A great big welcome to the first Delightful Debutante of 2013!
Sangu Mandanna is here today to tell us all about her life as a debut author and other fun things. I've heard a lot of great things about The Lost Girl -- it's a book that's been recommended to me over and over again, and I can't wait to read it soon!
Hi Sangu! Congratulations on the UK publication of The Lost Girl!
Hi! Thank you – and thanks for having me here!
What is the story behind the story of The Lost Girl?
Well, the story behind the story, quite literally, is Frankenstein. I was in my second year at university and we were reading Frankenstein for my British Romanticism course. I’d read it before, but not for years and rereading it made me think about in a whole new way. I wanted to write about creating a living being from scratch, literally stitching life together, and I wanted to write about a monster. I kind of wanted to tell a story from the point of view of Frankenstein’s monster. And after a few false starts, I finally found Eva and she began telling me her story.
Name some interesting facts that readers may not know about The Lost Girl:
Eva’s name was not originally Eva! In fact, my publisher in the US bought the book – as did my publishers in the UK and Germany, some months later – while Eva was still called ‘Echo’. The change to ‘Eva’ came very late and, as you can imagine, was quite jarring for me. But it suits her and I got used to it very quickly. It felt right.
Another fact a reader may not know is that the book once had a very large subplot involving a circus. At one point Eva even ran away with the circus. Now I’m not saying that was my best idea ever, but I do kind of miss the circus…
Can you give me a rundown of your path to publication from when you first started to write the story of The Lost Girl right up to when you got ‘the phone call’ to tell you of your publishing deal? I love hearing these stories!
It’s a very, very long story, so I’m going to try and break this down into something resembling brief (ha. Ha.)
I was fifteen when I sent my first submission to an American publisher and got a very polite form rejection in response. I was crushed, of course, but to be honest I feel for the editors at that publishing house – it was a terrible manuscript! But the sweet thing, the thing that made me bounce back from my very first rejection and try to get published again and again, was the fact that one of the editors had scribbled a handwritten note at the bottom of the form letter. ‘It’s not for us, but there’s something here – don’t give up!’
I didn’t give up. Seven years, five (dubious) manuscripts and about fifty rejections later, I wrote The Lost Girl (then called Echoes) and sent query letters out to agents in New York. The book needed a lot of work and I’m not surprised some of those agents said no. Then one agent happened to take a look and liked it. She felt it wasn’t quite what she was looking for, but she referred me to a friend of hers. And that friend, Melissa, liked it enough to want to represent it (yay for Melissa!) I did some edits for her and then we signed.
(Okay, so I’ve failed miserably at making a long story short, but at this point I might as well finish, right? And you said you love these stories! Bet you’re wishing you hadn’t…)
So I got my agent and she made magic happen. About a month after we signed we got our first bite of interest from a publisher, then another, and then I went into a tizzy. See, I was on a plane with my then-fiance-now-husband, flying to Bangalore to visit my parents, and we had a layover in Dubai and I switched my phone on. And there was a text from Melissa saying an editor wanted to talk to me. And I spent the next flight freaking out and saying things like ‘But why does she want to talk to me, Steve? WHYYYY?’ and Steve, somewhat disgusted with my unnecessary panic, was like ‘er, because she’s an editor and you wrote a book and maybe she likes it, you daft dimbo?’ (he didn’t say the last bit, but I’m fairly sure he was thinking it)
So we got to Bangalore, I talked to the editor, and then to the editor from the other publishing house, and then it was kind of up to Melissa and me to choose who we wanted to go with.
And that was how I got my book deal. (And now it feels like that story was only a little shorter than The Lost Girl.)
Five top tips for aspiring authors:
1. The most important one, to me anyway, is not to give up. Because I think it’s so easy to be daunted and disheartened. But if you love it enough, you will get there. So don’t give up.
2. Write for yourself. Not for your friend who likes Twilight, or for that really cool agent who’s looking for a dark fantasy, or for the market because ‘paranormal romances seem really popular’. Write what you want to write, what you want to read. Otherwise you’ll lose heart very quickly. And it’s just not worth it.
3. Be very, very good with spelling and grammar. (I’m not great at grammar, so I’m one to talk, but still…) Your power is in your words, so they need to be the best they can possibly be. It’s very easy to reject a manuscript full of spelling and grammatical errors. It looks sloppy and most agents and editors don’t have the time or patience to look past the careless mistakes and see that there’s a good book underneath somewhere. Make that good book shine so brightly no one can miss it.
4. Be polite. Because it’s just good manners, but also because people in publishing tend to talk to one another. So if you’re polite, friendly and fun, they’ll like you. The last thing you want is to send a snotty reply to a rejection and find that that agent/editor is now telling other people in publishing what a lunatic you are.
5. READ. You can’t do enough of this. The best writers are mad, hungry readers, the kinds of people who get the evil eye from their husbands over a posh restaurant dinner because they’re reading a book under the table. (Hmm? What? No, I’ve never done that…)
Four books you would recommend to anyone who loved your book:
Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden and Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell The Wolves I’m Home (because readers have told me my book made them bawl their eyes out, and these lovely, amazing books made me bawl my eyes out); Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (another weepy, but also for the clones, the way the book questions humanity, and the slightly spooky, vague sci fi feel); and I would definitely recommend Frankenstein because The Lost Girl wouldn’t exist without it!
Three books you loved in 2012:
Tell The Wolves I’m Home is probably my favourite read this year! Also This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers and For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund.
Two books you can’t wait to read in 2013:
The third (and final?) book in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth (I don’t think it has an official title yet). And Hurt by Tabitha Suzuma.
One literary couple you love:
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. They’re not a ‘couple’ the way the word is usually used, but they do often come as a package deal and I love their relationship! (If I’m going to cheat, I’d also say Harry and Hermione. Because they should have been a couple.)
What are you working on now?
A few different things, but nothing officially ‘to be published’ yet. My favourite current project is a fantasy about a teenage ‘Batman’-esque girl who’s out to find her mother’s lost memories and punish the thief that stole them.
|US and UK Cover Art for The Lost Girl|