An outstanding novel is making its debut today. Please join me in the pandemonium and add Dear Stephanie to your summer reading list. Suffice to say, I’m pretty dang thrilled to have served as editor on this project. The main character is simply so real. Allow me to introduce you to the author…
Mandi Castle is a daydreaming stay at home mom of two who spends most her time reading and writing. She loves watching football, is obsessed with music, and has a serious addiction to smart funny people. She can often be caught having dance parties in her kitchen in Dallas, Texas. To connect more visit her at mandicastle.com.
1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your book.
Dear Stephanie is a contemporary fiction (love) story that is told in a series of journal entries written by Paige Preston, a complicated, smart, and edgy twenty-nine-year-old woman who comes from a life of affluence and luxury. From the outside, she appears to have it all, but as she writes her experiences in her journal, the mask she wears begins to crack, and she reveals how delicate and fragile she truly is. She writes real, about life, the ups and the downs, and her ultimate struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide.
Her story will take you on a roller coaster of emotions. She will make you hate her, then make you laugh, make you scream at her and then bring you to tears. She is powerful yet fragile, confident yet afraid, bold yet vulnerable. And the ending will leave you with … no spoilers.
2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.
I love to tell stories, to watch people react to my words, to make people laugh or to make them think. I grew up with four older brothers. The youngest was ten years older than I, so I was practically an only child. I developed a very vivid and whimsical imagination and started creating stories in my head. As I grew older, those stories grew in sophistication, and then I began to write them. I love getting lost in a character and bringing her/him to life on paper. It’s liberating and exciting, and the options are limitless.
Anything can trigger a story, but often I find music to be my muse. So much of what I write is inspired by a lyric or even a piano solo.
I often say that if writing is my first love, reading is my mistress. Writers offer us an escape to a world of black and white that explodes into a kaleidoscope of color in our minds. That is art, the best kind if you ask me.
3. Writing aside, what passions drive your life?
Music is a huge part of my life. On most days, you can find me having a dance party in my kitchen with my two children. I learned to play the piano by ear at age four and began formal lessons at six, so music has weaved its way into most of my life. When I’m not reading or writing, I’m usually listening to some kind of music. I enjoy discovering new bands and often get obsessed with them until I burn myself out on their music.
4. It’s hard to pick just one, but what do you consider your favorite novel and why?
It’s not hard for me, and after reading (editing) my novel, you probably know the answer to this one, but my all-time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. Why? It was the first book I ever read that stuck with me after I finished. My first book hangover. Still the characters are real in my head.
A close second is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Thousands of pages and several hours of my life are dedicated to the story of Jamie and Clare Fraser, and still I thirst for more. The stories are rich and colorful, and the way Gabaldon writes love and romance is beautiful and enticingly sexy at the same time without being trashy.
5. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?
I created a blog called Cellulite Looks Better Tan (mandicastle.com) as an outlet for writing, a place to tell my stories because my family was sick of hearing them. I try to shed a little humor on my life. My goal is for my readers to either walk away with a smile or a little insight. Preferably both
I am also proud to be a founding member of a women’s support blog called SisterWives Speak where we reach out to the writing community to offer a safe place to write free and to announce that “Alone we are enough, but together we are stronger.”
6. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?
I’m very much a spontaneous fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of writer. I do not write outlines. I’m not an organized writer. I see a story in my mind, stew on it for a few days, and then start writing. I jot down notes when I am unable to sit down and write so that I don’t forget my ideas, but for the most part, I simply write. The surprising thing about writing a novel to me is how the story takes shape. I had so many ideas of how Dear Stephanie would go, but as I my characters developed, they lead me into plots that were never part of my original idea.
I used several beta readers to help mold my novel. They gave me excellent feedback which I used to make it a more solid story. I crossed demographics. One of the smartest things I did was to let a male friend (who at the time hardly knew me) read the book. His perspective on some of the plot lines was extremely valuable, and he wasn’t afraid to be honest. I also had two betas who are fellow writers and have been through the editing process, which helped them to give me honest constructive criticism. I highly recommend using beta readers who will be straight forward and honest not just pad your writer ego. What sounds good in a writer’s head can sometimes not come across to a reader the way it is intended, and inevitably, the reader is our target.
All novels should be professionally edited. Even the best writers make errors in plot, grammar, spelling, etc. I sent a sample to three different editors to determine which fit best with my style. I chose Jeri Walker because her sample showed me that she had great insight yet no intention of changing my voice. I respected that she recognized my style from the first sample and appreciated it enough to guide me without rewriting my book. I think I’ve found an editor for life, if she’ll have me, and I will sing her praises to any writer who wants a good editor. She saw my book as a diamond in the rough and gracefully guided me in making it shiny, sparkly and full of luster.
7. Are you traditionally published or self-published?
I chose to self-publish Dear Stephanie, mainly because I wanted to have full control. I hired a team of people to help with the process: text formatting, book cover designer, and a photographer to take the cover photo. This is not a task that one can complete alone.
8. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
I am still learning the process of marketing and publicity. Perhaps I am the one who needs the helpful tips. The one thing I have done thus far is send my book to several ARC readers in exchange for a review. I’m hoping that their reviews will help sell the book.
9. What future projects can we look forward to?
I’m toying with the idea of a follow up story to Dear Stephanie, but I haven’t yet begun writing it. I have begun piecing together a fiction novel based on the homeless shelter my family ran when I was a child. It’s beginning to take root, and I think it will be an interesting and gripping tale.
10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know?
I think people are shocked when they read this character, Paige Preston, that I’ve created because she is so different from me. That’s the beauty of writing fiction. I have the power to create anyone, and that’s why I love the process of writing.
You can connect with Mandi Castle and her social media sites via her blog.
Is there anything else you would like to know about Mandi?
Permission must be granted by Mandi Castle to use the images in this post.