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  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
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Hi Everyone! For those of you with kids just starting school, I hope you're getting off to a good start. Today was my first day of getting up at 5:00 am to get Anna Li and 3 other girls to 5:45 am swim practice three days a week. I don't really mind because I'm home by 6:00 am with lots of time to focus on blogging and writing before I go to work. And I'm so excited that we have a 4 person carpool. It's going to be a great quality of life help for swim season this year.

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
start on page one. I like to explore the worlds and the situations along with the main characters and kind of “see what happens.” I’ve never had a book where the plot didn’t surprise me in some way and, to be honest, I think that’s one of my favorite things about writing.

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:

Twitter: @marimancusi

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!


Ruthsic said...

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ruthsic/status/375225199903256576
GFC: Ruthsic

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for sharing, Natalie, and glad to hear you've got some carpooling support to lighten your swim season load. Best of luck to Mari on her series.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Aren't you lucky that you've got a carpool for the early morning swim crew! No matter how you like to write, you've got to plot that schedule of yours, right? Love the mash-up story line. Mari's a talented lady. Sign me up to win Scorched! (Oh, and I tweeted about it too!)

Unknown said...

Lol I just started school XD I hate waking up early. This book looks awesome though, I love books about dragons. I'm a big fan of the Eragon series too. Thanks for the giveaway :)


Isis Rushdan said...

Great to have a carpool for those early mornings.

Congratulations on Scorched!

Cherie Reich said...

Scorched sounds awesome! Great interview, ladies!

~Sia McKye~ said...

What an interesting interview. I don't read a lot of YA, but I do have a great fondness for dragons, lol! This is a story I would enjoy.

I'm very impressed with sourcebooks publicists and the time they spend promoting their authors. I love the cover artist they have too. I've yet to see a book from sourcebooks that hasn't had a fabulous cover. :-)

Wishing you success with Sorched!

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Anonymous said...

I'm always in when it comes to dragons. Scorched sounds intriguing.


Rachna Chhabria said...

Both the title Scorched and the book cover are awesome. Wishing you success.

Crystal Collier said...

Wow this book sounds awesome, and I write the same way too--know the arc and a few major turning points, but allow the characters to tell me their story rather than telling them what to do. I do occasionally make them step in line and follow my marching orders.

Love this!

Xige said...

Thank you for the interview, this book was already on my wishlist!


Sara @ Forever 17 Books said...

I just got an ARC of this in the mail yesterday! Can't wait to read it.

Stephen Tremp said...

Good luck to Mari Mancusi and Scorched! I'm sending big thoughts of success her way right now!

Patchi said...

Another great interview. I'm adding Scorched to my TBR pile :)

Chenise Jones said...

I haven't read many books with dragons so I'm excited to try this one out!

GFC: Chenise Jones

Donna K. Weaver said...

Beautiful cover. It really brought me up short when we were taken from dragons to Texas. Awesome! Congrats, Mari.

Cynthia said...

Congratulations to Mari on her new book! Scorched sounds like something I'd like to read, and I'll add it to my list.

jpetroroy said...

I love the sound of this. Outside of my usual reading comfort zone, but I'm going to pick this one up.

PK HREZO said...

Sounds great! So many time travel stories coming out. (mine too!) Sounds like Sourcebooks is great to work with!

Gina Gao said...

This was a great interview! I enjoyed reading this very much.


Kel said...

Sounds like a very interesting read, and nice interview.

Good luck with the early mornings!

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

I've been looking forward to this book! Thank you for the contest! I'm a follower!

CG @ Paper Fury said...

Ohhh! I love the sound of this book. Great interview! It was nice to know more of Scorched's journey to be a book! :D
notebooksisters AT gmail DOT com

Tyrean Martinson said...

Sounds like a great book! I like strong heroines!

Julie Musil said...

Wow, that IS a mash up book! Sounds so cool (or hot...!)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Natalie, Hi, Mari,

What a terrific interview ladies... and thanks Mari fir all your tips! Congrats on your success and all your hard work!

I am intrigued by the premise of your books...

Unknown said...

Great interview and spotlight. I can't wait to read this book. I'm a huge fan of dragon novels and this one sounds fantastic. Congrats on the new release.

Stephanie Garber said...

Great interview! Scorched sounds awesome! I can't wait to read it!

staceylee said...

Yay Mari! I can't wait to dig in. :)

Rosi said...

Great interview and lots of good stuff coming up. Please don't enter me in the drawing. My TBR list is monstrous!

dolorah said...

This sounds like an interesting novel I'd love to read. A kinda combination Eragon and Knight of the Word. I love dragons, and recognizable urban fantasy too. I'm all for trying a new (to me) author.

Natalie; does 5a really exist in the real world? Seriously!


Unknown said...

OMG - that is the most awesome cover EVER!! It's brilliant in every way! Between the great interview and the cover, I SO want to read this book now!

Good luck with the school/work/writing schedule, Natalie - it sounds like you have it well organized. :-)

CYP @ A Bookalicious Story said...

Oooh, I've been book watching Scorched since a long time ago, and I saw the video of Mari spazzing over it's beautiful hardback's cover!! Great interview, and thanks for the giveaway! Crossing my fingers. :)

I follow on GFC.

cypsays_hi at hotmail dot com

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Danielle H. said...

I enjoy strong girl characters too. Thank you for the giveaway and I will post on Facebook!

Unknown said...

I follow by email: klgicurn@yahoo.com

Mari Mancusi said...

hehe yes, I was pretty spazzy after seeing that! :) Good luck with the giveaway!!

Mari Mancusi said...

Isn't the cover amazing? Tony Sahara is the artist and he did a brilliant job capturing the affection and protectiveness between Trinity and her dragon! I am one lucky author!

Mari Mancusi said...

Thanks Donna! I hope you enjoy the mash-up!! :)

Mari Mancusi said...

Thanks Stacy!! xo

Mari Mancusi said...

I hope you like it!! :) MARI

Mari Mancusi said...

Thanks Steph! I hope you like it! What's your favorite dragon novel? DId you ever read the Pern series?

Mari Mancusi said...

Thanks Michael! I hope you get a chance to check them out!!

Mari Mancusi said...

LOL definitely HOT. :) And thank you! I specialize in mash-ups. Love them.

Mari Mancusi said...

Yes, they really are!! This is my 4th publisher and I have been repeatedly blown away by their awesomeness.

Mari Mancusi said...

Thanks Cynthia! I hope you enjoy it!!!!

Mari Mancusi said...

Awesome! I hope you like! It's always good to read something different once in a while, isn't it? I just read "Beautiful Ruins" which is about as different a book as I could get from my normal reading, but I loved it!

Mari Mancusi said...

Everything is bigger! Dragons, Texas...

Mari Mancusi said...

Hope you like!! :)

Mari Mancusi said...

LOL. Yes, you can only let them get away with so much...

Mari Mancusi said...

Thanks Sia. (Love your name by the way.) And yes, Sourcebooks has done amazing things. I'm continually blown away by all their attention to detail. Highly recommend!

Mari Mancusi said...

Thank you Rachna!!

Beth said...

This book sounds really good - and I loved reading her backstory!

Nicole said...

Awesome interview! I loved the tease for this book. It's definitely got me hooked.

Holly Bryan said...

This was a great interview! (Par for the course here at LR!) Mari sounds like such a cool person!! Of course I follow her just about everywhere it's humanly possible, so...I guess I knew that already ;)

I have been drooling over this book since I first heard about it many months ago...and don't even get me started on that COVER!!! I could look at it all day long. I absolutely positively LOVE dragons (and have been mocked for it for, oh, I don't know, 25 years or so!) and I'm thrilled to see so much more love for dragons in popular culture these days! Like Mari, I always wanted (okay, more like I still WANT) a dragon for a pet. It's just not gonna happen, is it?!

I'd love to be entered for the ARC! I follow via email, hmbryan(at)alumni(dot)duke(dot)edu. I'm also getting ready to tweet this blog post as soon as I finish this comment! Thanks so much!

Holly Bryan said...


Mary Preston said...

SCORCHED looks and sounds amazing. This is going to be a great trilogy.


Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like a great book - I love books that combine genres like that. I'm looking forward to reading it! :)

Jess said...

Great questions and answers! I love reading about everything from an author's process to attending cool events like BEA :)

Lisa Gail Green said...

This book sounds AWESOME. And anyone who mentions David Duchovny, Joss Whedon, and Dr. Who has my immediate attention. :D I also love her agency and Sourcebooks, so... LOL!!! I guess I'm already a fan. Sounds like an awesome plot too.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to read this and it was great reading about the author.


Heather said...

This sounds fantastic! I'll have to add it to my to read list for when I get back to reading YA.

Lydia Kang said...

Great interview. I'd love to read Scorched!

Natasha said...

I can't wait to read Scorched!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Llehn said...

Ooo ... dragons!

GFC follower!


Emily R. King said...

That is a kick ass cover! I also want to see how you're building a fan base on FB. Very few people do it right. I want to learn more!

Thanks for the giveaway, Natalie!

erittelking at gmail dot com

Unknown said...

I am a GFC Follower: Jessica Noreault
Email is:
Shinyxoxmuffins (at) gmail (dot) com

I love, love, looooooooove this cover. I am one of those "judged a book by the cover, she must burn now" people. Allow me to set self on fire. Lol. But it is beautiful and the story sounds so good. do want! <3

Leeanna said...

GFC: Leeanna
Bloglovin: Leeannadotme
Email: maurapedia @ gmail.com

All I can say after reading this interview is I want to read SCORCH even more now!

Vera Machado said...

Seems to be a great book!

GFC: Vera Machado
Twitter: https://twitter.com/veritas_m/status/381161982587441152
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veramachado89/posts/10151846043298150
Email: ofg_cs_vm@hotmail.com

Thanks for the giveaway!!! :D

sarah said...

I have wanted to read Scorched as soon as The cover came out, even more when I read the book blurb, It looks like an exciting story.
GFC sarah kozlowski

Ari said...

I've heard so many things about Scorched! I really need to read it, it looks great!
Followed vis Bloglovin: Ariel Tam
Tweeted: https://twitter.com/ArielSmith24/status/381445171004461057
Email: puppy2417(at)hotmail(dot)com

Diana_Dimovska said...

Amazing, can't wait to read it! I love dragons! :D

gfc and bloglovin' - Diana Dimovska
email - dianadimovska1(at)gmail(dot)com

tweet link - https://twitter.com/Diana_Dimovska/status/381454690019336192

Kiku said...

Thank you for the giveaway! :D

Following with Bloglovin as Kristina Vallaste
email - kurri121 AT hotmail DOT com
Tweet: https://twitter.com/Deemotay/status/381478903329460224