I recently posted a Call to Writers, asking those of you who write to allow me to interview you for a guest spot in my blog. I was overwhelmed by the response (and if any of you still want to participate, please contact me for details). I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted. My friend and fellow-blogger, Casey Mancino, had some wonderful responses which I’m sure you’ll find as interesting as I did. When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to Casey’s blog and make sure you follow her for more entertaining tales. So without further ado, heeeere’s Casey…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
My name is (gasp… guess this is no longer anonymous!) Casey Mancino. I’m a 23 year old writer that’s about to start her MFA in the Fall. I’ve been running the blog Young Writers Anonymous and working on my first (possibly publishable) Middle Grade Fantasy novel, Elysium Academy, since January.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
3 .How many books have you written?
This will be my first full-length novel and the first in a series of six books.
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
No, I haven’t had any of my fiction published. I have written non-fiction articles for magazines, but no novels or short stories have been published as of yet.
5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?
I’d like to give the old-fashioned way a try first and get my novel published through traditional publishing. I hear a lot of great things for essentially “alternative publishing”, which would be a smaller, more experimental press. I’m not opposed, however, to self-publishing, but I don’t think I could ever go 100% digital for my current work.
After finishing this draft, though, since I’m in no rush to try and shop my work before I’m ready, I do want to start less-involved projects with the initiative of self-publishing online. I’ll keep everyone posted of that progress on m blog!
6. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Phew! I try to pin-point this occasionally, but I don’t think it was ever a moment when I wanted to be a writer. I was an avid reader my whole life and I have been writing stories (most of which were quite silly) for as long as I can remember. I don’t think I ever made a conscious choice to write until about a year ago when I realized my writing was slipping away, lost to work and bills, and I made a pact not to let that happen. That’s why I applied to study my MFA.
7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
The story! I think most of my work starts at the end. I get very excited about getting to that point. My short works are always a bit easier… typically that’s driven by the urge to say something and encapsulate a feeling that can’t typically be defined by words.
8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
I read in multiple genres at once, so I have a few books around at any given point in time. Right now, I’m reading a lot of children’s series to help me with my own work in progress. I’m in the middle of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman and, for a bit more adult stuff, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. My favorite authors are a bit harder to pin because they shifts constantly. I like Mary McCarthy, Joan Didion, Jonathan Tropper (hilarious!), Dave Eggers, Lemony Snicket, Marisha Pessl… just to name some of my favorites from the past year.
9. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
Paperbacks. Used paperbacks. I like a book with some love in it that I can hang on my shelf like a trophy. I also like to keep mementos pressed in the pages from the time that I read them (Receipts, tickets, letters) so that I can remember what I was doing at the time, or so the next person can see, too.
10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
I tend towards first person generally, but my current book is third person. I think first person works better in my shorter pieces, but I struggle with it for longer stuff. Typically always past tense, but as for why, it depends on the story!
11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
I like to always have a book nearby. I keep them everywhere. I even keep emergency books on my phone. I think I’m probably “always reading” something, but some books really get me down (either because I did not enjoy them or enjoyed them too deeply) and then I find I need a break to regain my grip on literature versus reality.
12. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
In a year, I would say I read about 50 or so. At a time is hard to say because sometimes I stop a book with the intention of coming back to it… I keep a whole shelf of books I’m “still reading”. I’ve been in the middle of War and Peace for about two years now.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
The full title is Elysium Academy for Strange and Outside Thinkers, but I call it Elysium as a working title.
14. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
On the whole it’s children’s literature. I would market it as Middle Grade Fantasy (i.e. fiction aimed at middle schoolers), but with the potential (seeing as it’s a series) to become Young Adult Fantasy. What sets it apart is the world. It’s set today, but the main character is invited into an alternate, nearly enlightened, aspect of our world that makes her question everything that normal people believe. It’s not exactly real life, and it’s not exactly another dystopian series, although there are hints of both.
15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
I had a very strange dream about starting an underwater society because pollution had led the human race to develop the ability to hold their breaths for such long periods of time that we could live in the ocean. This is not my current novel (although I would like to write that someday, too). My world followed that in that when I woke up after this dream, I realized that nothing is impossible and my mind was capable of creating great ideas/stories from practically nowhere and thus Elysium was born.
