Interview and Contest with Christina Mandelski

Jen: As our spotlight on YA fictions continues, we welcome Christina Mandelski to Romancing the Book.  Christina, will you please share a short bio with us?

Christina: I have a fondness for the beach, my family and good books. I love to read (especially curled up with a good cup of coffee). I also like to travel, ride my bike, walk and go to the movies. When I’m not doing these things, I can be found in my little loft office, writing!

Jen: Tell us about The Sweetest Thing and where is can be purchased.

Christina: My book, The Sweetest Thing, is the story of a teenaged cake artist whose father has just been offered a reality TV show and whose mother has deserted the family years earlier. Add to that the fact that the hottest boy in school has just asked her out and her best friend, Jack may have feelings for her as well, and things get pretty sticky!

Jen: At what age did you discover writing? When where you first published? Tell us your call story.

Christina: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and was a voracious reader from a very young age. I always loved the power of a good book to suck me in and transport me to another place or another time. There came a point where I knew that I also wanted to make that kind of magic.

The Sweetest Thing is my debut published novel, but like most writers I have several others shoved in a drawer that will most likely never see the light of day. After about seven years of serious writing and submitting, I found and signed with a wonderful agent in early 2009. By September of the same year, The Sweetest Thing (then called The Icing on the Cake) was out on submission. In October my agent called to let me know we had an offer – Best. Day. Ever!

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?

Christina: There are many creative people in my extended family, but as far as I know, I’m the first published author.

Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?

Christina: I like to write in the morning, so rarely is there an empty coffee cup on my desk. I mostly require to be left alone – a challenge in a busy house with two kids and a needy cat. Still, we make it work.

Jen: Do you have a theme, object or person that appears in all of your stories?

Christina: That’s a good question. Romance of course! In my opinion a good book has to have a great romance. And, for some reason, food seems to play a major part in my books. I’ve tried to figure out why … food brings people together? Is a common ground? That all sounds great, but I think it’s just because I love to eat!

Jen: What is it about the YA genre that appeals to you?

Christina: I think the young adult years are unlike any other in our lives. We’re not necessarily in the “real world” yet, but we’re dealing with real world stuff – learning how to have relationships, both platonic and romantic, trying to discover what we believe and what we’re on this planet for. It’s an interesting time ripe with potential to tell a great story!

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?

Christina: My biggest challenge is just getting it done. I can start a new book and write like crazy, but then I might get to the middle and think it’s just terrible and not want to continue. That’s when I just have to push myself forward to finish.

The most rewarding aspect of writing is in the finishing. When you look back at a complete story, even if it’s not revised and there are holes all over it – it’s very rewarding to think, I created that.

Jen: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?

Christina: Yes, the characters become very real for me, like a part of my family, really. I feel this strange sense of duty to tell their story as accurately as possible, especially in the first draft. In revision, I have to turn off that sentimentalism, though. That’s when you might need to cut characters or plot lines that seemed vital at an earlier stage. You need to be thinking more about what your reader needs to know. But you never really lose that relationship with your characters. Now that The Sweetest Thing is out, I do think of Sheridan Wells as a kind of friend that I’m glad to know.

Jen: If The Sweetest Thing was made into a movie, which actors would you cast as the main characters?

Christina: I love Hailee Steinfeld, who was the star of True Grit. There’s something very real about her, and I can see her pulling off Sheridan’s character with ease! As for the romantic interests, bad boy Ethan I can see being played by Alex Pettyfer (of I am Number Four) and good-guy Jack played by a young Jake Gyllenhaal. I love Jon Hamm (from Mad Men) and if he could play Dad, that would be wonderful. He’d be the one I’d want to stalk, er, meet.

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?

Christina: I love a wide variety of authors, some of my favorites in the contemporary YA genre are Sarah Dessen, Joan Bauer and Sara Zarr (love them all!). I was totally taken in by The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen. I’m a sucker for historical fiction that’s heavy on the romance and intrigue. Right now I am reading a brilliant young adult novel called The Pull of Gravity, by a fellow debut author, Gae Polisner.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?

Christina: Lately, since school let out for the summer, I’ve been spending time with my daughters, who are 11 and 13. We like to shop and since Houston has been experiencing record-breaking heat for the last month, we like to go to movies and sit in the a/c!

Jen: What’s next for you?

Christina: I am working on a very different kind of story, best described as Cinderella with a Faustian twist. That’s right, the devil is one of the main characters. There’s also an awesome romantic, well, quadrangle, that has been lots of fun to write.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Christina: You can go to my website at www.christinamandelski.com. If you want to keep up with The Sweetest Thing, you can go to its Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Sweetest-Thing/100112536739270

I’m also on twitter as Cmandelski!

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Christina: What’s your favorite, unable-to-resist kind of cake or pastry??

Contest details:

  • The prize is a print copy of The Sweetest Thing.
  • The contest is open to everyone, international readers included.
  • You must leave a comment for entry.
  • A valid email address needs to be included in your comment.  If you’re worried about spam, please modify your address, such as admin.bookblog AT gmail.com.  You can also send a message to that email after your comment has been posted.
  • While following the blog isn’t required, it is appreciated.
  • The contest ends on Sunday, June 26.
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