"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
When it comes to writing, award winning author Marianne Mancusi doesn't like to play by the rules. A multiple Emmy award winning television producer, she sold 11 novels to three publishers (Dorchester, Berkley, Dutton Children's) in less than three years. While best known for her time travel romantic comedies, Marianne also writes a vampire romance series and other books for teens and will have her first speculative fiction romance (Moongazer) out in August. Marianne has worked in television stations around the country, including Orlando, San Diego, and Boston. A graduate of Boston University's College of Communications, she currently produces for a nationally syndicated lifestyle show. She lives in Manhattan's Upper West Side.
An Interview with Marianne Mancusi
PNR: Welcome back Marianne, when we last spoke with you in December 2006, you had just released STAKE THAT! as Mari Mancusi and A Hoboken Hipster in Sherwood Forest was about to be released; could you tell readers what you have been up to?
Marianne M.: A lot, actually. In March I started a new job in NYC as a producer launching a nationally syndicated television lifestyle show called Better TV. To do this, I moved from Boston to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was a great move for me; I love both my new job and my new life in New York City.
And I have a new book out! It’s called Moongazer and it’s one of the launch books for Dorchester’s new Shomi line.
PNR: Readers are very excited about Dorchester’s new SHOMI line of speculative fiction. How were you approached to join the project?
Marianne M.: My editor told me he was developing a new line of speculative fiction romances with manga covers, aimed at bringing in a younger generation of romance readers. Since I am a total sci-fi geek and already write YA fiction as well as adult stuff, I thought it would be great to try my hand at it. I was right, too—it was a blast to write the book and I’m really proud of how it came out.
PNR: Whose concept was the SHOMI line? What is your unique take on this line as it relates to your writing, book and characters?
Marianne M.: Dorchester Senior Editor Chris Keeslar came up with the Shomi concept. He wanted to develop a new breed of romance hybrids that would bridge the gap, so to speak, between teen and adult romance readers. Get younger people excited about reading romances.
But even though the packaging and content is meant to appeal to younger readers, I truly believe the Shomi books transcend age barriers and would appeal to a wide variety of romance readers. If you like a dose of action, sci-fi, cyberpunk, and speculative fiction with your HEA then the Shomi line is for you. After all, age is only a number.
PNR: Were you given a specific concept to develop for the SHOMI line?
Marianne M.: No, we were given total freedom to develop our own stories and I think you can tell that if you read the first three books in the line. The stories are hugely different in tone, voice, and plotline—while retaining a similar action packed, fun, fast paced hybrid romance.
Chris is a big fan of out-of-the-box type romances and is willing to take a chance on different books at times when other publishers would prefer to stick to the tried and true. That’s why we like writing for him so much; we’re able to flex our creative muscle and really tell the stories we want to tell, without being boxed in.
PNR: MOONGAZER, the second book in the line was released in August 2007. Could you tell us about your contribution to the SHOMI line?
Marianne M.: Moongazer is a book about a successful NYC videogame designer named Skye Brown, who, despite her perfect life, keeps having horrible nightmares of a post-apocalyptic underground world called Terra where everyone thinks she’s a former revolutionary leader named Mariah who betrayed the cause. In the course of the book, she has to figure out who she is and what side she’s on. To help her is Dawn Gray, another rebel, who was Mariah’s boyfriend before the betrayal. He believes Skye is really Mariah and that her whole life on Earth is nothing more than false memories, implanted by the government.
PNR: How do the characters you developed for your SHOMI release differ from other projects you have done? Would you describe the Shomi line as “female focused”?
Marianne M.: Moongazer is my first non-comedy and it’s a lot darker than books I’ve worked on in the past. I’ve found it’s easier to write passionate, angsty characters when you don’t always have to be cracking jokes.
I definitely would consider the Shomi line as female focused, though I imagine male readers would also enjoy the storylines. Unlike a lot of regular sci-fi books, Shomi threads emotional and romantic driven plotlines throughout the book. And, of course, you get your guaranteed happily ever after. I think a lot of sci-fi concentrates more on the world building and plot and doesn’t always delve deep into characterization and relationships. That’s what makes these books special. All the action, but still plenty of time for romance.
