What if I read Like Mandarin and it just wasn’t for me? What would I say?
Um, yeah…RIDICULOUS worry. Why? Because Like Mandarin is freaking amazing, that’s why. This book really blew me away with its lush setting, its timeless feel, and its intricate portrayal of two very different female characters and their unexpected relationship—all of it showcased by Kirsten’s lyrical prose.
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself by reading my interview with Kirsten below, and then entering to win an ARC of Like Mandarin.
Which character are you more like, Grace or Mandarin?
You know, I’m not much like either one of them! I’ve always read a ton, like Grace, but I’m definitely not the shy, wallflower type. I’ve always been more outspoken, like Mandarin (often to a fault) – but that’s really where our similarities end. They’re more the types of girls I was fascinated with, especially Mandarin.
Setting plays a huge, awesome role in Like Mandarin. What made you choose Wyoming?
The Wyoming badlands are in my blood, even though they’re as far as possible from the Southern California suburbs where I was born and raised. My mother grew up in small-town Wyoming, and we used to visit my grandparents there in the summertime. Everything about that setting fascinates me; I’ve felt it as strongly as I’ve ever felt any sense of place.
Did you ever compete in a beauty pageant, or have any friends who did?
Nope. I think I was first intrigued by pageants after reading The Baby-Sitters Club #15: Little Miss Stoneybrook… and Dawn as a kid (no, seriously!) and I’m sure my twin sister and I threw together a couple pretend pageants. But I never participated in a real one, nor did my friends. They weren’t really on the radar where I grew up. I do vividly remember JonBenet Ramsey’s murder, and seeing her woman-child face on the cover of every magazine in the supermarket was both fascinating and repellant – which I think describes child beauty pageants well.
Mandarin does some pretty crazy things in the book. What’s the nuttiest thing you ever did in high school?
Every night of the Ventura County Fair, they’d set off fireworks over the beach beside the fairgrounds. The summer before junior year of high school, a friend and I stripped to our underwear and drove into the freezing ocean. There was nobody around, but it was one of those epic, unforgettable teenage moments, where we felt like we were in a movie, with our wet skin changing colors under the lights. It really was cold though.
Like Mandarin has such a lovely, classic feel to it—which books/authors inspired you?
Thank you! I didn’t read much YA the first time I wrote Like Mandarin (version 1.0) about four years ago, though I’ve more than made up for it in since. My favorite books are a total hodgepodge, though they tend to be literary, and in most cases I cry at least once. So, from LM’s early days: Watership Down by Richard Adams, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, everything by Louis Sachar and Roald Dahl.
If you had run away from home in high school, which five personal items would have been in your backpack? (besides clothes)
I graduated from high school in 2001. It doesn't seem like that long ago, and yet, I didn’t have a laptop, cell phone or digital camera back then, which are the first things I’d bring now! So, realistically...
1) Watership Down (my favorite book in high school)
2) A big, fat hardcover sketch journal and pens
3) my gray-blue Jansport backpack with the leopard-print fabric I sewed on the pocket
4) Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins (a tossup between that and Siamese Dream, but Mellon Collie was a 2-disc set!)
5) my stuffed lamb, for sentimental reasons
Do you have any advice for YA writers attempting to get published?
My two favorite pieces of advice are:
Give readers what they want, not what they expect. In other words, never stop surprising them – in a good way. Satisfy them – unexpectedly. Don’t be predictable – but don’t alienate your readers, either. Give them the ending they want – even when they had no idea they wanted it.
Write that next book. Too often writers cling to their first project, revising it so much they aren’t seeing it anymore, waiting while they endure the query-go-round instead of writing. The best remedy for rejection, the best time warp for long waits, the best thing ever, period, is getting excited about a new project.
Which YA Highway member do you love the most? HA—KIDDING! How about: must-have writing snack food?
My two standbys are Tazo chai tea, and Trident Tropical Twist gum. Neither one’s really a snack, though. I eat a whole lot of Peanut Butter Puffins. And those light Laughing Cow cheese triangles. Not together. Though maybe I’m missing out?
(Debra's note: Mmmmm, Peanut Butter Puffins! But where is the chocolate???)
Thanks so much for the interview, Kirsten!
Now, want to win my ARC of Like Mandarin? (Pssst: you do, you do, you TOTALLY do). All you have to do is leave a comment, telling us the nuttiest thing YOU ever did in high school. Entries close Monday at noon, PST.