Life in the Bubbles and Penning an Underwater World: an interview with Kristi McManus

May 2023

In this month’s newsletter, scroll down to find:

  • Exciting news/nouvelles excitantes
  • Author Spotlight with Kristi McManus
  • Travel Log: A Date with Darcy
  • Upcoming Event: School Journal
  • Review Corner

Exiting news/nouvelles exitantes

I am so excited to announce that Contest of Queens has been signed by Editions Lux & Nox and will be translated into French circa 2024!

Très magnifique!

Author Spotlight: Kristi McManus

Follow Kristi on:
Twitter: @kristimcmanus
Instagram: @kristimcmanus

Our Vengeful Souls

It all started with a curse.

When mermaid Sereia overshadows her brother and the kingdom’s rightful heir, Triton, the position of next ruler of the sea is in question. Determined to keep his throne, Triton banishes Sereia with a warning: if you ever return, you will become a monster.

Left for dead, Sereia washes up on the shores of Atlantis, where she is rescued by a kind merchant with a tragic past. He earns her trust, but Atlanteans fear magic and Sereia must conceal her true identity as her feelings for her savior deepen.

Her skill with a blade finds her a place within the Atlantean army, and Sereia soon wavers between the pull of revenge and the possibility of love on land, but when a friend’s fate is at risk, she must make the hardest decision of all: expose who she truly is and be burned at the stake as a witch, or return to the sea a monster.

Life in the bubbles: penning an underwater world.

I was lucky enough to take a few minutes of Kristi McManus’ time and pick her brain about her recent debut. So pour yourself a cup of tea and read along as we talk about all things under the sea.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a Registered Nurse by day, and enthusiastic book nerd 24/7. I dabbled in writing on and off most of my life, but it wasn’t until my mid thirties that I really started writing with purpose. Now, I can’t imagine not writing. Besides that, I love all forms of creativity, including photography, drawing and crafting. I have an entire room dedicated to all things creative. 

Our Vengeful Souls is not so much as a retelling of the beloved fairy tale, The Little Mermaid, as it is a villain origin story for the sea witch. What was your inspiration for this novel, and what did you hope to capture?

The inspiration was actually a meme I saw online one day. It was of the sea witch and sea king, the Disney versions, insinuating that there was a backstory between them and a fallout. The concept stuck with me for weeks, until finally I decided to write it myself. The main premise, for me, was that even a villain has a story. A series of events that directed them on their path, even if that path ultimately becomes one that most would consider evil. For Sereia, she was not born evil. She didn’t seek to bring others down, but after being wronged over and over again by her brother, her obsession with revenge twisted her into the version we all know in the classic tale. 

What drew you to writing about fairy tales?

I think the idea that every story could have a completely different outcome by changing one small component. When I was a child, we were tasked with rewritting a fairy tale for class. I chose Little Red Riding Hood, and rewrote it with the wolf as the misunderstood victim of mistaken identity by Red and her Grandmother. Since then, I love flipping well known tales on their heads. I’ve rewritten Cinderella as well, with the fairy godmother (and faeries in general) as the villain. 

What is it about the sea witch that captured your imagination?

The idea that she maybe wasn’t always the villain. We all look at the sea witch as evil and hateful, but why? Why is she like that, and why does she want to see the Little Mermaid have her heart broken and fail? I’ve always been a person who considers the ‘why’ of every situation and action, so it felt natural to me to question her past that formed her future. In the original story, there isn’t much information on the sea witch provided. She came as a bit of a blank slate, giving me the freedom to create a more sympathetic character in my version. 

Mermaids feature heavily in this novel, with their underwater cities and flashy fins, there are a lot of creative avenues to explore when building an underwater civilization. What was the most fun aspect of writing about mermaids?

Taking what the general public knows about mermaids, and then building on that. Thinking about where they would live, their societies, and how maybe they wouldn’t be that different from us, minus the whole under water thing. There is always a fascination about paranormal creatures, but also a freedom to create different layers to deepen a readers understanding of them. 

What was the most challenging aspect?

Probably finding a balance between what is socially accepted as ‘mermaid’ versus what I wanted to create in my characters. I always write with a set of ‘rules’, whether it is about the character, the world, the magic systems, and once you set those in place, you can’t break them. While fantasy writing has a sense of freedom about it, since the rules are of your own making, there are still expectations to stay within those parameters and the expectations readers already hold about your subjects, which can be a challenge. 

What scene was your favourite to write and why?

Probably the epilogue. Going through the majority of the story, there isn’t much connection to the classic tale. OVS is about Sereia, not the sea witch as we know her. It isn’t until the epilogue that it really ties together; her motivations, her hesitations, and her desperation to finally have her revenge against her brother. All of it is the catalyst for the Little Mermaid story we know. 

