"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Special FeaturesHoliday Themed Romance Chat with Featured Authors at PNR CHAT, monthly - 3rd Monday, 9pm Eastern
When not exposing scams and righting wrongs, Emmy award-winning television news producer Marianne Mancusi writes paranormal romantic comedies for the adult romance and YA market. She is a graduate of Boston University's College of Communications and has worked for TV stations in Orlando, San Diego and Boston. In her spare time she enjoys shopping, bar hopping, snowboarding, and her favorite guilty pleasure--videogames. She lives in Boston's historic North End.
PNR: Have you always wanted to be a writer, what led you to pursue writing as a career?
Marianne M.: I definitely always wanted to be a writer. Even before I could pick up a pen I’d dictate stories for my mom to transcribe. My first book was a five pager called “A Horse Named Jennifer.” Thrilling stuff, really. That Jennifer was quite a character. J
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I decided I wanted to pursue writing seriously. I joined Romance Writers of America, learned a lot, wrote a couple books that will never see the light of day, then penned “A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court” in summer of 2004.
PNR: How do you manage to balance your writing and personal time? What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Marianne M.: Since I have a full time job (as a television news producer for the NBC station in Boston) it can be tricky to balance writing and work and still manage to have a life! If I can, I try to take weekends off from writing and just enjoy myself. But when deadlines loom that doesn’t always happen!
When not writing, I like to go out to bars and restaurants with friends or stay home and watch movies and play on the computer. I have a passion for online videogames like World of Warcraft. I also enjoy reading and snowboarding and hanging out in New York City as often as possible.
PNR: What is the best part about being a writer? The most frustrating?
Marianne M.: I love entertaining people and making them laugh. Writing allows me to do this. I also enjoy creating new worlds and characters to inhabit them. Basically they pay me to make stuff up! What could be cooler than that!?
Deadlines can be the most frustrating part of being a writer. There’s always one looming and you’re never quite on schedule. It can suck the joy out of the writing process. You’re always thinking, “If I could just have one more week, day, hour...”
PNR: Which author(s) is your favorite? And who has most influenced your work? Which books are currently in your TBR pile?Marianne M.: I really love fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley. Mists of Avalon was one of the best books of all time.
I love MaryJanice Davidson, Laurell K. Hamilton, Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Katie MacAlister. (You might see a vampire trend here...)
I’m also a big fan of sci fi/speculative fiction novels from Phillip K. Dick, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Margaret Atwood.
I recently had a chance to read an advanced copy of Alyssa Day’s upcoming paranormal romance Atlantis Rising, which is FABULOUS!
PNR: Your books put your heroines in some unusual and challenging positions; where do you get the ideas for your books? Do you outline or “go with the flow” when writing?
Marianne M.: I try to come up with a basic premise/concept first. Play the “what if” game. For example, “What if a modern fashion editor was thrown back in time and had to relive the legend of King Arthur using only her 21st century smarts?” Then I write up a basic synopsis. One loose enough to allow for major changes as I’m writing. Plots can twist and characters can surprise me so I try to be flexible enough to accommodate that.
At the same time, I need to have a firm grip on where I’m going. I can only write a rough draft so far out before I have to go back to the beginning and revise and fix everything before I can move on.
PNR: Your first novel, A CONNECTICUT FASHIONISTA IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT, was a hit with readers and reviewers; could you tell us about the publication of your book?
Marianne M.: I wrote CT Fashionista in the summer of 2004. I’d been trying to write category romance before that and it just wasn’t working for me. My characters were always too mouthy and never behaved properly. J So I decided to write the type of book I wanted to and not worry about what would sell or not. I completed the book in the fall and pitched to an agent at a New Jersey RWA conference. She asked to see sample chapters and eventually signed me.
We sent the book out to editors in the spring of 2005 and it sold to Kate Seaver at Dorchester in August of that year. It was actually a hard sell because of the mixed genre. No one was quite sure what to do with a chick lit/time travel combo. Luckily, Dorchester is one of those awesome publishers who takes a chance on writers who decide they’ll just create a whole new sub-genre their first time out!
PNR: In 2005, you were a finalist for the PEARL Award for Best New Author, and A CONNECTICUT FASHIONISTA IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT was a finalist for the 2005 PEARL Award for Best Time Travel. How does it feel to have such positive recognition for your first novel?
Marianne M.: It’s exciting! I’m so glad people liked the book. I think the first book is always the one closest to your heart and I feel like a proud mother whenever it gets any acclaim. It’s also validating to learn that romance readers will accept and love books that break the rules. Some publishers are so afraid to color outside the lines and I just don’t understand that. I hope books like this open the doors to new writers with creative and innovative plotlines that might not follow all the rules.
