Monday, May 9, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Christina Mandelski

Tomorrow, Christina Mandelski's debut novel The Sweetest Thing will be hitting bookshelves everywhere! First, take a look at this nom-nom-nom-worthy cover:

And then read this delicious synopsis:
In the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she's decorating a cake. Unfortunately everything else is a complete mess: her mom ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable.

But Sheridan is convinced finding her mom will solve all her problems - only her dad's about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed.

Using just the right amount of romance, family drama, and cute boys, The Sweetest Thing will entice fans with its perfect mixture of girl-friendly ingredients.
It's the perfect springtime read and here's my interview with the author herself!

You’re about to be a published author! Give us three words to describe your feelings right now:
Grateful, relieved and excited.

How did the idea for The Sweetest Thing come to you?
I was watching the show Ace of Cakes with my daughters (we love that show) and I thought ‘what if a teenager could make cakes like that?’And all of a sudden I had this character running around in my head with a pastry bag full of buttercream icing.

Food plays such a big part in your story. Do you personally bake or cook a lot? Where did you find the inspiration for the cakes Sheridan makes?
I am not a chef or a baker, though I absolutely adore eating! As for the book, I love to watch shows like Top Chef and Ace of Cakes, and, though much of it is about reality TV drama, at the heart of it the people creating the food are true artists (imo). I loved the idea of creating a main character who has a passion for creating this type of art. And the cakes in The Sweetest Thing were so much fun to come up with -- and I did dream them up on my own. That's the best part of being a writer -- I get to make "cakes" in my mind that thankfully I'll never have to attempt in real life (because that would be a disaster, let me tell you!)

I think that faith, though subtle, is also a strong presence in this book. Did you always know you'd want that to be a part of the story? Did your own faith inform the book?
Yes, it's definitely meant to be in there. My parents, like Sheridan's grandmother, taught us that there's a bigger plan for our lives, beyond what we can see. This brought on a lot of eye rolling from me when I was a teenager, but I did think about what they said, and I did question God (usually at my lowest moments). I think this questioning gave me hope that despite the insecurity, general drama and unrequited crushes of high school, that maybe there was something more in store for me. I think during the teen years a lot of kids start to ask these big questions, and that's what I wanted for Sheridan, not necessarily to come to any conclusions, but to feel a sense of comfort that maybe she's going to be okay.

Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

I’ve been writing forever but about nine years ago decided to get serious about pursuing publishing. I wrote three novels first that are now (rightfully) stuffed in a drawer. But I had a feeling about The Sweetest Thing. I thought it was fun and marketable, and that perhaps (hopefully) I’d learned a few things along the way.

I got some good feedback (instead of the outright ‘no’s’ I had been getting) and revised it a few times before I submitted it to an agency during their query holiday – that’s right, no query needed – I just sent in my first chapter. I ended up getting a request for the rest of the manuscript, signing with my agent and within nine months we had an offer from my publisher Egmont USA. I consider myself extremely lucky that I never really battled with a query letter on this book – query letters are harder than writing the novel, if you ask me.

You’re part of a critique group, Will Write for Cake. Tell us a little bit about their role in this book.
Any author who is part of a successful critique group knows how valuable they are to the process. I consider them kind of like the midwives of this book, they pushed me along, encouraged me, gave me their professional advice and insights. I still had to do the work, but I didn’t have to do it alone. They were there to cheer me on and make sure I didn’t do anything really dumb. They made all the difference in the world.

How much revising did you do once the book had been accepted for publication?
One big editorial letter and a few shorter ones after that – not bad in the grand scheme of things. My editor was great to work with – he knew exactly what needed tweaking and gave me the room to do what I needed to do to make it all work. It was a very natural, give-and-take process. Not painful at all.

How did your cover art come about? Did you have any input?
Another give-and-take between my editor, my agent and me. It’s tough with the cake theme – no one wanted it to look like a cookbook. It had to pop off the shelf and appeal to teen readers. I think it does that exactly. And I did have input. Everyone seemed to want me to be happy with the end result, and I am ecstatic. Can’t ask for much more than that.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
From my mother. She’s always telling me to just finish it. I was previously the queen of starting projects, getting discouraged and never following through to the end. The truth is, there’s always a chance your manuscript will never sell. But if you never finish it, the end result is guaranteed. So I guess what I’m saying is: listen to my mother. The woman is always right.

What’s your next writing project?
I’m working on another young adult novel that I’ll describe as Cinderella meets Dr. Faustus. Contemporary with a paranormal twist. I’m having way too much fun with it.

And since we’re on the Apocalypsies blog, tell us what one book you’d like to have with you in the post-apocalyptic world.
Oh don’t make me choose! I’d be no good in a survival situation as I’d give up my last Twinkie for a good book.

Thanks for the interview, Chris and congratulations!

Visit Christina on the web:


  1. Congratulations, Chris! So excited for you. The Sweetest Thing is about to become The Sweetest "Published" Thing! Yay!


  2. Lovely interview. This book sounds great! :)

  3. I hadn't heard of this. I love the title (because it's one of my fave movies). Can't wait!

  4. Christina, this book sounds so wonderful, and I loved hearing about your publication story. And the cover is genius!

  5. I loved hearing more about this book. Going to go out and get my copy today!