Monday, February 8, 2016

Interview with Nina Mansfield, Author of SWIMMING ALONE

What made you decide to be an author? I’ve never been able to keep myself from writing. Even when I have 8 million other things going on in life that are sucking my attention, I still have these stories swirling around in my head that I need to write down. I guess in part, it’s because I have loved books since I was a child. I wrote my first book when I was five years old. It was called CINDY AND SALLY IN POLKA DOT LAND. It was riddled with plot holes and spelling errors, but I was hooked! I went on to write a lot of poetry, especially in my teen angst years. My first “serious” attempts at writing were plays, a number of which have gone on to be produced and published. About ten years ago, I decided that I wanted to write a young adult mystery novel. I was teaching in high school at the time, and I wanted to write something that might hook even the most reluctant reader. It took me a while to get it out into the world, but I am thrilled that I finally did it.
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? I love actually writing. Sitting down and having the words pour onto the page—that is just an amazing feeling. Especially when the words are coming easily and I know I am telling the story that I want to tell. I also really love reading my work in public. I have a background in acting, so it is great to share my work with a live audience.
The thing I hate least is worrying about book sales and book promotion. I enjoy promotional events (like readings, and interviews like this), but I hate trying to promote myself via the world of social media. I always feel a little slimy sending out my promotional tweets.
How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? Oh, wow! I won’t get into all of the sordid details, but I have lived a zillion different lives and encountered many wonderful, wild, compelling and disturbing people during these lives. I think the time I have spent in the theatre has influence me the most, however. My acting days in New York really taught me to step into someone else’s shoes, which comes in very handy when writing.
Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? Absolutely. I feel like that with almost every writing project. It usually happens right at the beginning, when I get that first spark of inspiration. Often, I don’t know where it is coming from. I felt that way when I started doing one of my rewrites of SWIMMING ALONE.  I had been working for a long time on capturing my character’s voice. One day, it came to me, and the words just spilled out of me.
You’ve written one novel and are working on a 2nd novel. What’s your favorite time management tip? I am the worst with time management. But as I am working on revisions of my 2nd novel, what seems to be working for me is to write in very small manageable chunks. These days, I am a stay-at-home mother with a very active toddler, so I usually only get a chance to write during her nap time and in the evenings (when I am usually too exhausted to think!) If I tell myself that 200 words is plenty, then I am able to get some writing done. Much of the time I can write much more than that. In short, I have let myself off the hook a bit, and I find that I am getting much more writing done.
Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer? I start off as an organic writer. Sometimes I have no idea where the story came from or where it is going. But there always comes a point when I need to go back and outline. And then I end up making a number of different outlines which keep changing and changing.
If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Don’t be afraid to write a “bad” first draft. Just get those words on paper!
Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? No. I know that music helps a lot of writers, but I really need complete silence. Otherwise, I just can’t focus.
Tell me more about Swimming Alone.
The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe).  Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes.  When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question:  has the Sea Side Strangler struck again? 
How about an excerpt from Swimming Alone?

The Sea Side Strangler Strikes Again!
Leave it to my mentally unstable, common sense impaired parents to ship me off to the only town in America with an active serial killer on the loose. I could so easily have the life squeezed out of me by some deranged killer. Now that would be the ultimate revenge. I mean, talk about a guilt trip—not that I’d be alive to benefit from it. And quite frankly, I’d prefer to die peacefully, in my sleep, at the age of one hundred and eight, thank you very much.
But seriously, what kind of psychos send their only daughter, their bundle of joy, the light of their lives away to a town where dead bodies keep washing up on shore? My parents, that’s who—all so they could strangle each other without having to worry about me getting in the way. Not literally, just legally. You know—the “d” word: Divorce. The week before they shipped me off, Mommy dearest smashed one-half of the Tiffany china when she found a foreign thong in Daddy’s glove compartment. Now the lawyers are trying to figure out whose half she smashed. (I’d find the questionable thong far more intriguing if I wasn’t totally skeeved.) These are the atrocities they are trying to shield me from.
Serial killers weren’t exactly on their radar when they decided to ship me off.
This particular serial killer wasn’t on my radar either until I saw the headline splashed across the front page of the Beach Point Gazette.

Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?
Buy Links:
Nina, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.

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