velvet. Or possibly German Chocolate. But in both cases, it's really the icing that wins it for me.

I tweeted. Thanks for the contest.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

I tweeted. Great contest!

My favorite cake would have to be Angel Food with the obligatory strawberry and whipped topping =).

Paige said...

I love regular white cake! Yum-O =)
Thanks for the giveaway! =)

TheGirlOnFire said...

Hmmm I am not a big cake fan, but I love pumpkin pie!
GFC follower

thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

Christi said...

Great interview & giveaway! I love cake, so I don't think I could pick just one as my favorite. Plain ol' yellow cake with chocolate frosting, or German Chocolate Cake, or ice cream cake, or...

(I have quite the sweet tooth.)


Alicia Gregoire said...

I love carrot cake.

Alicia Gregoire said...

Oh and I tweeted.

Pam Harris said...

Great interview! Oh, and my fave cake is this chocolate, peanut butter slice of decadence from my local grocery store. :)

Vivien said...

Not a big cake fan, but I absolutely adore cupcakes. My favorite would have to be Snickerdoodle cupcakes!! YUM!

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Claire Dawn said...

Nice interview! Book sounds awesome. I think I will be investing in a copy if I don't win. (after June since I've banned my addict-self off Amazon.)

My fave cake is Barbadian Rum Cake, also know as Rum Cake. It's the cake you 'll find at every special occasion at home: weddings, birthdays, Christmas.

(PS, I do have a US c/o address)

Anonymous said...

What a fun interview. I can't wait to read this book, and would love to win it! I decorate cakes for fun and for a (very small) side business, so I am super thrilled to read about a character who does as well.

I tweeted!

Meredith said...

Chocolate cake!

meredithfl at gmail dot com

Meredith said...



meredithfl at gmail dot com

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