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.
Great author interview as always, Jeri! And, Mandi, I wish you the best success with your novel 🙂
Thank you so much!
Absolutely love the cover! And To Kill A Mockingbird is a great book. I named my cat Atticus Finch. I recently read Outlander and enjoyed it. Trying to find the time to read the rest of the series.
Outlander is a huge commitment, but it’s worth it. She’s a writer extraordinaire, and I find myself completely drowning in her words. They are delicious.
Thanks for the compliment on the cover. I staged it myself because there was no way a stock photo could create the image I had in my head.
Yay it’s finally here! Having read Mandi’s blog for quite a few months now, I am very excited to get stuck into her book!
Thank you, Claire. I hope you enjoy it.
Mandi happens to be one of my closest buds and it’s been an honor and a thrill to follow along this publishing journey with her! Dear Stephanie is a rich, smart read and I recommend it to everyone!
Great interview, Gals!
Thank you, Bethie!!!
Beth, I must thank you again for introducing me to Mandi 🙂
Great interview Jeri! And interesting people write interesting books, from my experience. Love the sound of her character so I’m off to download it:) Best of luck and wishing you every kind of success Mandi!
Thanks for downloading! I hope it meets your expectations and you enjoy getting to know Paige.
What a great lively interview, and it was interesting to hear both about the book as well as Mandi’s process. All the best for terrific sales Mandi -it sounds like you deserve them:-)
Thank you very much!
What an exciting time for both of you! Congratulations, I hope the book does very well. I look forward to checking out Mandi’s website.
Thank you, Jan.
Hi Jeri and Mandi – this was a great interview. Mandi, you sound like the kind of person I would love to know (I already know Jeri is). Reading the interview was fun and peppy and if your writing style is the same as you came across here I just know I’m going to love reading Dear Stephanie. Wishing you all kinds of success.
Thank you, Lenie. Paige (the main character) and I couldn’t be anymore different, but the writing style is playful yet serious. Jeri is fabulous, right?
Love this author interview, Jeti. And Mandi, your blog name is awesome! That’s always been my theory. :). The character for your book sounds fascinating. Can’t wait to check out Dear Stephanie.
I always said my first book would be called “Cellulite Looks Better Tan,” but then it happened to be Dear Stephanie, so I named my blog that. It’s been interesting to see the people who stumble upon it. I get a lot of weight loss spam.
And thank you!
Awesome interview, and some really gorgeous, insightful questions there. I especially liked learning about your writing process, Mandi, and a bit more about your thoughts on writing (P.S. Exploding black and white into technicolour is *precisely* what Dear Stephanie does…)
I think you might be giving my dad a run for his money as my biggest fan, Lizzi. You are so sweet and wonderful, and what a joy it is to have you in my corner. Thank you for this week.
I feel like such a fan girl. I loved Dear Stephanie so so so much! I think Mandi is a brilliant writer and can’t wait to see what she does next.
It’s so funny that you say that. I’ve been lurking around Quirky Chrissy fan girling for quite some time. But I’m so glad you enjoyed the book so much. I feel validated in a way. Thank you for reading and sharing this day with me.
This books sounds fascinating. I feel compelled to read it based on your review.
I enjoy reading but have very little time these days. I miss it!
This is the kind of book you can either sit and read in one sitting or you put on the end table and read when you have time. I know the feeling of now having time to read. It’s my favorite hobby, and I’ve been so busy with book writing and promotion that I have had little time to sit down and immerse myself in someone else’s words. I have big plans to get caught up this summer.
Great interview. I always like to read about what inspires other writers and what their process is. I think I’d like to be at one of her kitchen dance parties.
Oh, the dance parties are lots of fun. We play anything from The Big Bopper to Pink, and the dancing tends to be me and my two kids acting like fools in the kitchen. It makes cooking not such a chore! When you’re singing into your spoon, it’s more fun.
I’d love to dance with you in your kitchen, Mandi! I do the same thing! Very nice interview – I love learning about your process and experience. I am anxiously awaiting my signed copy of Dear Stephanie. Thank you Jeri, for believing in Mandi. 🙂
I just got the notification that they finally shipped to me, so once I get them, I will get them to you STAT!!! Thanks, BHC. You’re always welcome to join me in my kitchen. Besos.
It’s interesting to think of the connection between writing and music. On the one hand I can’t possibly write if there is music playing. But music is a great way to inspire thoughts and stories and emotions, the things that go into good writing. I’m thinking Mandi could be a pretty good songwriter.
