Christina Mandelski is the debut author of The Sweetest Thing, which is set to release on May 10, 2011. She is absolutely wonderful and sent my students an ARC and some bookmarks! I haven’t had a chance to read her book because the girls in class have been hogging it 😉 (Which I couldn’t be happier about!)
Summary of The Sweetest Thing (From Goodreads): 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.
Using just the right amount of romance, family drama, and cute boys, The Sweetest Thing will entice fans with its perfect mixture of girl-friendly ingredients.
Nice to meet you, Tory!
- What do you do to create characters? Is it imagination or life experiences?
I would say imagination plays a larger role in creating my characters. That’s one of my favorite parts of writing — coming up with a character and giving them a personality and life of their own. Of course, there are probably bits and pieces of people I know in all of my characters. Only the good stuff, of course 😉
- Have you always been a writer?
I have always been a reader. When I was pretty young (third grade or so) I decided that I wanted to write books like the ones I loved to read. Of course, there were a lot of years when I was lazy and wrote nothing, and I wish I’d been more disciplined during those times. Eventually I realized that if I wanted to write books, no one was going to do it for me, I had to find the discipline to make it happen. I’m glad that I finally did.
- Does it take a while to write a book’s rough draft?
It takes me about six months, depending on how complete the story comes to me. I love first drafts because you don’t have to be afraid of making any mistakes, you’re just getting the story out. Revision is when I kind of freak out, but I have a wonderful critique group who helps me and an agent who used to be an editor and is fantastic with revisions!
- Who is your favorite author?
This is such a tough question. I’ve got a ton of them! I love (in no particular order): Suzanne Collins, Joan Bauer, Sarah Dessen, Meg Cabot, Jackson Pearce, Gloria Whelan, Patricia Reilly Giff, Anna Godbersen, Katherine Paterson, Coleen Murtagh Paratore, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Ingrid Law, and only about a million others (aren’t you sorry you asked?). Plus as you know from reading some of their books, there are a lot of fantastic new authors debuting this year!
- Where did you get the idea for Sheridan to be in love with making cakes?
I really love watching all the cake decorating shows on TV. The cakes they make are unbelievable. At the time I started writing the book, Ace of Cakes was really the only cake show on, and I remember distinctly thinking that it would be cool to tell the story of a teenager who could make cakes like that. And the rest is history!
- Do you have anything in common with Sheridan?
Yes, when I was 15, the only thing I felt I could do well was write. I was horrible at sports, music, art, etc. I wasn’t writing fiction at the time (which turned out to be my true love) but I was always on the school newspaper and yearbook staff, and I really enjoyed that. Plus, you know, I got out of class a lot 😉 So I had one thing I was good at, like Sheridan. And I was also sort of very clueless when it came to boys, just like her.
- It says on the back of the book that THE SWEETEST THING is recommended for Sarah Dessen fans. Are you a fan of Sarah Dessen?
Yes! I love a good contemporary realistic young adult novel, and she’s one of the best authors in that genre . Her characters are wonderful and her plots are original, it’s an honor to be compared to her.
- What struggles did you face when writing the book?
The middle, you’ll hear many writers say, is always the toughest part. You might have a dynamite, exciting beginning and a killer ending, but that middle is always a challenge for me. I just have to make myself power through and finish, then revise until the middle is just as good as the beginning and end. The greatest thing about having a book published is that you get to work with an editor whose job it is to make your book shine. My editor at Egmont really helped me smooth out any rough patches in the story.
- What is your favorite thing about THE SWEETEST THING?
I’m a total sucker for a good love story. Imagining up the different cakes was great fun, but the love triangle was probably my favorite part to write. Sigh. I adore a good romance!
- Do you get attached to your writing?
Oh yes, I do. When you spend so much time writing a book, you can’t help but become attached to the characters and their stories. In fact, you spend so much time with them, they almost seem real (don’t worry, I know that they’re not J) But when it comes time to send them off, you have to accept that people will want you to change things to improve the story, and that even when it comes out in book form, some readers will like it, and some won’t. But I will always love it — it’s my baby!
- Was it hard to get THE SWEETEST THING published?
My trip down the path to publication was longer than some, shorter than others. I started writing seriously in 2003 and I wrote a few full manuscripts first. Those will probably never be published, which is all right because they are pretty awful. But they taught me a lot about plotting and characterization. I learned a lot writing those early manuscripts. When I started writing THE SWEETEST THING in 2008, I thought I might be on to something – it had a good hook and I could see that my writing was improving. I wondered if maybe it actually had a chance. Sure enough, it was bought by my publisher in 2009. All in all, well worth the wait!
- How do you prepare to write a book?
THE SWEETEST THING started with an idea (teenage decorator of awesome cakes) and grew from there. The book I’m working on now started with a title. I wrote it down in a file and one day the story came to me. It’s weird, there doesn’t seem to be one way to start, each book has been different so far. But in a way it’s exciting – you never know when or where the next great idea will come from.
- Is this book based on anyone you know?
No, really,Sheridan is her own person – although my 13 year old daughter will tell you that she’s Sheridan because she’s also got auburn hair and brown eyes. But that’s where the comparison ends. My daughter is not into making cakes, unfortunately for me!
Thanks for the awesome questions — email me if you want to know anything else!