Thursday, July 25, 2019

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: A conversation with Annie Sullivan and Lauren Mansy

Flo's note
When I was given the opportunity to interview Lauren Mansy, author of The Memory Thief, and Annie Sullivan, author of Tiger Queen, I jumped on it! I enjoyed Sullivan's first book, A Touch of Gold, and I'm completely fascinated with the premise of Mansy's debut. 

Synopses of both these titles are at the end of this post, because I'm too excited and want to get right into the interview.

I had a fun conversation with these women about everything from why readers love fantasy novels to how to throw the best party! I've excerpted part of it below, which I've edited for length and clarity. 

What’s one take away readers can get from your books? 
Lauren: The main thing I hope readers take away is that it isn’t the hardships of our past that define us, but the strength we find in overcoming them. That’s something all throughout her journey that Etta [the main character] is fighting to hold onto, that hope.

Annie: The world we live in is not always a nice place. It can be hard to exist in sometimes. In both my books, I want readers to be able to go spend some time in a magical world for a while, so they come back a little more hopeful, happier, and believe in themselves.

Why do you think readers are attracted to fantasy novels?
Annie: I have asthma, and I’ve had it since I was a child. When I was getting treatments, I wore a nebulizer mask that delivers medicine through mist. You’re sitting there tethered to a wall. When I’d be doing this three to four times a day as a child, my mom would read to me. Reading was a way to escape. That’s why I love fantasy. This world Is not always a happy place: people are not getting along with their siblings, they’re being bullied at school. Fantasy is reality in disguise. You can have the same problems described in a fantasy world. It’s a way to face real problems in a fun setting that shows you can overcome the odds. You can win. Your friend who you’re reading about did it. Hopefully you feel empowered to face those demons yourself.

Lauren: I would completely agree with all that. I have always been drawn as well to fantastical stories exploring worlds so different from my own. Fantasy is such a wonderful platform for exploration through the backdrop of fiction. I love the emotional journey characters take. In fantasy novels, characters can be extremely relatable. They are relatable on an emotional level, in the midst of dealing with extraordinary circumstances. I love that. There might be differences in the way we live, but we experience the same emotions. That connection stays with you long after you read a fantasy novel.

Can you talk about your writing process? 
Annie: I usually just start with an idea. I’m a pantser. I don’t like to outline ahead of time. I like to discover the story as I go along. I feel like if I’m entertained, then the reader will be, too. They may not know what’s coming as they’re reading, because I don’t know what’s coming as I’m writing. I write a minimum 500 words a day. Sometimes I hit 3000, and sometimes those 500 are a stretch.

Lauren: I also try to do the same thing. I love to write every day. I find I’m most productive in the morning hours. I get up early and get as much writing done as I can before my brain even fully wakes up. That’s when some of the most interesting ideas come. It’s always fun to see what my brain can come up with in the wee hours of the morning. I love trying to come up with a synopsis -- those are always very fun to me. I’m becoming more of a plotter over the years. I’ve fallen in love with plot points.

Annie, how did the experience of writing Tiger Queen differ from writing A Touch of Gold? What did you learn with the first book that helped you with the second?
Annie: It was quite different for each book. Each one was its own beast to tackle. A Touch of Gold took two years to write. I wrote it when I was getting my master’s in creative writing. It took a while, being my first book, to pull it all together. Tiger Queen took three months to write – I wrote a good chunk in Antarctica, which was interesting because the story is set in the desert. But Antarctica is considered a desert. That was a cool aspect of it. I would go out and feel snow stinging my face, and I’d replace that feeling with sand in the book. That become my setting.

It was a different experience because A Touch of Gold had a lot of magic in it. I think magic is one of hardest things to write. Magic in world building has to be impeccable. If one person can find a flaw in the magic system, you’re done. Your character is done. If this person has power and they know it, they have to use that. It’s the first thing they will think of – “I have to use his power” – so if your character is inconsistent, or your magic is inconsistent, that is a huge issue. Not having a lot of magic in Tiger Queen made it a lot easier to write.

Also, I think you get better as you go along.

Lauren, can you talk as well about your experience writing this debut novel?
Lauren: I didn’t start writing until after I graduated college. The Memory Thief took me about three years to write, and then I went through the process of getting an agent. Then my agent found an absolutely wonderful publisher to publish my book. I came to writing in a little bit more of an unusual way. I always thought I wanted to go into the business side of publishing, so I was pursuing work in the business side when I first began writing.

Once I started writing, I fell in love with it. I’d finally found my passion, and it was the best feeling in the world. I wrote sunup to sundown and started submitting my work. I’m grateful to have started the process that way. It takes time. You’re going to face a lot of rejection. At the same time, there are so many fun things that happen along the way and so many exciting moments that truly makes everything completely worth it.

I’d encourage anyone with a story they want to tell to not get discouraged if it takes a while. Keep at it. I started writing seven years ago, and my debut is coming out this year. Keep going, keep preserving. I, for one, want to read your story.

Do you have any fun plans for publication day? 
Annie: I usually have a big launch party at a local bookstore. With cake. Last year it was wedding cake.

Lauren: That’s so awesome!

Annie: The cake was covered with fondant books. On the top, it had a A Touch of Gold. Now everyone expects a really cool cake for my parties. I’m meeting with a cake person tomorrow. I may or may not have been researching tiger-shaped cakes. I have giveaways. Last time there was a photo booth where you could take selfies with props. On the actual day the book comes out, there’s a Backstreet Boys concert in town that I may go to.

Lauren: I just started planning a book launch party. I emailed Annie to give me all the tips on how to plan it, because she is famous for hers. I can’t wait to meet readers and spend time with family and friends. I’m so excited! It’s a dream come true.

About The Memory Thief
In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal's" memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.

The Memory Thief publishes October 1, 2019 from Blink YA Books.

About Tiger Queen
From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.

Tiger Queen publishes September 10, 2019 from Blink YA Books.

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