Saturday, 19 January 2013

Author Interview: Sangu Mandanna

I'm delighted to have Sangu Mandanna on the blog today for an interview. Sangu Mandanna is the author of The Lost Girl, which was released by Random House on 3rd January. Here is the synopsis:

Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination - an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her 'other', if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it's like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything she's ever known - the guardians who raised her, the boy she's forbidden to love - to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive . . .


Please describe your book in 5 words.
Romantic, heartbreaking, thrilling (I hope!), eerie, sad (okay, that last one was lame)

What kind of research did you need to do for The Lost Girl?
Not much, actually! Most of the places in the book are places I know very well, so I didn’t have to do much there – I remember looking up zoos in England once, and I frequently checked over London tube maps, but that was it – and I also did a bit of research into cloning and clones in fiction but, as echoes aren’t strictly clones (in my head they’re closer to Frankenstein’s creature than they are to clones), I didn’t go into too much detail there. I suppose most of my research revolved around reading and rereading Frankenstein.

Were any of the characters or their traits inspired by people you know?
None of the actual characters were inspired by real people – they usually appear so real and rounded to me that they feel organic, like they’re their own person already, so I don’t think it would ever work for me to try and base a character on someone I already know. But I do occasionally take a detail from someone I know and use it to add a bit more (most often their name!). I picked Ophelia’s shoes, for example, because they’re like a pair my friend Lindsey often wears; Lekha is named after my aunt; and I originally named Erik after my husband Steve, but ultimately ‘Erik’ felt much more right

How have your life experiences affected the way that you write?
I can’t pinpoint much, specifically, but I would say that three years of studying English Lit and creative writing at Lancaster University really helped me learn about new books, new genres, new styles and, consequently, taught me how to use the things I learned to make my writing better and stronger. Death is also a factor. My aunt died when I was fifteen and that loss has changed me in a lot of ways and ultimately shaped The Lost Girl, which is essentially about people wanting to create a world in which there needn’t be any death or loss anymore.

Some authors do certain things while they write like listen to music etc. Do you have to do anything like this while you write?
I do like to listen to music. All of my stories have their own playlists and music really helps me set the mood or atmosphere. It’s also a huge inspiration. But to be honest if I’m really, really into what I’m writing, it can be silent or noisy or music-y around me and I’ll shut the world out anyway. My husband frequently has to repeat himself, louder and louder each time, before I even notice he’s there! (So I guess that means there isn’t much I do when I write, except write…)

Which YA (human) character would you love to be and why?
Maybe Kate from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. When I read that book I so wanted to go and live on Thisby, the little island, and race deadly water-horses along the windswept beaches.

Which YA (non-human) character would you love to be and why?
Hermione from Harry Potter. I know she’s human, but she’s also a witch so technically not human? Because she’s so amazing. And I’d get to do magic. Wingardium Leviosa!

What has been your favourite book of 2012?
Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I cried for over an hour after reading it. It’s beautiful and tragic and full of incredibly well-rounded, memorable characters. I also give it full points for making me love and hate its protagonist.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been writing and I’ve always been telling stories, so for a lot of my childhood it was just something I did and would always do and wasn’t necessarily something I was going to do as a job. I had phases of wanting to be other things “when I grew up”, like a ballerina, actress, astronaut… I think the first time I consciously thought “yes, I want to be a writer when I grow up” (and then promptly put aside that thought for another few years) was probably when I was nine. I wrote a story starring myself, typed it up on our home computer, printed it off and stapled the pages together, and, as the little cherry on the cake, I finished by gluing a photograph of myself on the front so that it would look like a real ‘book’ with a real ‘cover’.
Thanks so much Sangu! The Lost Girl is out now so go and grab yourself a copy. 

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