Today I’m thrilled to be a part of Mari Mancusi's blog tour and have her here to share about her new YA novel, SCORCHED, that was released yesterday. Mari is also the author of the YA Blood Coven series, which has 8 books in the series.
I’ve been excited about SCORCHED since I read about its sale on PW Children’s Bookshelf last year. As I read it, I couldn’t believe how good it was. I loved the combination of urban fantasy, time travel, and dystopian elements to the story. And Trinity, Connor, and Caleb are all complex, sympathetic characters I couldn’t get enough of. This was a fast plotted story with a number of twists I didn’t see coming. I really loved this and am so excited to share it with you.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
Don’t leave me here... It starts with a whisper. At first Trinity thinks she’s going crazy. It wouldn’t be a big surprise—her grandpa firmly believes there’s a genuine dragon egg in their dusty little West Texas town. But this voice is real, and it’s begging for her protection. Even if no one else can hear it...
He’s come from a future scorched by dragonfire. His mission: Find the girl. Destroy the egg. Save the world.
He’s everything his twin brother Connor hates: cocky, undisciplined, and obsessed with saving dragons.
Trinity has no idea which brother to believe. All she has to go by is the voice in her head—a dragon that won’t be tamed.
Hi Mari. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer. I’d also love to hear about your other job as a freelance television producer.
Glad to be here! I am an Emmy award winning TV producer turned writer who lives in Austin, Texas and spends most of her time watching Dr. Who.
Okay, that’s not completely accurate. I also watch Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. And anything by Joss Whedon. I love videogames and horror movies and snowboarding (which I don’t get to do very often in Texas, unfortunately) and I am completely obsessed with dragons. I’m also a mom to a two year old, an author of 17 books, and a wife to a guy who likes to cosplay just as much as I do. (Yes, I consider myself very lucky!)
I moved to Austin three years ago, by way of New York City, where I worked as a morning show producer for the syndicated television show Better. It was a pretty cool job where I got to meet a ton of celebrities (David Duchovny being my absolute favorite), cook with celebrity chefs, attend fashion week, and go behind the scenes at various Broadway plays and stalk the red carpet during movie premieres. (Not once did I have to ask what someone was wearing, thank goodness.) Anyway, it was an awesome job, but tough to balance in addition to writing books, which has always been my first love. So when my husband got offered a job in Austin (he’s a Texas boy by birth) we decided to take a leap of faith.
2. My husband’s from Texas too—Dallas. I love Austin. It reminds me a lot of Ann Arbor where I live. Where did you get the idea for SCORCHED and when did you make the decision to combine urban fantasy, time travel, and dystopian elements in your story? It was one of the things I really enjoyed about SCORCHED.
I’ve always enjoyed writing mash-up books. My very first novel, A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court, was a time travel about a 21st century girl going back in time and reliving Arthurian legend. Chick lit/time travel/fantasy, if you will. For Scorched I wanted to pay homage to one of my favorite movie franchises, Terminator, and that’s where I got the time travel/post-apocalyptic elements. I also have a huge love of fantasy and had been watching/reading way too much Game of Thrones which is where the dragons come in.
But at its core, I think of Scorched as a very contemporary novel. Unlike high fantasy books, which take place in fantastical worlds, this story is very much grounded in present day Texas. I want readers to have this feeling when reading that this could really happen.
3. I love Game of Thrones too. And reading SCORCHED and other mashed up books, I’ve come to really enjoy the blending of different genres. SCORCHED is going to be a trilogy and you’ve concluded the 8 book YA Blood Coven series. What’s your plotting process as you start your series and what tips do you have for the rest of us?
I’m more of a pantser than a plotter so I don’t always have every plot point planned out for a series when I
So while I do have an overall arc for the Scorched trilogy, there are some things that are still unresolved. I think for some writers this would be torture—they’d prefer to plan out everything in advance and have a road map to follow. And that’s totally cool, too. You should embrace your process, whatever it might be. For me, that’s taking the journey with my characters and seeing what happens through their eyes.
4. I’ve heard it’s important to have the overall ARC of the story like you’ve said. Can’t wait to read the rest of your trilogy. Trinity, Connor, and Caleb are such well-developed, complicated characters. And like Trinity, I wasn’t sure who to believe—Connor or Caleb. Share a bit about how you developed them as characters and who was the most challenging character for you and why.
Trinity herself was by far the most challenging character because she’s the one from our world. The boys are time travelers from the future—dragon hunters or dragon guardians, on a mission to save the world. It was very important for me to make a heroine that could stand up to those kinds of larger-than-life characters and give them a run for their money. I didn’t want anyone to think of Trinity as a damsel in distress at any point, even though she’s constantly put in situations where she’s made to feel helpless. Also, I figured in order to be chosen by a dragon, you had to be a pretty special person. That said, she also has to be realistic and relatable—and above all, flawed. Because she’s not some super girl from the future, she’s just a normal high school kid.
5. I really like strong girls. And for me, you hit the right balance with Trinity. Kristin Nelson is your agent. She and Sara Megibow are on the top of my list of dream agents. How did she become your agent?
