Lisa Mantchev Interview

Lisa Mantchev is kicking off the my interview series with authors, editors, agents and a librarian.


Washington state author Lisa Mantchev is best known as the author of the young adult fantasy trilogy, The Théâtre Illuminata, which includes the Andre Norton and Mythopoeic awards-nominated EYES LIKE STARS. Her steampunk young adult novel, TICKER, was a Kindle #1 Bestseller, and her first picture book, STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS, was named a 2016 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award Honorable Mention. Her picture books SISTER DAY!, JINX AND THE DOOM FIGHT CRIME, NARWHAL IN A FISHBOWL, and ODDITIES are also forthcoming from Paula Wiseman/S&S

I met Lisa through our mutual friend and author Christopher Ledbetter. We bonded over toe shoes, steampunk, Dr. Who and writing. Lisa is an artist, author and shares her creativity freely on FB.

And now she’s sharing her insights as an author with us:

Q: When did you first start writing?

LM: I remember packing around a pink unicorn Trapper Keeper full of story ideas and snippets that I wrote, which would have been the third grade.

Q: How long did it take to write your first book?

LM: Three months. It was on a dare from a friend who felt like it was time I leveled up from short stories.

Q: Are you a panster or plotter?

LM: Both. I do loose outlines that inevitably change or get thrown out completely. I also believe that if you have solid characters and world-building, you don’t need as much of an outline, and that leaves more room to surprise yourself as you go.

Q: Do you have critique partners?

LM: With the collaborations, my other-author buddy and I crit as we go. On the solo projects, my literary agent is my primary, but I still have four or five people I can always count on for feedback.

Q: Are you a member of SCBWI? Do you think it helps?

LM: I am not currently a member, no.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?

LM: Everywhere. Social media, for certain. I use Pinterest a lot, not just for inspiration but for storyboarding. Everyday life with two active kids is also inspiring, especially for the picture books (JINX AND THE DOOM FIGHT CRIME is directly based off them) and now I am hugely motivated by the vintage typewriters I’ve amassed.

Q: Are you an introvert or extrovert?

LM: Both. I love being around people, but there’s a reason I live on 7 acres of trees.

Q: What is your writing routine?

LM: We’re on summer vacation right now, so I’m taking the opportunity to learn sketching and writing microfiction for my Patreon account. With the kids home, I have to cram it in around everything else, and working from home means there are constant interruptions (phone calls, laundry timers, lunch, snacks, craft projects.) When school starts up again, I’ll tackle the middle grade idea that’s been percolating.

Q: Do you have a favorite topic to write about?

LM: Everything I do has a performance aspect to it. Theater was my first love.

Q: How many drafts do you typically write before submitting to your critique partner, agent or publisher?

LM: One completed draft (which might include rewriting) and an editorial pass.

Q: What word did you delete the most from the last draft you revised?

LM: I have a tic in every manuscript. In one, everyone was nodding, all the time. I’m surprised their heads didn’t fall off. In another, everything was either tiny or enormous. And in another, everything happened “after a moment.” I’m on the constant alert for the next tic.

Q: How do you keep self-motivated?

LM: At the end of the day, I can have a blank page, or I can have words. Nine times out of ten, I choose to have words on that page. Plus, I am competitive as heck.

Q: How do you cope with rejection?

LM: I joke at conventions that I got out of theater and into publishing because I just couldn’t take the rejection anymore, and inevitably it gets a huge laugh. I don’t enjoy rejections, but they are part of the process. Some rejections are easier to shrug off than others. Some require ice cream, and others require rolling myself into a tiny ball and pulling a blanket over my head.

Q: How do you cope with reviews?

LM: The rule is that we aren’t supposed to read them, right? I try to avoid them, for the most part. Nice ones get pointed out to me, and thankfully, most reviewers have been very kind to the picture book.

Q: What’s the last book you read?

LM: “Creative Girl: Mixed Media Techniques for an Artful Life” by Danielle Donaldson. I’m trying to teach myself to art so that I can illustrate some of my own picture books. It’s been glorious and challenging, and good grief, art supplies are expensive and take up a lot of room!


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