I can’t write with lyrical music in the background, but I often have piano music as a companion. The funny thing about this book is that it all started with a song I heard in the shower. I listened to the lyrics (which I tend to ignore) and could picture this character. I went to my computer immediately and wrote a chapter expecting to maybe write a short story, and then Paige was born, and so was Dear Stephanie.
Great interview … I enjoyed it and particularly liked reading about Castle’s motivation and inspiration as regard to the writing process!… Vielen Dank, dear Jeri.. All my best wishes. Aquileana :star:
Thank you, and thanks for reading.
——I love love love reading about other writers, how they work, & if they are as weird and obsessive as me!
Yeah, that’s the thing about writing; we can become somebody else.
How cool is that?
Also, I agree. Jeri is unbelievably awesome. xx
Thank you so much for reading.
What an interesting interview! Dear Stephanie sounds like a book I’d like, and I’m really intrigued by her idea for the next book about the homeless shelter. Thanks for introducing us!
Dear Stephanie is definitely interesting. As for the homeless shelter book, my family ran a homeless shelter when I was a child, and I wrote a blog post about one of the friends I made there. After a friend read it, she convinced me that there’s a fiction story there, and since then, I’ve been stewing on the idea. I have yet to write any words yet, but the idea and the characters are forming, so I’m thinking it might be the next book. We’ll see.
Thank you for the nice comment.
Others have said it but I have to add that I love the cover! I always enjoy author interviews because it’s so interesting to read how other writers get their inspiration and the way in which they piece together their puzzles into a book. Very enjoyable!
I too love to hear how other writers piece together their stories. It often makes me wonder if I should be more organized in my writing though. Actually, I could probably stand to be more organized in life in general.
Great interview, Jeri! I’ve learned more about you here, Mandi. Although I love your blog, I had no idea you were a piano genius! You named two of my favorite books! To Kill A Mockingbird is my all time fave and I’ve read it 3x. I’m looking forward to Dear Stephanie. Congrats on your publication, Mandi! One question; did you publish the book in paper back as well as e-book?
Jeri, you sound like a wonderful editor and I will be looking for one for my short story collection.
Yes, Lisa, it is available on Kindle and in paperback. I need to get it on B&N, too and iBooks, but it’s being difficult at the moment. I will work on that some day.
And, yes, I play the piano. It’s one of my favorite stress relievers, to pound out my frustration on keys. And Lisa, did we discuss your getting an advanced copy once? Let me know. I feel like I owe you one.
Love this interview! Bests of luck, Mandi, you’re fantastic 😀
Thank you, Lily.
I always love these reviews Jeri and especially the questions and answers on editing, marketing, and whether or not the book was self published…and why. I am always able to find some nugget in there that either brightens a bulb for me or confirms a suspicion.
Makes me wonder whether or not you found a nugget or confirmed a suspicion with this one.
Jeri, power win interview! Mandi, I listen to music to while writing. Good luck with your book. I am intrigued. That is interesting your parents had a homeless shelter. I bet they are great people. That would make a great book!
A great interview! Thanks for sharing Mandi with the rest of us. I wish her much success with her debut novel and all her writing endeavors.
What a great interview. As an author, I am always excited to read about other authors and what motivates them and their process in getting their work published.
Hi, Jeri and Mandy. Congratulations on the book! I love hearing of an artistic relationship where both parties come out feeling fulfilled. This was a great interview. And Mandy, I loved your bio. That alone made me want to read your book!
I’m glad to know there is another author who doesn’t work from an outline. I have tried and it just doesn’t work for me. I know that’s what all the books say you should do, but I end up wandering off on another path whenever I try it. Kudos for your great editing job of her book, Jeri.
Sounds like Mandi’s book is somehow inspired by Dostoyevsky and Jackie Collins. Anyone wanting to kill time at an airport, or something similar, is bound to enjoy it.
Congrats on your launch and best of luck, Mandi!
As always a great interview! I must say Mandi is very interesting. I always envy those that can write and you that can do the editing.
Awesome Interview Jeri, I wish you all the best with your novel 🙂
Jeri and Mandi, I liked the feeling of your interview and I will definitely read your book, Mandi. I like that you don’t work for an outline. I’m a pretty free style writer – get it all done and then think about organizing. Thanks for sharing your personalities!
Excellent interview. I love hearing about an authors backstory.