Name: Lisa Mannetti
Age: Sorry, but that’s classified and has always been disseminated on a need to know basis; the one person who actually needed to know was my mother and she’s deceased.
Where are you from: New York
A little about yourself –i.e. your education, family life, etc.
I have an M.A. in 18th and 19th century English Literature from Fordham (and about half of my Ph.D. in the same area). I’m currently owned by two wily (and mostly black) cats named Harry and Theo Houdini.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My short story , “Arbeit Macht Frei” was accepted for the forthcoming anthology, GUTTED: BEAUTIFUL HORROR STORIES, and my novella about Houdini, THE BOX JUMPER was published in August 2015.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing when I was eight; I was already in love with language.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I always knew I’d write.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first novel (typed) was at age 10 and it was inspired by the Nancy Drew series…it was 64 chapters and 64 pages long before I knew it was a mess and I chucked it. My other “first novel” was called THE LAMIA and despite having two major New York agents didn’t sell. My third “first novel,” was THE GENTLING BOX and that garnered the Bram Stoker Award. Gypsies were the main inspiration—along with the 19th century.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I tend to write dark literate prose. I really think it’s important—crucial for me— to go beyond character and plot and delve into word-smithing.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Box Jumper is an insider’s term for a magician’s assistant and since my narrator, Leona Derwatt, once worked for Houdini it seemed logical.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novella that you want readers to grasp?
There are lots of themes and motifs in THE BOX JUMPER: magic; illusion; truth; madness; love and longing; trickery; deceit—to name a few—but I leave “messages” for the reader to tease out for him or herself.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I did a great deal of research about magic, Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle, séances, spiritualism and spiritualists. Some characters are composites based on real people like Arthur Ford. Conan Doyle and Houdini, of course, were both famous men of the time.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some events are based on my own experience—though mostly at second hand. I almost always tend to write about medical issues because I was fascinated with my mother’s textbooks even as a child. St. Agnes is a real hospital and it does have a grotto (though not quite like the one I described). I’d say more here, but don’t want to give away the farm with plot spoilers.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Wow, zillions of books, I’ll just go with some authors: Dickens, Defoe, Coleridge, the Bronte sisters, Twain from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries; Norris, Dreiser, Fitzgerald from early 20th century; Kingsley Amis, J.P. Donleavy, Heller, McCullers, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Lillian Hellman, Shirley Jackson from mid-20th century; Stephen King, Peter Straub, John Irving, Fannie Flagg—from latter 20th century up to the present. I’m forgetting a hundred others. Mentors included a couple of my undergraduate and graduate school professors, one editor—Elizabeth Crow, and a writer/instructor named Emily Hanlon. I’m grateful for all of them.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am research for the book I’m working on currently (RADIUM GIRL) I’m re-reading: FREAKS: WE WHO ARE NOT AS OTHERS by Daniel Mannix; UNDER THE BIG TOP by Bruce Feiler; CIRCUS FIRE by Stewart O’Nan and RADIUM GIRLS by Claudia Clark. (I’ve actually read at least 40 other books and articles as well and watched tons of videos.) For the armchair mountaineer side of my personality I’m reading CLIMB by Anatoli Boukreev. For fun I’ve just finished Stephen King’s BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I really enjoyed Paul Tremblay’s A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Novel-in-progress: RADIUM GIRL.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My mother would tell you it was an archangel; my friends would tell you it was Satan (and not necessarily in his role as fallen angel). Seriously, it was some good friends of long standing including: Robert Dunbar, Corrine DeWinter, Dennis Cummins, Beth Blue, Janice Morgan, and Linda Addison, Terrie Lee Relf and Lisa Lane from my writing group, the Zoom Sisters—and lots more people who provided encouragement. Boot Camp run by Borderlands Press (and my teachers there: Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, Doug Winter and Ginjer Buchanan) helped more than I can say.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
One of the reviewers mentioned they’d wished it was about 200 pages longer (it’s 142) and I did see it as a novella from early on, but reading that line made me think about what I might have done if I had expanded it. Maybe someday I will…or perhaps write a sequel.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I had night terrors at age 8 and my parents were about to give me away to the first person who would take me (and my cat or dolls or whatever would keep me there instead of home) because I kept everyone awake every night. Then I wrote a story and the ending was that the little girl wasn’t being attacked by vampires, but recalling her mother bending over the bed to kiss her goodnight. My mother figured out that her sweetly sentimental action was actually triggering the nightmares and the end result was I got to live at home— plus I saved my folks tons of money they were about to spend on a psychiatrist. It was a win-win situation.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure this is the opening of RADIM GIRL.
Chapter 1: Sideshow
Cuppy, Whiting & Todd Circus, July 3rd 1922
My sister, Rose, knows where I am. At least I’m pretty sure she does; if she doesn’t know the precise town, if she doesn’t look in the newspaper or hear one of our ads on the radio, she definitely knows where I’ve just been because it must say so right on the telegram that goes along with the money I send every week. Mustn’t it? Even if it doesn’t say, she could always ask the counter clerk couldn’t she?
When I’m nervous—especially just before show time—I like to imagine her back home on Main Street walking past the pointed gray spires of the First Presbyterian Church on a late spring day, her blue gingham dress flirting sideways in the breeze, her heels clacking on the sidewalk until she gets to the Western Union.
I can hold the image of Rose and her weekly journey—past the bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln and the brick and mansard train depot in all the seasons. I can picture her hurrying past the old Burial Ground when autumn leaves skirl and make that dreadful chittery noise, and loitering (strawberry ice cream cone in hand) on warm June days when the organ grinder comes out and plays “Oh, Marie.” I can see the town and the route Rose takes every Saturday to get my telegram and pick up the money as clearly as if I were walking alongside her—even when I hear the talker giving his spiel outside on the bally platform to draw the crowd—even though I can’t walk any more….Yes, I can calm myself envisioning Rose right up until the customers are on the catwalk in front of my small wooden stage and the pitchman bawls: “Right this way to see ’Lectra—the girl who glows in the dark!”
The book is about betrayal on many levels. Julia Gifford has worked at U.S. Radium Corp in the post WW I era as a dial painter and the radium she ingested has destroyed her health and her appearance. As the novel opens she is telling us about her descent to a circus sideshow as a double freak—the only way at this juncture she can earn a living.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I sometimes find it difficult to get the nuance of voice I need when I write in third person, but I’ve done it.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Honestly I don’t have one favorite.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I’ve travelled a great deal, but I don’t always travel specifically for the book I’m working on.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Culpeo S. Fox and Amy York.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
It was hard to let go of Houdini—I was totally smitten with him while working on it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Yes, I felt more confident about tackling a subject that many people have knowledge about.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read as much as you can in as many genres as you can. You can’t write in a vacuum.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I would welcome hearing from them regarding THE BOX JUMPER. For future reference, there are a couple of secrets buried in RADIUM GIRL and I’d be most interested to find out if anyone ferrets them out.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
Mark Twain—because he was smart and witty.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“The book was better….”
No, I’m joking. I’ll be buried in the same plot with my parents and there really isn’t room on the headstone.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Reading. Watercolor. Travel.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Anything well done and intelligent.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: Anything not black. Colors: Anything that is black. Music: Rock and Roll, Opera, jazz, blues.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I taught for a while and I really enjoyed it, but I never got any writing of my own done and that was a huge problem for me. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it? http://lisamannetti.com
Here’s the link for my Amazon Author Page: