Today I have a special guest on my blog. I met Nina in 2010 at the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive in DC. It was a fun-filled week of exploration, learning, and intense discussion. We got to meet some of the greats like David Ives and Marsha Norman. Such a wonderful experience! Nina and I got assigned to critique each other’s stage directions in an exercise about painting an environment with words. Years later, I saw that Nina was publishing a YA novel at Fire and Ice YA Publishing. When it came my turn to seek a publisher for Welcome to Sortilege Falls, I asked Nina’s advice and we ended up being published by the same publisher. Pretty cool, huh? Well, with no further ado, here’s Nina:
What inspired you to write Swimming Alone?
I was inspired by a number of things. The summers I spent in Rhode Island as a child inspired the setting. My teenage adventures inspired some of the incidents in the novel—yes, I snuck out on more than one occasion. I was also inspired by the students I taught my first year teaching high school. I noticed that even the most reluctant reader would read a book filled with action and suspense, and I was motivated to write a book for that student.
I loved that Cathy’s aunt is a mystery writer. Was she based on anyone?
I think Aunt Bobbie is the mystery novelist I hope to be some day! Hugely successful, with an exciting life! But she’s definitely a whole lot cooler than I am. But I can dream, can’t I?
The cover of your book is amazing, did you have any input on the final design?
Thank you! I was thrilled when Caroline Andrus, who designed the cover, sent it to me. Caroline had me fill out a questionnaire about what elements I wanted in the cover. I think she absolutely captured that sense of foreboding in the novel.
What’s been the biggest challenge marketing your novel?
It has been challenging helping SWIMMING ALONE find its audience. So far, I think many of my readers have been adults who read YA. But really, the target audience for this book is a 12-15 year old mystery fan. I’ve had some very successful library visits meeting with young people, but I am still working on reaching more of these young readers.
Cathy’s boss. Ugh. Totally creepy. Did you worry at all about making him seem like a possible pervert and the boss of two teenage girls?
I wasn’t worried about that. Honestly, this character was totally based on a teacher I had in Junior High School. I won’t name names, but in 7th grade, we ALL knew he was a total perv. I actually remember being called after class when I was wearing a mini-skirt and feeling really exposed. I also remember catching him peeking down a girl’s shirt—and this is when I was twelve years old. Unfortunately, creepy characters are a part of life, and I think young girls today are aware of this.
As a mystery writer, how do you decide which clues to drop and when? Does it change as you write a new draft or develop based on beta reader feedback?
Oh, it absolutely changes as I write and rewrite, and nothing is finalized until the final draft. I was actually in copy edits when I realized I had left out one important clue! Lucky it was just a missing word. The very first draft of this book was actually exceedingly non-linear and filled with flashbacks. It was also filled with letters Cathy was writing to a friend back home in Upstate New York. My beta reader suggested that I focus on the friendship between Cathy and Lauren, and make the book linear. Changing the structure of the novel forced me to change how some of the clues were laid out.
Keeping your main character without internet and cell phone is tough to do in this day and age. I felt like it worked here, but if you were to write another book with Cathy, would you allow her to have access to the outside world?
Yes! As I was writing SWIMMING ALONE, I knew I had to get rid of Cathy’s cell phone, because having it would make things just too easy for her. But I think the next Cathy Banks adventure (and there is one floating around in my brain right now,) will involved a whole lot of texting! And I think it will involve a change of location as well—possibly New York City.
I loved the part in the book where Doug hurts his hand while boating. How did you come up with that moment? Do you know a lot about boating or did you just imagine the physical space and the most likely way to get injured?
I was actually in a boating accident when I was about thirteen years old. A bunch of us were out on a boat, two boats collided (at a very slow speed) and my friend got a hole pierced right through her hand. I based the boat and the incident on that frightening experience.
Putting Cathy in a remote beach town where she knows practically no one really made the danger she was in seem more intense – how did you pick the location of the book? Why a beach town over a mountain town or other location?
As I mentioned above, I was really inspired by the summers I spent in Rhode Island. But more than that, I think that I find inspiration in ocean air. Whenever I need a jolt of creative energy, I go to a beach. There is something about the sound of the waves, the sand, the smells—it always feeds my muse.
- How has your playwriting influenced your writing?
Plays need conflict. They need tension. They need drama. They need characters to want something desperately that they try to achieve. Characters can’t just sit around talking in plays. They need to do things. Playwriting taught me a great deal about story structure, which helped with craft a suspenseful mystery novel.
- What’s next for you in terms of writing?
I have a few things on the horizon right now. At the end of this year, I have a graphic novel, FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION illustrated by the amazing Leyla Akdogan, coming out with Plume Snake, a “membership-based digital archive of creator-owned comics and graphic novels.” I am really excited about that. FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION is a girl-power adventure. I’ve also written a new short mystery story, and I’m working on another one, both of which will hopefully be published soon. And I’m doing yet another rewrite of a YA Parnormal Thriller/Romance that I’ve been working on for some time. I like to keep busy!
Nina Mansfield is a Greenwich, Connecticut based author, blogger and playwright. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE a YA mystery, was published by Fire & Ice YA in 2015. Her blog, NOT EVEN JOKING, just celebrated its first birthday. Her plays have been published and produced throughout United States and internationally. Her graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION, illustrated by Leyla Akdogan, will be out with Plume Snake in 2016. Nina’s short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Dramatists Guild.
BOOK BLURB for SWIMMING ALONE:
The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending what she thinks will be a wretched summer. 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?
Now on sale for only 99 cents!!!!
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