Need I reiterate that one can meet the most interesting people at Cons? In the very final interview with folks I was fortunate enough to meet at World Con, allow me to introduce an up and coming new writer in the spec-fic community, Lisa Mantchev. At the Weird Tales party, I encountered a statuesque woman attending the official Weird Tales table and showing off a unique selection of intriguing art. Another one of those, “Oh, you’re a writer, too?” conversations later, and we arrive here at this interview. I know I’ll be looking for her book, Eyes Like Stars in coming months. And, oh yeah, she was wearing a corset at the time…
TH: Can you give a brief arc of your career as a writer/author?
LM: I started writing short fiction in 2000, made my first pro sale in 2002 and my YA trilogy sold in 2007, with the first book due on the shelves in 2009.
TH: What were your first pro sales?
LM: The first was to the SFWA anthology New Voices in Science Fiction. The second was to Strange Horizons, and the third was the book deal (although my sales to Clarkesworld happened before we’d announced that.)
TH: What is The Story of Lisa? Is it a novel? A short story? A poem? A limerick?
LM: A picture book, each page illustrated by one of the madly talented artists I know.
TH: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you know?
LM: I actually had a “break” in my writing career. I was scribbling short stories from the time I could hold a pencil; it was something I always enjoyed, something that was encouraged by my family (along with many, many games of make-believe, although my sister might have a different opinion about being bossed around and tied to trees). In high school, I wrote a play that I produced and directed at the community theater in my hometown. Then I went to college thinking I wanted to be an actress, and didn’t go back to creative writing until my senior year, when I took a playwriting class. I started writing creatively again in earnest. I think the clincher for wanting to do it professionally was that first $5 fiction sale… That first check, I was hooked. I think we “spent” it on a $80 celebratory dinner.
TH: A lot of established writers seem to have a stack of writing somewhere that will never a see the light of day. I’m talking about stuff that perhaps helped you learn and develop your craft, like the five novels the author had to write before he could get to the good one. Do you have anything like this?
LM: I have my first attempt at a novel in a big ol’ binder, as well as a pile of about twenty short stories. I still write stories that don’t find homes, and I have loved two of them enough to publish them on my own website for International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.
TH: Of course, most writers want to have bestsellers or make some sort of artistic or literary impact. Is there some unrealized accomplishment that you’re striving for in the near future?
LM: I have a writerly checklist. I’d like to get a short story reprinted in a “Year’s Best” anthology. I’d like to make the ballot for a major award. I’d like the novels to hit a bestseller list. I’d like to see a stranger reading my book in a coffee house… All the usual things, plus world domination!
TH: So if you become the Great and Powerful Global Overgoddess, what would be your first decree?
LM: Send me your minions. Also, boys, be prepared to wear kilts.
TH: What are some of the things that inspire you?
LM: Where I live is incredibly inspiring. We’re twenty minutes from the nearest small town and an hour and half drive from the nearest mall. Out every window of our house is all trees and flowers and salt air and mountains.
My family is also incredibly inspiring, the funny everyday stuff as well as the stress and conflict of making it through each day. My daughter has reached the stage where she wants a bedtime story every night, and she prefers I make one up, which makes for a lot of improvisation and brainstorming.
TH: What about the writing process most appeals to you?
LM: Besides the publication bit? I really like transferring a vision from my head to someone else’s head. When I was younger, a book would show me things, take me places, and I love the idea of doing the same for someone else. I tend to do a lot of “visual” descriptive work because of that.
TH: What are the most successful ways you have used to promote yourself and your work? Are there any promising marketing avenues that you might yet explore ?
LM: I have the usual: website, MySpace page, LiveJournal blog. I have yet to branch out into Twitter, because honestly there are only so many hours in the day.
Conventions are a fun way to get to meet the community as well; I try to attend WorldCon, and my local convention is NorwesCon in Seattle. I’m looking forward to adding more as time and expenses allow. I’d like to add Dragon*Con next year.
TH: Do you find that corsets increase your customer traffic? What is it about corsets that appeal to you?
LM: Well, first off, let’s not put “corset” and “customer traffic” in the same sentence, because that just sounds bad. *G* I was a drama major, and I’ve done community theater since I was six, and it was always about the costumes. I love period and fantasy clothing, shopping for vintage treasures like hats and jewelry. One of the reasons I jumped headfirst into steampunk was that it was a great excuse to go antiquing.
I bought my first corset at LACon IV (Worldcon, 2006) from Dan at XCentricities and I instantly fell in love with the silhouette. I’m tall (5’10”) and I used to slouch because I was self-conscious about it. I spent most of puberty also feeling like I was too busty and heavy. Corsets give me insta-perfect-posture and make me feel svelte.
Dan was at Denvention this year; that’s how I ended up in a different corset every day. I really, really enjoyed myself, and he is lucky I gave him that vintage kimono back.
At the end of the day, not only do I love corsets and costuming and feel beautiful in them, but it’s a way to stand out in a crowd and be visible while still being myself. If I tell you “I’m the Amazonian redhead in the green corset,” you’re not going to have trouble picking me out of a crowd.
TH: Have you reached the point at which you realized that you had “made it” as a writer and author? If so, can you describe the milestone or circumstances? Do you recall how that felt? If not, what is the milestone you’re seeking?
LM: I’m waiting for the first book to come out. I think that bright and shining moment will come when I see it on a bookstore shelf.
I have had a few moments that gave me pause, though. The first time I appeared on programming at a convention. The first time someone asked me for my autograph. Someone wanting a picture taken with me (although I will credit that entirely to the outfit I was wearing at the time.)
TH: Some say that professional writers have to look at themselves as a business, a branded commodity. Do you take that approach?
LM: I do think of it as a job. I devote a certain amount of time each day to getting the writing/revising/marketing tasks done. I pay attention to the publishing industry. I have a certain way of presenting myself at conventions. It wouldn’t be any different if I sold insurance, except there probably wouldn’t be corsets involved (for the most part.)
TH: How much time do you devote per day to the writing business?
LM: Bare minimum, two to three. Some days, when I’m plowing through revisions or I have a looming deadline, I’ve spent upwards of twelve hours with my eyeballs glued to the monitor. It’s not the kind of job where you lock up and leave at five o’clock, for certain.
TH: Do you write full-time or part-time?
LM: I consider myself a full-time writer, although my other jobs include mommy, housekeeper, laundress, chef, chauffeur and accountant.
TH: What can readers expect to see from you in the near future? What are you working on?
LM: EYES LIKE STARS, the first novel in the ThÃ©Ã¢tre Illuminata trilogy, is due out from Feiwel & Friends in 2009. I’m working on the other two novels at the moment, as well as the first novel of an unrelated YA series. A steampunk novella collaboration with James Grant will be appearing in Weird Tales next year as well.
TH: What is the most memorable moment (good, bad, or other) you have had in your life as an author?
LM: I think the day we closed the deal on the trilogy was the most emotionally draining/exhilarating day in my authorial life to date. I’m keeping a wary eye on 2009… so much is scheduled to happen next year that I’m sure EmoCoaster will be running at full-speed. Climbing the hill… clank clank clank… cresting the hill… GOOD NEWS! And then AAAAAAAAAAAARGH, all the way to the bottom. Lather, rinse, repeat!
TH: So how is it that signing a publishing deal is an emotionally draining experience? On the surface, one would think exhilaration to be the word of the day.
LM: After we accepted the offer from Feiwel & Friends, we went into negotiations. For various reasons–the least of which was the desire to have a signed contract before making the announcement–I wasn’t able to tell people about the deal for nine months. And I’m one of those people who love sharing good news, so that about killed me.