An interview with science fiction & fantasy author Mandy O’Dell.
Mandy O’Dell Author Bio:
Raised on romance and history, Mandy knew from an early age that she loved a good story. She lived in the pages of the books she read at night long after she was supposed to be asleep. Her first story was an epic Civil War romance (think Gone With The Wind if Margaret Mitchell had been a 90’s teenager). She carried a binder of handwritten pages with her everywhere. Now, it’s a laptop and more ghostly chills, but you can still find her up way too late reading.
Mandy and her husband can be found in Northwest Arkansas with their dogs and cats. They’ve never met a critter they couldn’t make a home for, though Duke the dog believes his love is plenty.
When not reading or writing, Mandy can be binge watching British murder mysteries and baking shows and chasing kittes all over the house, oh and working in a pet treats facility. Her animals give her a good sniffing over every night.
Tell us something about your books, including your genre and your characters and/or themes. –
Older YA – NAish, fantasy, paranormal, I love things that go bump in the night
Where are you based?
Latest releases and upcoming titles?
My latest release was Waters of Caprica – it was the third and final book in my Tigers of Caprica series. I’m now working on a new series about elemental witches. The first in that series will be Witchstone coming out in April
What are you currently working on?
What inspires you to write?
I have always loved stories. I had imaginary friends when I was little. I was probably 4th or 5th grade before I realized that I could write down what my friends did.
When and why did you get into writing fantasy?
I love the possibility of fantasy. Talking dogs, sure. Psychic connections with tigers – why not. A ghost witch stealing children since the Salem witch trials – heck yes. Absolutely anything you can dream, you can create on a page.
Who are your favourite fantasy writers/ fantasy authors?
Dianna Wynne Jones – Howl’s Moving Castle is my all time favorite book. Everytime I read – which have been many – I pick up on something new.
As a kid I loved Betty Ren Wright and her spooky stories, The Dollhouse Murder’s and Christina’s Ghost.
Now, that I’m older I love the world building of Tolkien and more recent authors Kimberly Loth, Laura Thalassa, CN Crawford, and Leia Stone
What is your favourite fantasy series and why?
Howl in his incarnation – The House of Many Ways and Castle in the Air. Even though he and Sophie are side characters in those books, they just jump off the page.
What are your favourite fantasy genres?Paranormal Romance is probably my favorite, but I love shifters and Epic Fanstasy.
Who are some of your all-time favourite fantasy characters? And why do you think they became your favourites?
Howl, obviously, but mainly Sophie. Pestilence from Laura Thalassa. The Bargainer from Laura Thalassa. Lance Orion from Zodiac Academy. I think I love their undying loyalty. I don’t like a love triangle, LOL Twilight was torture for me because of that, haha. I am definitely a fated mates girl.
Do you follow any fantasy entertainment outside of books? (Video Games, Boardgames, Comics etc)
I love the Final Fantasy series in video games – I’m not as up to date with more recent video games.
What’s going on in the next few months? Anything on the Horizon?
Just drafting and revising
What kind of books did you read that contributed to your upbringing, as far as fantasy and science-fiction?
Oh this is an embarrassing one. Haha I started reading Regency Romance waaaaay younger than I should have. Bodice Rippers. I was obsessed with them. I didn’t start reading more regularly in Fantasy until Lord of the Rings in high school.
Was your upbringing pretty geeky?
Yes, but not in a traditional way. I am a history nerd and I participated in American Civil War reenactments. Everything I did revolved around history and reading. And band, but really, I was a terrible french horn player.
Why should anyone read your book?
I tell a good, suspenseful, and fun story.
The writing process ( Inspiration, discipline, planning, software, editing)
I am a total pantser. I have formed characters and vague ideas. I let the characters whisper their journey to me. I get a huge thrill when one of my lovelies goes and does something that is totally unexpected.
I do usually have a pintrest board so that I can get a feel for my setting and characters, but other than that, my process is organized chaos and nor really all that well organized.
Do you have a process, do you plan or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
By the seat of my pants, often while they are on fire.
How has your writing process changed since you first started writing?
I used to try to outline and do all the prework that is suggested, but that stifles my creative brain. I get bored if I already know the ins and outs. I don’t suggest my way cause boy, it’s stressful, especially coming up to deadline.
How long does it normally take you to write a fantasy novel, and what proportion of the time is spent doing what?
3-4 months. I take forever to draft, but I’m a quick and effective reviser
What is your favourite part of the writing process?
Drafting…I love the wildness of it. For me, it’s like being on a roller coaster.
Have your previous vocations influenced your writing?
I work in HR, so yeah…I know a thing or two about people
Do you involve other people in your writing, as collaborators or editors? How do you make this work?
I do! I couldn’t do this without them!!
My editor and my copy editor make my words so shiny!!! I usually start with an alpha read from a few select friends that are also authors. Then my editor gets it. That woman should get a medal. She gets me and knows what I’m trying to say even when I don’t. She directs and guides me.
After that I do another couple of passes, then the manuscript goes to my copy-editor to fix all my commas.