PNR: Your much anticipated second book, WHAT, NO ROSES?, hit the bookstores in July 2006. What can readers expect in this latest offering?
Marianne M.: What, No Roses? is another time travel of sorts, but vastly different than CT Fashionista. In this book, reporter Dora Duncan goes back in time to the 1920s to track down her ex-boyfriend Nick who may be trying to change history by messing with the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Of course, to make it a little more challenging, neither of them are in their own bodies. The book has gangsters and flappers and lots of bathtub gin. (Not to mention a talking rat!) It was really fun to write about such a fascinating time in American history and I learned a lot.
PNR: You write wonderfully witty characters that readers have fallen in love with. Could you tell us a little about the development of your heroines? Their heroes? Who has been you favorite character to write?
Marianne M.: People who know me say they can’t read my books (which are all in first person) without hearing my voice. I do put a lot of myself into my heroines. That said, they also have their own identities and experiences that make them into the people they are at the start of the book--stuff completely not having to do with me.
I have a tendency to make my heroes either too perfect or too flawed. It’s a fine balance. You want them to overcome something and grow, but at the same time you don’t want them to be total loser nutcases. (Like a few of my real life exes, lol!) For example, my critique partner once read a rough draft of one of my books and asked, “Does she HAVE to end up with the hero at the end?” I realized immediately I’d better work on this guy! Luckily it’s fiction so you can always do a personality transplant if a character’s not working for you.
As for my favorite character, I really love the hero I’m writing now in my current book Moongazer. His name is Dawn and he’s been through a lot. He’s angry, passionate, but so, so sweet. I think I have a bit of a crush on him and hope readers will too.
PNR: There were many humorous scenes in A CONNECTICUT FASHIONISTA IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT and WHAT, NO ROSES?; do you enjoy using humor in your writing?
Marianne M.: Now that I’m writing my first non-comedy, I’m realizing how much extra work it is to write “funny.” Basically, the way I work is I write the scene out in its entirety, then go back and add the jokes. So in a way, I’m writing the book twice. Comedy is also hard because humor can be so subjective. People have written me saying they couldn’t stop laughing at a particular scene while others have said my books are stupid and the humor is non-existent. In those cases I just try to remember that you can’t please everyone.
That said, it’s very satisfying to come up with the perfect joke. And I like the idea of making people laugh. There’s too much sad stuff going on in this world. If my humor can provide a pleasant diversion for someone--even if only for an hour or two--I feel I’ve done my job.
PNR: Your next book, A HOBOKEN HIPSTER IN SHERWOOD FOREST, is coming in February 2007 from Love Spell; can you give readers a sneak peek?
Marianne M.: Hoboken Hipster is the sequel to CT Fashionista. As those of you who read CT Fashionista know, our heroine Kat is stuck in a time she shouldn’t be (trying not to give too much away!) and now it’s up to her coworker Chrissie to go back in time to get a special ingredient that the Lady of the Lake, Nimue, needs to bring Kat back.
So Chrissie’s sent back in time to Sherwood Forest, where she meets the legendary Robin Hood and his merry men. Problem is, they’re not behaving like the stories say they should. No robbing from the rich, no giving to the poor. So it’s up to Chrissie to take over and get them with the program.
PNR: You have published young adult fiction under the pseudonym Mari Mancusi, could you tell us about these projects? What challenges do you face writing in this genre?Marianne M.: I have written one contemporary young adult book, Sk8er Boy, and currently write a young adult vampire series for Berkley’s Jam line. (Boys that Bite, Stake That!, and next year’s Girls that Growl.) The vampire books are paranormal comedies--think Buffy the Vampire Slayer or a teen version of MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series.)
I love writing YA. I think it’s so much fun. And my teen readers are so enthusiastic. I keep a page on MySpace where I interact with them on a daily basis.
The biggest challenge with writing YA is to write on a teen level. You have to make sure you’re not talking down to your readers or sounding like an adult trying to be hip and cool. You really have to immerse yourself in their worlds. Luckily, with MySpace and other internet sites, it’s really easy to get to know your audience. Also, it helps that I’ve never quite grown up myself. J
PNR: In your opinion, what do you believe accounts for the sudden interest in all things paranormal in movies, books and television?
Marianne M.: I think people need an escape sometimes. Reality can be depressing and real life heroes can be few and far between. What’s better than to take a break from all that and spend a few hours entertaining some heroic, all-powerful characters who literally have the ability to save the world?
