I have loved getting to know Lisa Mangum better, both through our recent interview series over at BellaOnline.com (here and here) and at a recent writers' conference. I have been extremely impressed with Lisa as a person. Could you meet a kinder, sweeter individual? I think not. No wonder so many that know her love her.
But being sweet and kind will not necessarily feed or create a can't-put-it-down novel. Lisa's new book, The Hourglass Door, is a work of delightful creativity that stays with you long after finishing it. I had a hard time putting it down. And for all Twilight fans out there, I have news . . . I think Lisa's novel offers more.
In the past two portions of my interview with debut novelist, Lisa Mangum, we learned how The Hourglass Door evolved and the process she used to write it. In this final installment, she shares her future plans and insider information about the publishing industry.
C.S.: Lisa, what other books do you have planned?
LISA: The story of Abby and Dante is a trilogy, so right now I’m working on book two. But I’m also working on an adult fantasy novel that’s about halfway finished. And I have a whole file of ideas on the computer and in my writing notebook just waiting for me to tend to it.
C.S.: How long did it take to hear back the good news for The Hourglass Door? For those perhaps unfamiliar with the process, what was this like?
LISA: Having been in the publishing business for more than a decade, I can promise you that no two authors take the same road to publication. And whether it takes two weeks, two months, or two years, each acceptance is as individual as the author itself. My path to publication was shortened by the fact that I work directly with the people making the decisions. But even then, I knew it wasn’t a given that Shadow Mountain would pick up my book. Publishing is a business, after all, and I knew Chris Schoebinger (our Product Director over YA fiction) wouldn’t say yes to a book unless he knew it was a good business decision—no matter who wrote it. So like every other author, I waited anxiously for his decision and fretted and worried and second-guessed my work. And, like so many other authors, I felt that wonderful wave of relief and joy and excitement when I sat in his office and he said, yes, he wanted to publish my book for real.
C.S.: What is critical that other writers should know about the submission process to a publisher?
LISA: How many pages do you have? J Maybe I can boil it down to these three things: One, submit your work to the right publisher. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your novel is if the publisher you send it to doesn’t publish fiction. Two, have patience. I know everybody hates to wait, especially to hear back about a manuscript, but more often than not the old adage is true: no news is good news. It’s easy to say no to bad manuscripts and send them back; if a publisher is hanging on to a manuscript, generally it’s because there is something there that they don’t want to lose. Three, rejections aren’t personal. There are a gazillion different reasons why a publisher decides to pass on a project—and none of them are because they don’t like you as a person. So keep writing and keep submitting your work.
C.S.: What is your favorite part about being a writer?
LISA: I love that moment when a phrase or a scene or an emotion grabs hold of you and won’t let go. And when you get it down on paper, it’s like you’ve turned a key and the floodgates open. It’s those moments when I feel like the story is telling itself and I just hope I can do it justice by writing it down.
C.S.: What is the most frustrating part?
LISA: For me, it’s been learning how to turn off the editor part of my brain and just write. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to tell myself, “Don’t worry about it. Fix it later,” because part of me wants to stop and look up a grammar rule or check the spelling of a word.
C.S.: Did you ever experience writer's block in the process of writing The Hourglass Door? What would you recommend to other writers if they experience obstacles to their story and/or world-building?
LISA: There were a few times when I sat down to write and nothing happened. On days when that happened, I found that if I told myself, “Just write something; you can delete it later,” I felt free to play around, make my characters do crazy things, and wander into uncharted plot territory. And while I often did delete a whole hour’s worth of work, there were times I would find something worth keeping or worth rewriting another day when I could look at the scene with fresh eyes. Another thing that helped when I ran into a block was to skip it and write something else. I’d just leave myself a note—“finish chapter,” “add transition,” “add something cool here”—and then jump ahead to another part of the story. For example, if a scene with Abby and Valerie was stagnating, then I’d say to myself, “Well, I know I need a scene with Abby and Zo where they talk about this-and-such” and I’d insert a page break and move on.
C.S.: Who have you been most inspired by in your life? What encourages you on difficult days? Or do you never have discouraging moments? :0)
LISA: There are two people who inspire me the most: my mom and my husband, Tracy. Mom is a writer too (she’s LaRene Gaunt, Assistant Managing Editor at the Ensign magazine) and we are like two peas in a pod when it comes to loving the minutiae of a story. She really was the one who set me on the path of being a lifelong reader and lover of words. And she was the one who helped me achieve my dream of being an editor. Tracy is my number-one fan. He always seems to know just when to jump in with the perfect bit of encouragement, or when to stand back and let me find my own way. On difficult days, I know I can always turn to my family and they’ll pull me through.