I don’t blame you—Kristin and Sara are amazing agents and I’m so lucky to be part of the Nelson Literary Agency family. Kristin is actually my second agent and so I was already published when I queried her. I had some friends who were already her clients and I’d admired the way she worked with them. In an age where the usefulness of agents is being constantly questioned, I consider myself fortunate to have someone so in tune with the changing face of publishing. I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else.
6. Yes, she’s really attuned with the changing times and makes changes in her approach based on how the publishing world is changing. That’s one of the things I admire most about her. How are you marketing SCORCHED? What tips do you have for the rest of us on marketing our books?
I can’t take all the credit. Sourcebooks has an amazing publicity team that’s been so invested in getting word out about Scorched. From sending me to all sorts of industry conferences (ALA, BEA, IRA, etc.) to doing a pre-order campaign in which readers can score an exclusive dragon charm necklace by pre-ordering the book, they’ve really gone all out. Which is great for me, as an author, seeing as my number one job is to sit down and write the next book. (I’ve found when all is said and done, there is no marking tool that’s more successful than a sequel. (Or seven!))
I have also always tried to make myself available to readers. I try to answer all emails, respond to all social media, run contests, give away schwag, and offer readers a chance to participate in the world I created through artwork, multimedia, fan fiction, etc. I adore my readers and I just love their creativity so anything I can do to foster that take priority over other marketing efforts.
7. Yeah, I’m really impressed with Sourcebooks’ marketing too. I saw from your website that you blog and are on Facebook and Twitter. Are any of these more effective than the others in helping you reach out to the writer community and readers? How so?
I think being accessible to your readers in this day and age of publishing is extremely important. It’s also the most fun part of my job. I love interacting with fans on all platforms, but I’ve built a really dedicated fanbase on Facebook. These readers role play my characters, make fan videos, draw photos, write fan fic, etc. I like the idea that readers can not only live in my word, but also contribute to it and help it grow into something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. I am really hoping that this kind of thing, that has helped build the Blood Coven, will continue on with Scorched.
8. I’ll have to check out how you’re interacting on Facebook for tips. You went to Book Expo of America and ALA (American Library Association) this year. How did you get those set up and what were your experiences there? Do you recommend them for debut authors?
Sourcebooks sent me to both the Book Expo and ALA to sign advanced copies of Scorched. I had been to BEA a couple times before, having lived in NYC, but this was my first ALA. I think for newer writers these large trade shows can be a bit daunting and overwhelming. You end up seeing literally thousands of authors and thousands of books and there’s no way you can’t be thinking, “Wow, how is my little book going to compete with all the noise?” I mean, people have freaking STAIRCASES draped with their book covers. So, yeah. I think if your publisher wants to send you there for an arc signing or to be on a panel then it’s worth going. But don’t let it discourage you. There is room for many, many books and good books will rise to the top, no matter the budget or marketing campaign behind them. I can think of dozens of books where authors were paid six or seven figures that did nothing and then small books that were barely given a chance to bloom becoming huge break-outs. So, I guess I’m saying, go and have fun but don’t believe the hype. (Either good or bad.)
9. That's great advice about not comparing yourself to other authors or books with bigger marketing budgets. What are you working on now?
I am actually working on Shattered, the second book in the Scorched series. I don’t want to give any spoilers for readers who haven’t gotten a chance to read Scorched, but I’m really loving the opportunity to continue where Trinity, Connor and Caleb’s story left off.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Mari. You can find Mari at:
Mari’s publisher, Sourcebooks, generously offered an ARC of SCORCHED for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on September 21st. I’ll announce the winner on September 23rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome.
And don't forget to enter my other giveaway contests, including my Sequels Giveaway Hop and giveaway of DECEPTION, the awesome second book in C.J. Redwine's series.
Here’s what’s coming up:
Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Caroline Carlson and giving away a copy of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. It’s a fantastic pirate adventure story with a bit of fantasy as well. It’s my first pirate story and I really enjoyed it.
Tuesday next week I’ll have a special Tuesday tip interview with Daniel Alexander who is the 20-year old author of two books and a new picture book, A SWIM THROUGH SPACE, which he’s offering for a giveaway. He has 28,000 Twitter followers and he’s going to share some advice on Twitter. I’m really excited for the tips because I’m not sure exactly what to do on Twitter and I’ve heard this from a number of writers.
The following Monday I’m interviewing Alex Cavanaugh, one of our followers, and giving away ARCs of CASSAFIRE and CASSASTORM. This is an interesting Sci-fi series that takes Bryon from a young adult into adulthood. I don’t spotlight adult books but I’m a big following and fan of Alex and this is the last book in his series. And he’s a very successful blogger and will be sharing blogging advice with us. In these times when some writers seem to be tiring of blogging, I really feel it’s important to help each other invigorate our blogs and support each other by continuing to follow each other.
Wednesday that week I’m interviewing another follower, debut author Christina Lee, and giving away an e-book of her new fantastic adult novel, ALL OF YOU, a contemporary romantic story with great characters.
And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.
Hope to see you on Monday!