PNR: Why do you think time travel is such a popular plot device in the paranormal romance genre?
Marianne M.: The difference between time travel and just straight historicals is the fish out of water thing. We take a character who is just like us and then send her back to experience the past. She takes along her 21st century mentality and sees this new and strange world through eyes similar to ours. She can compare and contrast just as we would and we get to go along for the ride. As she learns, so do we. It’s just a lot of fun.
PNR: Are you planning to continue writing in the time travel genre? What is your favorite genre to write? Is there a genre you would like to try but haven’t?
Marianne M.: I just signed with Dutton Children’s to do a Young Adult time travel called The Camelot Code. So I have at least one more time travel in me. (In this book our heroine brings a young pre-king Arthur back with her to the 21st century. He then GOOGLES himself, sees what’s in store for him once he pulls the sword from the stone and decides he wants no part of his destiny.)
As for favorite genre, I really love writing paranormal. I like building worlds and creating rules for them. I really love writing my YA vampire series “Boys that Bite” and will definitely be doing more books for that.
As for something I haven’t tried, I have a great idea for an urban fantasy series that I’d like to write up once I’m done with all my deadlines... Ah, so many ideas, so little time!
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
Marianne M.: As I mentioned before, in February the time travel “A Hoboken Hipster in Sherwood Forest” will be released by Dorchester. Then in August I have Moongazer, one of the launch books for Dorchester’s new SHOMI line. It’s kind of a post-apocalyptic Alice in Wonderland, if you will. An action romance and my first non-comedy. I’m having a lot of fun writing this one and I can’t wait to see what people think of it!
PNR: Thank you Marianne, for taking time out to speak with us; where can readers find out more about your work?
Buy it Now! Love Spell
January 1, 2007
Read the Reviews!
If Chrissie Hayward knew that morning she'd be going back in time to rescue her crazy coworker Kat, she'd have worn better shoes. Doubly so if she'd expected to meet her true love. According to the mysterious gypsy, Chrissie was the "gentle soul who would tame an outlaw's thirst for revenge" — aka the real Robin Hood. So how come the guy was such a dud?
LOST...IN SHERWOOD FOREST?
No, Robin of Locksley was no Prince Charming. And the part about robbing the rich to feed the poor? He didn't get the memo. In fact, all the guy seemed to do was mope. (And he and his not-so-merry men thought Chrissie was a boy. Sure, she wasn't stacked, but still!) Nonetheless, he was loyal and brave and handsome as sin. If Chrissie coudl just get him with the program, she could right his wagon and get these boyz'n the wood to be heroes of the realm instead of twerps in tights. Only then could this prince of thieves become king of her heart.Buy it Now! Love Spell
July 1, 2006
Paperback Read the Reviews!
Unless Dora Duncan can stop it, it's going to be another St. Valentine's Day Massacre. A year ago, her (now ex) boyfriend Nick stood her up at the worst possible moment. That was when she gave up important TV reporting for stories like "Too Stressed for Sex." And though such clips have a certain relevance, things have been a whole lot quieter. Too quiet. Until now.
Now she's gotta go back in time (don't ask!) and stop that very same Nick from messing up the time-space continuum. She has to travel back to a place where everybody speaks easy and cuts a rug-and this Chicago ain't no musical. Here, there are tommy guns and torpedoes, guys and dolls, gin joints, flappers, stoolies, rats and a whole lot more; and prohibition means anything but no.
It's the 1920s. Time for Dora to roar.Buy it Now! Love Spell
May 1, 2005
Paperback Read the Reviews!
Once upon a time there lived an outspoken fashion editor named Kat, who certainly was not your typical damsel in distress. But when a gypsy curse sent her back in time to the days of King Arthur, she found she'd need every ounce of her 21st century wits (and pop culture references) to navigate the legend. After all, surviving a magical plot, an evil prince, and a case of mistaken identity--all without changing history or scuffing your Manolos--takes some doing!
Luckily, she's got her very own knight in shining armor, Lancelot du Lac, on her side. The honorable-to-a-fault and devastatingly handsome champion insists on helping her out, even though she's not quite sure she wants him to. After all, shouldn't he be off romancing Queen Guenevere or something? Will Kat manage to stay out of trouble long enough to get back to her beloved café lattes, cosmopolitans and cashmere? And what will Lancelot's forbidden love mean for the kingdom of Camelot?
YA Titles Writing as Mari Mancusi
Featured in this issue:Time Travel Romance Holiday Themed Romance
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