Then betas before release. With my last release, because of various sicknesses of me and others, my betas didn’t get the book until just a few days before release. I will do better next time.
As far as writing goes, what do you use? Software, Apps, Hardware etc?
When I’m drafting I work in google docs. That way I don’t have to have anything other than a device. Doesn’t even have to be mine. But revisions are on my laptop and backed up in various ways.
I use stickers to motivate me. For every 500 words a day I write, I get a fun sticker in my day planner.
Do you do a lot of research for each book? If so how do you conduct your research?
I do some research. I learned the layout of Venice pretty well. Jenny Greene is set in Maine, but I based it off a town I’d visited in Nova Scotia. I learned about the Native American tribes of the Northeast. I did research into the anatomy of tigers and I have done a lot of research on crystals, stones, and natural remedies for my next book
How do you overcome blank writing spells?
I find that when I have a bad writing spell, it’s because something I wrote before is off. I will usually take the time to reread and see what is missing or wrong. It can take a minute to find, but once I do, it reinvigorates me.
A number of fantasy/sci-fi authors have bee known to use art, music, exercise, alcohol and even drugs as a way to find inspiration to enter the zone! Do you use any tools to enter into your creative headspace?
Music is the biggest one for me and driving. A long drive with the right music, I can usually visualize what’s coming next if I’m stuck on something.
Do you prefer to write in silence and or have some sort of sound in the background?I always have my playlist going.
Publishing (formatting, cover design, formats, marketing)
I have an amazing cover designer. Twin Art Designs. They do brilliant work. I use KDP and am in Kindle Unlimited. I’m hopeless at Marketing, LOL but my assistant is a whiz at tik tok and I have a few good ads that produce well.
Describe the road you took to publishing your first novel? And how that has changed.
My first book, The Curse of Jenny Greene, I cowrote with an author friend of mine, Kimberly Loth. She and I have been friends since either of us published. She is a genius and guided me through. She still guides me when I get lost or am doing something wrong. Even though I do most of it on my own know, her advice is invaluable.
Will your next book be traditional or indie published?
Would you recommend self-publishing to aspiring authors, or would you suggest a more traditional path?
I spent ten years in the writing world before I decided to go indie. I watched several author friends have no control of marketing, covers, edits on their books that I was scared to give up the creative freedom. Being an indie is tough though. Make friends with other indies, learn from them, research your team, do sample edits. Make sure you surround yourself with the people that understand what you’re writing and the story you are trying to tell.
What sort of input do you give to formatting, cover design, marketing?
My cover designer is a genius. I give him a basic concept and he creates pure beauty. Formatting – I keep things pretty basic. I want the story to shine most.
What do you do pre and post-release to help get your books noticed?
I do. I have a wonderful PA who helps me with things like that.
Marketing is so important nowadays, what’s your best advice to fellow authors?
Use your resources wisely. Ad dollars are often tight and you don’t want to waste your money on avenues that aren’t going to work for your story. Look into free resources, build a newsletter and use it wisely.
What legal publishing advice can you give?
Never take legal advice from someone who has their head in the clouds. I leave that stuff to the experts.
How did you decide the pricing of your material; how did you go about promotion/advertising and distribution of your work?
For my Tigers of Caprica Series, book one is 0.99 – I use that lower price point to hook readers and whenever I have a new release or am promoting something, I will often run it for free for a few days to garner interest.
Must Read Fantasy novels?
Howl’s Moving Castle – LOTR and the Hobbit – Harry Potter – The Bargainer Series – Circus of the Dead – The House that Death Built – The Last Apprentice – The Ravens Boys Cycle – Zodiac Academy (if you don’t mind spicy) – Shifter Island – The Dragon Kings Series
Must read non-fantasy novels?
Wide and Varied…read everything! Expose yourself to all stories. And Stephen King’s On Writing.
Most prized fantasy book in your collection?
I have a special boxed set of the Bargainer series that I adore
Do you read digital, paperback or hardback or do you listen to audiobooks?
I’m not much of an audiobook person but I read everything else.
What are some difficulties you’ve experienced in your writing career; how do you handle book critiques/criticism?
Grow thick skin. Criticism will come. Your story isn’t for everyone and that is ok. Collect reviews, but don’t necessarily read them.
What are the best experiences in your writing career?
Holding my first book for the first time. Meeting people in real life at shows or cons and they are excited to buy and read my book. Also, having readers come find you at a show so they can buy you’re next in series from you.
What are some encouraging words you’d give to another author/writer?
Never, ever give up! This journey is not for the faint of heart. There are often more downs than ups. And always be willing to kill your darlings. There may be a nugget you love, but it’s not the right fit for the story. Those make excellent bonus content.
Get in touch. Social Channels?
Mandy’s Tiger Den – Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/mandystigerden/
mandyo_dellbooks – Tik Tok – https://www.tiktok.com/@mandyo_dellbooks
mandyodellbooks – Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/mandyodellbooks
Mandy O’Dell Author Website?
on my website
Any final words for the readers? (Anything, open platform)
Write the story you love, because you are going to spend a long time with it.