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Author Interview: Lisa McMann

Valerie DeBenedette / February 6, 2015

Phoenix resident Lisa McMann is set to publish the fifth installment in her The Unwanteds series of young adult novels. The series starts out in the land of Quill, where anyone who shows even a spark of creativity is declared “Unwanted” and is sent to their death. Or so they are led to believe. The books combine magic and mystery along with action and adventure.

McMann took some time to answer questions about her writing and how she writes.

1. What inspired you to write these books?

A very specific thing happened to inspire these books. My children--they were 12 and 9-- came home from school with a letter that said “Dear parents, Sorry to tell you that we have to eliminate some of our arts classes because of budget cuts.” They loved those classes: music, art, and theater.

I thought that it kind of feels like you are being punished for being creative. What if there was a world where kids were punished for being creative? My son said, “Not just punished Mom, sent to their deaths!”

I wrote the first book beginning with the opening chapter, where the Unwanteds were going to their deaths. Then I had to write the rest of the book.

I wrote that first chapter and knew something had to happen. I decided I wanted to do a magical sort of dark world.

The Unwanteds series will go to book seven with this story line. I am entertaining the idea of continuing in same world with different characters.

2. What did you do before you were a writer?

I was a bookseller in Michigan at a place called Pooh’s Corner. Then I was a realtor for seven years. We moved from Michigan to Arizona ten years ago. I had just won a $10,000 prize for a short story so I had this little nest egg.

I decided I was going to try this novel thing. I wrote two that did not sell and then wrote Wake that did sell. That luckily hit the New York Times best seller list and I had a career.

3. What does the day-to-day business of being a writer actually look like for you?

Usually I am up at 7 a.m. and dive right into answering email and try to get to work by 8 or so. I try to work for six hours if I can. Some days I don’t have it in me and other days I go longer.

4. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

A lot of people say read a lot and write a lot and then you will be a better writer. I will give you something different: Pick up the book that you love to read, the one you have read time after time and read it again as a writer and figure out what it is about your favorite book that you love so much.

5. Where can we buy your books?

You can buy them at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Independent bookstores are carrying them widely. “Mostly Books” in Tucson has it.

McMann is also the author of the Visions trilogy and the Wake trilogy, which are also written for young adults. These two series are for older teens and deal with dreams and visions. The three books in the Wake trilogy are Wake, Fade, and Gone. The three books in the Visions trilogy are Crash, Bang, and Gasp.

The Unwanteds: Island of Shipwreckswas out in bookstores on Feb. 3.

You can find Lisa McMann at the following sessions at the Tucson Festival of Books:

  • "What's Trending in YA Literature" on Sunday at 11:30 AM
  • "Creating Portals to Enter Fantasy Worlds" on Sunday at 2:30 PM

Valerie DeBenedette is a freelance writer living in New York State. She specializes in writing about health and medicine, but writes about everything else as well.

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