LPR: Girl of My Dreams is the kind of story that actually causes a woman to dream of what might have been if she had been in a beauty contest. A delightful read that shows great talent in making descriptions of the interactions between characters sound so normal and real.
MM: Thanks so much, Lucille. I'm glad you enjoyed Girl of My Dreams.
LPR: Please tell us what kind of writing you like most to do and how you got your start as a writer.
MM: Romances and mysteries are equal favorites of mine. I have the same tastes in reading as when I'm going to a movie or watching a DVD at home. I started seriously writing fiction after attending a program by Chicago-North Romance Writers of America at the local library. That's when I discovered authors were real people and maybe if I worked hard enough I could be one of them. I joined the chapter and have never regretted it. Getting the support and feedback from my chapter friends is what made the difference in my getting published.
LPR: What other books or stories have you written and where might the reader find these?
MM: My debut novel, Two Wrongs, a mystery set in Chicago, combining elements of a John Grisham-like courtroom scene, a Danielle Steel-like second-chance-at-love and an old Charles Bronson movie-like revenge plot, was published in 2006 and is still available at www.hardshell.com, in print and ebook, also at www.amazon.com, www.fictionwise.com,
http://mobipocket.com and by order at bookstores. My current romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams is available through the same venues.
LPR: When I first began to read Girl of My Dreams, I thought, Oh sure, another romance of course. But I found your story set apart from the usual tale in that every incident, every event, seemed so real. I wondered if you had any personal experience as a contestant in a beauty contest. If not, have you worked on the sidelines to help put on a contest?
MM: I've never been in a beauty contest, I'm over twice as old as my character, but I can dream, can't I? That's what fiction is all about, becoming someone else for a short time.
LPR: Another thing that set the story apart is that of having a rich young man make the choices instead of a panel of three or more people. What gave you this idea? In my opinion it proved very good for me.
MM: I liked the idea of more interaction between the millionaire and who he'd end up with. Why should someone else decide something so important to him? It should be his choice.
LPR: What led you to title the story Girl of My Dreams?
MM: I have to confess to conniving. The beginning letter of the title has a lot to do with a product's placement. Two Wrongs was further down in the listings because the title started with a T. I wanted one that would be easier to find. With that in mind, I fiddled with ideas and this one came to me.
LPR: Do you title before or after you write a story?
MM: I title before the story, but sometimes it's necessary to change it.When I wrote Two Wrongs, first I called it Vengeance, but that didn't sound right. Then I called it Dead Wrong, but right before got the contract I found a recently released book with the same name. To avoid confusion, I changed the title.
LPR: I can relate to the fear she felt when she first decided to take the 12th contestant's place although I've never been in that situation myself. Did something in your own life suggest a spontaneous move such as this?
MM: I don't do much spontaneously. I'm too much of a thinker. Because of that, I gave my character a strong enough motive to make her take on something so scary. The scariest thing I do is speak on panels and give speeches to promote my books.
LPR: Another point I want to mention is when his mother fell sick. He dropped everything to go to her, yet she stepped in and made the contest a success. I commend you on the ability to make that moment seem so natural. Did you have an outline for this story before you sat down to write it or did your character just take over?
MM: I despise outlines. I'm not organized enough to do them. Sometimes when I get into the middle of a story, though, I'm stuck with making a timeline for myself, to keep events and dates straight. What I did with the part of the story you refer to about the director's mother being ill was I thought over what seemed logical in light of the goals I had in mind. I wanted the
director to undergo a life-changing event to make him seem more human. I also wanted the heroine to become even more assertive. With those goals in mind, I carved out that part of the plot.
LPR: If it's the latter, what point do you have to reach before a character begins to tell the story?
MM: I start with a few ideas in mind about the beginning and end of a story, then let it all happen. My characters always take over and do things I never expect. That's the fun of writing.
LPR: Do you have to fit your writing around a day job? If so, how do you manage it?
MM: I've worked several years as an administrative assistant at a law firm. I'm fortunate enough to get Wednesdays off and try to cram everything I can into that day. I also do much of my writing on a laptop computer as I commute. In the evening and on weekends I'm busy with promotion. I have a difficult time managing it all, but can't afford to quit my day job. I'm lucky to have a very supportive husband.
LPR: In this day when some authors boast of writing a book a month, how long did it take you to write this book?
MM: It took me over a year and a half to write Girl of My Dreams, not counting the editing process with Hard Shell Word Factory. I'm a slow reader and a slow writer. I really like to get into a story which takes time for me.
LPR: Have you found a kind diplomatic way to handle interruptions to your writing schedule? To say no to those asking for your time during writing
MM: I try to juggle both. Since I do most of my creative writing on the commuter train, my main problem is being distracted. On the way to work I ride in a quiet car and don't have trouble concentrating. On the way home, I'm in a car with friends I've come to know over the years and it's hard to concentrate on writing instead of joining in on the conversation. At home, I watch TV and do Internet promotion at the same time. I make time to attend family events and go out with my husband. My only child is my dog, Rascal. She demands attention and often interrupts me when I'm writing. I give in too much to her.
LPR: Do you read when you're not writing? Assuming you write what you like to read most, what other kinds of reading do you do? What other kinds of stories do you like?
MM: I wish I had more time to read, but I do it when I can. I enjoy reading the same type of books I write - romances and mysteries. Some of my favorite well-known authors are Mary Higgins Clark, Katherine Stone, Dick Francis and the late Sidney Sheldon. I also read books by friends of mine even if they're not in the same genre as I write. Good authors can draw me in despite my favorite preferences.
LPR: Do you feel that your reading influences your writing or the stories and ideas that come to you?
MM: Definitely, as far as genre, but not in the way of content. Still, a small point in another book can spark an idea for a complete story.
LPR: Now that Girl of My Dreams is published and you can look back on your writing experience, is there anything about the story or the processes by which it was written that you wish you would have done differently?
MM: No, I'm happy with Girl of My Dreams the way it is. It's the story I wanted to tell and I did my best to tell it.
LPR: What are you working on at present? Will it be in a series that Girl of My Dreams may fit into or will it be a stand alone?
MM: Girl of My Dreams is not part of a series. Right now I'm working on two completely different novels. One is a boomer thriller about aging called Forever Young, which could possibly be part of a series. The other is a romantic comedy about a repairman called Mr. Fix-It.
LPR: If you had an opportunity to give struggling writers one piece of advice, what could you say to them? Perhaps something that has helped you more than anything else?
MM: Be persistent. You've probably heard this from many authors, but it's the truth. It takes time to make the right fit. It takes time to hone your craft. Don't give up.
LPR: Thank you so much, Ms. Mandel, for taking the time to answer all of my questions. Be sure to let us know when your next book is published.
MM: Thanks, so much, Lucille. It was a pleasure sharing my thoughts with you and your readers.
Lucille P Robinson