PNR: World building is vitally important in speculative fiction. What were the challenges you faced in developing your “world” that were unique to the SHOMI line?
Marianne M.: I wanted to create a unique world that would still be believable and not feel like it had been done before. I could see Terra in my mind very clearly from the start, but writing down visuals can be tricky. The biggest challenge was creating an entire viable world that was completely underground. How would that work? What would it look like? I had a lot of fun figuring that out.
PNR: How much of a role do the characters’ romantic relationships play vs. the plot action? Does this differ from your usual balance? How would you describe the “heat” level of your book?
Marianne M.: All the Shomi books are different. I have a very strong romance threaded through mine and it really is central to the plot of the book. Liz’s has less romance, more action. As for heat, I’d say it’s sensual, without being over the top.
PNR: The eye-catching Anime/Manga inspired covers are awesome; who do readers have to thank for such striking artwork? How much input did you have in the cover art concept? Do you feel the final cover has captured the essence of your book?
Marianne M.: The artist is named Eric Kim and I think he did a fabulous job with the covers. I had some input, but not a ton—he basically took my character descriptions and ran with them. I thought my heroine looked a little too angry and fierce in the original version, so they toned her down a bit. After all, I reminded them, this is still a romance.
I love my final cover and hope it will catch people’s eyes.
PNR: What was the biggest challenge you faced being one of the pioneer authors for a new line? The most rewarding aspect? Would you do it again?
Marianne M.: I think the biggest challenge for a new line is to find its audience. I’m worried that some people will dismiss Shomi as “YA” because of the covers and that just isn’t true. So Liz and I have been making it our mission to spread the word that this new line will appeal to a wide variety of readers and we hope people will be willing to take a chance.
It’s always great to be a trailblazer. I hope that years down the line, when this kind of romance hybrid is a huge trend, or even the norm, we can look back and say, “I was a part of that.”
And yes! I would definitely do it again. Because at the end of the day, new line or no, these are the kind of books I like to write. So I’m glad there is now a home for them.
PNR: What advice would you give to an author looking to be part of a line like this?
Marianne M.: Don’t be afraid to break the rules and get wacky. In these books, anything goes and often the weirder the better. I’d suggest reading the first three Shomi books to get a better idea of what’s been bought so far. Also, a healthy diet of sci-fi/speculative fiction can’t hurt.
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months? Do you have any additional series in the works? Single titles?
Marianne M.: My next vampire YA , “Girls that Growl”, will be out in October. It’s the third in the Boys that Bite series. In it, our goth heroine Rayne has to go undercover to determine if the cheerleading squad is actually a pack of werewolves.
In March, I have an adult contemporary romantic comedy called News Blues which parodies the TV news world. (Of which I’ve been a part for the last eleven years.) I loved dishing the behind the scenes secrets of my full time occupation.
PNR: Thank you Marianne, for giving us a peek at the exciting new SHOMI line, where can readers find out more about you and your work?
a.k.a. Mari Mancusi
July 27, 2007
SHOMI - Imagine a story in which a young woman is stolen from her normal life and thrust into an alternate universe that challenges everything she though she knew...
Imagine every night entering a nightmare world you can’t escape and being told real life is a dream. Skye Brown has it all: the cool job, the hot boyfriend, the apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. But lately she can’t enjoy any of it. She’s having dreams of a post-apocalyptic world. Of a bleak futuristic wasteland. Of a struggle against oppression. And she’s been told she’s a…MOONGAZER.
But what is that? And what is reality? In her dreams, she’s not Skye Brown at all, but Mariah Quinn. In her dreams there’s Dawn, the beautiful yet haunted soldier, and Skye is but the empty shell of a girl he once loved. And there was a betrayal, a great betrayal. Ripped between Dark Siders and club kids, the mundane and the mystic, Skye must discover who she is, what she wants and who wants her. And why. But in the glow of the moon, it’s not always easy to recognize the face in the mirror.
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