What is your favourite quote or passage from your novel?

I have a few, but possibly ‘as your world crumbles and burns, I will rise like a phoenix from your ashes’. It is the first quote that ties OVS to the classic tale and gives depth to her desire for revenge.

What projects are coming up for you next?

My next novel, How to Get Over Your (Best Friend’s) Ex, is coming Summer 2024 from Camcat! It is a YA romance love triangle in which a shy girl tries to help her queen bee best friend get over her recent breakup, while also trying to get over the love interest herself. I think it is a concept that many people can relate to, of forbidden romance and the struggle of being a side kick character in your own life. 

Travel Log: A Date with Darcy

Short story long,

I have taken a sabbatical from my day job as a Speech Language Pathologist to live in the UK and finish the Frean Chronicles Trilogy!

  1. Contest of Queens: completed!
  2. Queen’s Catacombs: completed!
  3. Mysteriously Titled Finale: Completed manuscript sent to publisher!

If you’re interested in following along on my travel journey, I recommend following me on Instagram: @jordanhbartlett

A Date with Darcy

The most controversial opinion I have in the UK is undoubtedly that I prefer the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice to the BBC version. Colin Firth and his wet shirt is fine, but he is no Matthew MacFayden and his unbuttoned linen shirt and long coat billowing in the mist as he walks across the misty moor. Between that, the rain-soaked (albeit poorly worded) first proposal, and the infamous hand-flex scene, poor Mr. Firth doesn’t stand a chance in the halls of my heart.

Feel free to disagree… but know that I will think you are wrong.

I was lucky enough to visit my Darcy’s Pemberly (a.k.a Chatsworth) with a dear friend of mine, and even saw his statue! I think my favourite part was the little plaque beneath the statue that begged visitors not to kiss it.

The house and grounds of Chatsworth easily filled one of the happier days of my life. While the inside was gorgeous, the grounds were mesmerizing. There was a hedge maze, an elaborate rock garden, a collection of the largest red-woods outside California, greenhouses with lilypads and peaches, and so much more! Such a dream.

Rabbits and Daffodils

Next stop on my brief literary pilgrimage was the Lake District. I honestly have so many photographs from the three days I was there and rather than overload you, I shall pick one photograph per highlight, and restrict myself to three highlights. Oof, what a challenge. Are you ready? Here we go!

  1. Visiting Beatrix Potter’s home: Hill Top House and Farm

Hill Top Farm in the Lake District is where Beatrix Potter lived for many years. She bought the property (rats and all) and had to finagle the system a bit to live their as she was an unmarried woman and at the time it was not the thing to do.

It was such a treasure of a place!

It was such a treasure of a place! And she used so many little locations around her house and grounds as backdrops in her books, you felt like you had jumped right into the pages!

Even if you’re not a fan of Peter Rabbit and his gang, I think you’d have been hard pressed not to smile to see the watering can he hid in, or the garden gate Jemima Puddle Duck walks through.

Oh Nelly, walking in the footsteps of such an incredible and talented woman was indescribable.

2. Getting “lost” in Wordsworth’s backyard

I visited Dove cottage and wandered as he once did – although I was not lonely as a cloud. The beauty of Wordsworth is how, centuries later, like souled people flock to his haunts and share like minds. So I wandered with a kind heart named Jennifer until the winds blew us our separate ways through the bluebell fields and rolling hills.

Rather than take the bus back to the ferry in Ambleside, I walked. It’s wonderful the things you find when you take the long way around. These stepping stones, funnily enough, were part of the pathway back to the main road.

3. The peace that water brings

I can see why people flock to the Lake District. Even with dozens of people milling about, you can’t help but find calm.

Whether it was the sound of the waves lapping against the hull of the boat taking me to Ambleside, or the pitter-patter of rain on the trees (and my head) when I accidently got caught in a downpour, the sight, the sound, the smell of it filled my heart right up.

Upcoming Event: SLJ Day of Dialog

This year I’ve been asked to speak at the SLJ DAY of DIALOG on the Compelling Series in YA panel. I’m so excited to chat all things Frean! It is a free virtual event that you just need to register for, so if you’re interested, click the image above (or here) and register!
10:00 to 10:40 EST
See you there!

Review Corner

Reviews are so helpful in getting word of Contest of Queens and Queen’s Catacombs out there. If you have time, and if you’ve read the book, I would be eternally grateful if you could leave a star rating and/or a written review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who have left a star rating or review! Here are some lovely reviews from this past month:

x live magically

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1 Comment

  1. Cathy Bartlett says:

    your life is way too cool! you will always remember this year my darlin! and all the future years you will live as you live life so darn well! xoo


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