C.S.: Who are your favorite authors?
LISA: A loaded question, to be sure. Currently, or of all-time? Fiction or non-fiction? Which genre—fantasy, romance, mystery, historical fiction? Since I’ve been reading since I was three years old, and since I’ll read just about anything I can get my hands on, I have a long list of favorite authors and books. I’m dying waiting for the new Patrick Rothfuss novel. And the new George R.R. Martin novel. I’ll read anything Tad Williams writes. Watchmen blew my mind. So did Neal Stephenson’s epic Anatham, which made me wish I’d paid more attention to both science and philosophy in college. I loved Neil Gaimen’s Newberry-winner The Graveyard Book. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is high on my list of all-time favorite books. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is brilliant, as is Lisey’s Story and The Stand. I had the privilege of attending a reading of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake—I got chills listening to her talk about that book. But ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably have an entirely different list . . . J
C.S.: What have you seen as some of the most damaging choices an author might make to his or her career ?
LISA: The author-editor relationship is so important and, speaking as an editor, it’s hard when an author fights you on every edit, every change, every suggestion. Having said that, though, there are times when an author needs to fight for their story and their voice. I think the ideal lies somewhere in between—where an author and an editor can build a professional and respectful relationship and understand that everything they do is in the service of the story and for the good of the reader. Editors are here to help—if you’ll let us.
The author-publisher relationship is equally important. Publishing is a business, so you have to have some business-savvy to survive, but still balance it with that creative spark and passion that made you want to write in the first place.
C.S.: Do you have other works in progress? If so, will your path to complete them follow a similar pattern as The Hourglass Door, or will you adjust how you write your next book?
LISA: Writing book two — working title, The Golden Spiral — is following the same path as The Hourglass Door, and I’m happy to report that things are going great. I’m excited by the story and I think some great things are emerging.
C.S.: What words of encouragement would you give other writers?
LISA: Tracy and I love to go to Disneyland on vacation, and one year when we were there, we passed a wall that had a collection of inspirational quotes from Walt Disney and some Imagineers. I fell in love with one them: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. Don’t quit.” Don’t hurry your talent—cherish it, develop it. Don’t worry if you make a mistake—rewriting is not a sign of failure, it’s the mark of a great writer. Don’t quit—persistence, persistence, persistence.
C.S.: How do you maintain balance? You lead a busy life!
LISA: It’s about prioritizing and multi-tasking. It’s about making choices. I’m also a big fan of checklists—I love that rush of endorphins when I can check something off my list. Long ago I decided to not bring work home with me. I do what I can to complete my tasks at work, and then I go home. If that means building in more editing time for a project, or asking for help, or figuring out ways to work faster or smarter or harder, so be it. But that way, when I’m home, I’m home: I can spend time with my family, I can work on my stories, I can play on the weekends and not feel guilty about missing a deadline at work.
C.S.: What is your philosophy about life, writing, living?
LISA: My friend at work has a quote in her office that says, “Don’t place a period where God has placed a comma.” I think that holds true in life and in writing. You can’t ever stop reaching for your dream, developing your talent, becoming a better person, because you never know when what you think is a end is really the beginning of something new. I hope that I can always keep going and keep growing.
C.S.: And for those who love trivia, what is your favorite color, food, and music group?
LISA: Green. Chocolate. Rush.
C.S.: Any final words on how our readers can find you and your book signings when The Hourglass Door releases? Do you have a newsletter they can join to hear the latest on The Hourglass Door and future works?
LISA: I’m building my web site LisaMangum.com where I plan on hosting my blog and all the latest, greatest information about me and all my books—current and future. Shadow Mountain will also have www.LeosDungeon.com to market and advertise all three books about Abby and Dante. I’m excited to do some book signings and getting out there to tell people about my book.
I'd like to thank Lisa for the time she's taken with us today, especially in light of her busy schedule. And the best part? The wait is over. The Hourglass Door is an excellent read when you need a little pick me up. You can get yours today at Deseret Book stores and online here.