Between the lines with Kristi McManus
To be a writer or an artist of any kind, I think the most important quality to have is tenacity. The will and the strength and the determination to forge ahead, to persevere, no matter how many walls you have to slam your way through or detours you have to take along the way.
Tenacity is what separates the true from the hobbyists, and there is no word that comes more readily to mind when I think of the fabulous Kristi McManus.
Kristi McManus is a Registered Nurse by trade, but has been an avid reader and enthusiastic book lover all her life. Her writing experience began in the online and social media realms, penning various popular stories on Wattpad. Apart from writing she enjoys photography and art, and considers napping to be a form of cardio.
Hi Kristi –
First, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I'm so excited to reconnect and chat about your Debut: OUR VENGEFUL SOULS (and omggggg can we take a moment to adore this cover?!)
It all started with a curse.
When magical mermaid Sereia saves her little sister and overshadows brother and the sea’s rightful heir, Triton, the position of next ruler of the sea is in question. Determined to keep his throne, Triton curses Sereia, transforming her into a human and stripping her of magic. Banishing her from their underwater kingdom, he gives her a final warning: if you should ever return, you will become a monster.
Left for dead, Sereia washes up on the shores of Atlantis, where she is discovered by a kind merchant with a tragic past. Patient and charming, he helps her build a life on land; she realizes everything she was taught about humans may have been wrong. But legends are powerful forces, and mermaids are burned alive for their magic by humans who fear their power. Sereia is forced to keep her true identity a secret, even as her feelings for her savior deepen.
Channeling her skill with a blade, she finds a place within the ranks of the Atlantean army, finally giving her the chance to become the respected warrior she always desired. During her training, however, she discovers the legend that a trident of equal power to her father’s exists and is within her grasp in Atlantis. With a way back to the sea in her grasp, she wavers between the pull of revenge and the possibility of love on land, all under the hateful eye of a vengeful enemy within the army’s ranks. But when the fate of a friend is in the balance, she must make the hardest decision of all: be burned at the stake as a witch, or turn into a monster should she return to the sea.
Firstly, massive congratulations on your debut! To think of how far you’ve come over the years from our early Wattpad days, to officially being an author in print – it’s been such an incredible journey! And I, for one, could not be more thrilled for you to finally embark on this path after a lifetime of blood, sweat and tears!
For those who don’t already know about your journey – how did that all begin? What brought you to writing? Was it always part of your childhood or something that you fell into later in life?
KRISTI: Thank you so much, Fallon. You’re support and lessons over the years have been a vital part of my journey.
I’ve been writing pretty much as long as I can remember, whether it was little stories, poems or songs that were absolutely terrible. When I was 10, we were tasked with rewriting a fairy tale, and I remember being so excited at the idea of getting my idea onto the page. I chose Little Red Riding Hood, and told it from the perspective of the wolf as the misunderstood victim of Red and Grandmother. The teachers were impressed, reading the story during assemblies and even having a copy printed for the school library.
It was thrilling, and I think that was the first time I seriously considered writing as something I could achieve.
Years later, I fell down the One Direction rabbit hole, and in turn, discovered Wattpad. It reignited my love of writing, gave me a community, and an outlet for the stories in my head. I am so thankful for the people I met and the experience I gained.
What inspired OUR VENGEFUL SOULS? (side note: FABULOUS title by the way!)
KRISTI: A meme, funny enough. It was of the sea king and sea witch from the cartoon version of the Little Mermaid, with a blurb insinuating there was a history between them that was the catalyst for the story we know. That meme stayed with me for weeks, until I felt I had to write what that relationship might have been. And Our Vengeful Souls was born.
Now that we know how you started, tell us about the road to publication. How did you get there and did you hit any speed bumps along the way? Because we all know querying trenches can be hell but it often pales in comparison to going out on submission (speaking from the backseat of the submission struggle bus currently haha!)
KRISTI: It was a LONG haul. Definitely a marathon, and not a sprint. Since 2014, I’ve queried about 10 or more stories to agents and small presses. I’ve amassed thousands of rejections. I got a deal with a mid-sized press in 2018, and an agent weeks later. But neither were the right fit, and I walked away from both in 2019.
It was terrifying, but I knew it was the right decision for me.
Back in the trenches, I focused on improving my craft and learning the industry, and stopped putting so much pressure on myself to keep up with the authors that I admired. It is hard when you see friends and others getting dream agents, deals with big publishers, but everyone’s journey is different. Understanding that made all the difference.
At the encouragement of a friend and fellow author, I decided to submit to a small press that they had recently signed with. Before I knew it, they were offering, and everything began. I couldn’t be happier with my journey, and my publisher, Camcat. My second book, How to Get Over Your (Best Friend’s) Ex, is coming from them in Summer 2024 as well.
Wow, honestly, BRAVO for knowing when to walk away rather than allowing yourself to get tangled into sales and contracts with both a publishing house and agent who weren't the best fits for your journey. That is such a hard thing to do and requires a tremendous amount of strength, perseverance, and being able to see the bigger picture of how you want your future to pan out. What did you do to celebrate your BIG NEWS?
