This is the blog of children's book author and third grade teacher, Stacy Barnett Mozer. I blog about my own writing journey, the journey of other kidlit authors, my classroom, and talk about books. Thanks for stopping by. Your thoughts are always welcome (and encouraged).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Interview with YA Author Nina Mansfield

Happy Birthday to Swimming Alone by Nina Mansfield! Nina is a long time critique partner and I am so excited to share in her publishing success by featuring her interview on this special day. Nina Mansfield is a Greenwich, Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, Swimming Alone, a YA Mystery, was published by Fire & Ice YA. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. She is also a published and internationally produced playwright.

Congratulations on your debut novel! Tell us about your journey.  How did you publish this book?
Thank you! I started writing Swimming Alone over ten years ago when I was in a writing group in NYC. Most of us were playwrights, but I asked if I could bring in some fiction. I had started writing some pages of what I hoped would become a young adult mystery novel. The group really enjoyed the pages I brought in, and that encouraged me to keep writing. But life got in the way, and it took me a long time to finish the first draft. And then I rewrote it many, many times. Eventually, I was able to land an agent, but despite some great feedback, the book did not sell right away. I put it away in a drawer; several years later, I stumbled across the website for Fire & Ice YA, and thought that they might be the perfect publisher for my book.  I was right! They loved the book, and I have loved working with them.

When did you decide to become an author?
I wrote and illustrated my first picture book when I was five.  But I decided to really take my writing seriously about ten years ago. That is the summer I finished writing my first draft of Swimming Alone. Up to that point, I had considered writing a hobby.  

Your book, Swimming Alone, is a mystery. How did you decide when to drop clues? Did you have a plan or did it just come out organically as you were writing?
When I started writing, I had no idea where the book was heading. I just wrote and wrote and eventually I figured out the plot. At that point I started to outline. But my outline kept changing as I continued to write. Once I had a novel-length work, the real work began. The original book was written in the third person and contained a series of flashbacks. I got some great feedback from a friend who suggested that I tell the tale from the beginning (rather than through flashbacks) and focus on the friendship between Cathy and Lauren. During this rewrite, I knew where the book was heading so I was able to weave in the clues, and also a number of red herrings. (Incidentally, I would do one more complete revision to work on the character’s voice.)

How do you plan to celebrate?
There’s an online Book Launch Party on tonigh from 7-10pm (EDT) on Facebook, Twitter and on my blog Not Even Joking. I will also be launching the book at the Byram Shubert Library in Greenwich, CT on September 26, 2015 as part of the Authors Live@Byram series. The event starts at 3pm. Refreshments will be sold, and copies of Swimming Alone will be available for purchase. In addition, I will be making a bunch of cyberspace appearances (like this one!)

You are also a playwright. How do you use that experience when writing novels?
Hmmm… I’m not really sure. I would like to say the writing process is similar for both, but it isn’t. With plays, I usually start with a line of dialogue. I hear my characters speaking the words. When I write fiction, I tend to immerse myself in imagery and the feelings of the characters. I don’t know why some ideas come to me as plays and some as works of fiction. With my plays, I also always try to get a group of actors to read the play aloud to me, and stage a reading in front of an audience. A live audience is really essential for a play. With a novel, there is just the book and the reader. I still rely on feedback, but it is a different kind of feedback.

Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?
 Oh yes! Many, many times. There were times when I would see a production of one of my plays that did not really work, and I would think of digging a large hole and hiding in it. There were times that I brought work into my critique group, and after receiving some feedback, I would think, “why am I trying to do this?” The process of attempting to get work published and/or produced can also be very disheartening. But every time I was about to give up, the universe would send me a sign that I needed to keep going.

Is there anything about becoming a published author that has surprised you?
I was surprised how much the editing and final proofreading process has taught me about my own writing. I think the experience has helped me to really grow as a writer.

Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?
Writing is hard work and takes patience. Don’t try to rush things. And don’t become overly attached to any piece of writing. Find a critique group or a beta reader you really trust. Listen to their comments (but always stay true to the story you want to tell). Join a writing organization (like SCBWI or Mystery Writers of America) and meet other writers. And don’t be afraid to put your writing away for a while so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you or your books?
I finished writing the first draft of Swimming Alone the summer after my first year teaching high school. I had worked with a lot of students who were not really interested in reading. I wanted to write something that even a reluctant reader would find suspenseful and entertaining. I hope I succeeded!

 I am sure you did! You can learn more about Nina and Swimming Alone by visiting her website and blog. And don’t forget to join her tonight for her Virtual Book Launch.


  1. Great interview! Wishing you lots of sales and super great reviews!

  2. That was a wonderful interview! Congratulations on the publication and thanks for the inspiration too.


You know you have something to say...