16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
I’d say ages 8-14. It’s action, but with a female protagonist so young girls… but I’d like to think it very gender neutral.
17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
Its focus is on Bean, a precocious eleven-year-old with an over-active imagination that receives an invitation to an underground world for gifted individuals. There she meets a group of eccentric intellectuals who advance society, theirs and ours, with the power of their minds and meets the monsters that come with these gifts.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
18. How often do you write?
Every day, but lately I have been taking weekends off even though it pains me to do so. In the near future, I’ll be traveling a lot, but I still plan to continue to write and blog as much as possible.
19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
Good days: 5,000 words. Bad days: 500.
20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
As of right now, it’s mostly me, but I do have a band of friends who read and, occasionally, send me notes. But everyone is busy and this is my life, so it’s mostly me that is relentless about it. I’m always looking for trustworthy eyes though!
21. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
I made an outline that has, since I started this project, only changed a little and started from there. I wrote the ending first though, so I have a ballpark of where this is going. I like to re-read chapters to get my day started so I’m constantly looking at each chapter, but I’ve been working in sections of about four chapters at a time, so I can set shorter goals for myself. So I’ll write four chapter and go back to edit. Now that I am getting to the end of my first draft though, I’m still trying to keep the beginning rolling through self-edits.
22. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
No… I don’t ever know what inspires me. Things just kind of pop and roll on to something else in my head.
23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
Well… I’ve been working on this first draft for 2.5 months now, but plan to finish mid-april (travel permitting!), then I’d like to shelve it for a few months and come back.
24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
I try to get a chapter done (about 5,000 words) every time I sit down, and sometimes it rolls and I do, but that’s always the goal. A whole chapter.
25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
Names are actually very fun for me. Half of my characters are based on mythical figures whose names are importantly drawn from the figure’s story. Some are named after streets in New Orleans (which has fascinating street names) or other random words I see. I have a character named Epiphany… I think that’s my favorite name in the book.
26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
I have a whole notebook. I work out things as they come but certain rules, concepts, philosophies, characters and things have been in the notebook even before I started this project. It’s just my idea book. I also keep a giant dry erase boards which is where I do my chapter outlines and family trees etc.
27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
Coffee. The coffee, I have come to realize, just really gets me going!
28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
I’m always more productive in the afternoons for some reason. I think I’m naturally not a morning person. Sometimes I spend whole nights coming up with ideas when I’m supposed to be sleeping, but hardly do I get any writing done before noon.
29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
I moved away from my life for two months and essentially lived in retreat. I’m not going to lie, it was the most productive two months I’ve ever had for my writing. Without it, I don’t think I’d have ever gotten rolling on this book. Now I’m all over the place so I have to just really force it sometimes. It’s harder to say no to a social life when it’s sitting on the couch next to you!
30.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
I talk to myself so much when I’m writing! It’s almost embarrassing to try and write in public because of it, but I still do. I always catch myself muttering.
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
I’ve written other novel-length works for amusement (nothing worth noting), but my current work is my most developed and definitely my favorite!
32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
I have a character in my book name Pandora (after the first woman in Greek mythology) who is just wildly eccentric and surreal. She’s got huge problems and she’s always just rushing around, but I find her speech patterns to be so much fun! Other than that, I have a pair of trouble-making sisters that are pretty crazy. They’re a lot of fun, too, I wouldn’t mind being them.
33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
I don’t really get to think about this. They’re children. If my book were ever a movie it would be so long from now that the children probably wouldn’t even have been born yet. I know she’s animated, but I imagine the little girl at the beginning of Up (Ellie, whom Mr. Fredrickson later marries) to be a lot like my protagonist, Bean. Crazy hair, very loud, and kind of whimsical.
34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
Brain tumors… And chameleons. I once spent a good day researching foreign holidays and alternative religions that was really fascinating.
35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?
Once again, Brain tumors. A main character is very sick and I needed a tumor that was very specific… It was horribly depressing. I read an entire book by one of the country’s premier neurosurgeons, Keith Black, and it was just… well, fascinating and heartbreaking.
Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to finishing my book soon so everyone can be as fascinated with it as I am (hopefully!).
Thanks for doing this, Rachel.
Thank you, Casey, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have. Best wishes for your writing success!