KRISTI: Nothing, really lol. My husband took me to dinner, and I shared a few things on social media. But for the most part, I just kept it low-key.
I hear you. There are so many milestones and achievements coming down the pipeline, I'm sure, that it doesn't hurt to start simple and work your way up ;) Far as writing style goes, I’ve generally noticed writers are one of three types. They are inspired by a location/setting, two—they’re inspired by an actual concept, piece or music, or artwork, or three—which is the bucket I fall into—and they’re character-driven, hearing voices in their head and having full on conversations with them or each other.
Which one are you and what is your writing style as a result?
KRISTI: I am definitely like you…the voices never stop! Sometimes something will inspire an idea, like the meme for Our Vengeful Souls, or the title for How to Get Over Your (Best Friend’s) Ex. But it is the characters that emerge from those little ideas that really take hold, and tell me if something is going to become a story, or stay an idea. I won’t even start writing until those characters feel developed, clear and won’t stop yelling at me to have their voices heard.
Editing – love it or hate it: what does it look like for you, and what would you say your approach is to tackling the dreaded revisions? Has it changed at all once you entered the road to publication?
KRISTI: I honestly used to hate it, but after the OVS experience, I kind of like it. It’s a necessary evil that, with the right notes and editor, make a story shine.
Once I finished a first draft, I walk away from it for at least a month. I let the story sit, the plot holes and problems evolve, and the solutions develop. Once I feel I have a good idea of how to tackle the issues I know exist, I do my first round of editing. I take notes on other issues I find that I might need to come back to in other rounds, and smooth it all out like a wrinkled page until it’s as good as I can make it on my own. Then it goes to critique partners or beta readers, and it all starts again.
My editor at Camcat, Elana, is amazing. Her ideas are spot on, and her communication is clear. If I’m not sure how to tackle something she brings up, we have a zoom chat, and work through it together. I went through two rounds of developmental edits on OVS, then a copyedit round, and a pass page round. By the end, I honestly never wanted to read the story again, but was so proud of what it had become.
Looking back on your journey, is there anything you wish you did differently?
KRISTI: Learned patience earlier, and focused more on the skill of writing than the end goal. It was hard to learn, and I made a lot of mistakes, but in the end, no path is the same or right.
Is there an author you are most inspired by?
KRISTI: Oh wow. So many for so many different reasons. You, for one. Your confidence, your prose and world-building, your fierceness and power are an inspiration. I love the world-building of Laini Taylor and Leigh Bardugo, the humor of Abby Jimenez, and so many others. Don’t make me choose!
Omg STOP my heart can't take it. I'm truly honored. If you could live in any fictional/fantasy world, which one would it be and why?
KRISTI: It changes when I read a new world I fall in love with, but right now I would sell my soul to live in the Night Court of Prythian from Sarah J Maas ACOTAR series. The beauty, the community, and who wouldn’t want to be around hot Ilyrian warriors?
What’s the best writing advice you’d give to someone who wants to get started but doesn’t know where to begin?
KRISTI: Just start writing.
There is no ‘right’ way to get a story on the page, but you have to write it. Wattpad was a great place for me to learn, to try my hand at different genres and make mistakes, while building a community.
If you could look into a crystal ball and see your future, where do imagine you’ll be five years from now?
KRISTI: Living on a tropical island where drones drop off pizza and snacks at regular intervals! But if you mean writing wise, I’d like to have a couple more books published, maybe find an agent to be a partner in my journey, and continue to write stories that I love.
Hahaha I love that vision - here's hoping it all comes true because who wouldn't want that? Can you give us a hint of what you’re working on next?
KRISTI: My next book is a young adult romance coming in 2024, and first-round edits should be coming from my editor any day now. I’ll be spending most of my spring and summer working through them. I’m actually pretty excited.
It’s been years since I worked on this story.
Ooooo I love when a writer is able to breathe new life into an old book that had been tucked away in the drawer. Can't wait to see what it is!
And bonus question for a bit of fun: Name one book you’re madly in love with and can’t get off your mind?
KRISTI: How about a list? A Court of Thorn and Roses series, The Grace Year, and anything that Karen McManus or Abby Jimenez write are a must-read for me. I’m sure there are more I’ll think in the middle of the night lol.
I love how none of us are able to hone in a single book and instead lob out our entire TBR hahaha because my god, seriously, how do you choose only one??? Kristi - words cannot express how thrilled I am to have witnessed your journey. This is such an overdue moment but I know the ball is only gaining momentum for you from here on out. The struggle will be for readers to keep up with your overflow of incredible works because I've never met anyone who can write as fast and fiercely as you!
OUR VENGEFUL SOULS will be released on June 6, 2023, and can be pre-ordered here
For those who would like to keep in touch with Kristi, you can find her on socials as @kristimcmanus or via her website