Interview wtih Kristi McManus, Author of Our Vengeful Souls


Short and sweet - Give us the elevator pitch for Our Vengeful Souls:


A cursed mermaid seeks revenge against the brother who betrayed her as she fights to protect her secrets and her life in the realm of Atlantis.


When did you officially become an author? (I feel like I officially became one while writing and illustrating my first books as a first grader at my child-sized rolltop desk.)


My earliest memory of writing was when I was 10. We were tasked with rewriting a fairy tale, and I chose Little Red Riding Hood. I remember being SO excited about the assignment, taking my mother's old typewriter and rewriting the story from the perspective of the wolf as a misunderstood victim of mistaken identity. I even illustrated it! My teachers must have been impressed because they printed a copy for the school library and read it during assembly shortly after.


What drew you to writing? 


The escapism. The ability to create worlds and characters, and live a million adventures through stories. A lot of the time, ideas nag at me, whether it's a title or a concept or even a line of dialogue. It builds until something more forms and I just can't NOT write it down. 


You began your publishing journey on Wattpad–it’s got to be a great way to learn to write, because you’re getting feedback from a large group of readers. Please tell us how that experience shaped you as a writer. 


My time on Wattpad was a great experience in writing...both what to do, and what not to do. I learned the art of storytelling from the immediate feedback, and the enthusiasm of readers gave me confidence. My pacing was terrible, and I didn't follow any traditional expected structure, but the freedom Wattapd gives you helps build a foundation, and you can learn craft slowly thereafter. 


What’s your writing process like? Do you outline? I would think publishing serially would teach you quite a lot about meeting deadlines and how to draft quickly. Any tips for getting that first draft down?


I am definitely a plotter, with a smidge of pantser. I outline my books in a journal with any little ideas that will help build the story. Names, details, twists. Once it feels like I have something solid to work with, I break it down chapter by chapter. I don't give every detail in this outline, just the big plot points, cliffhangers, etc. This lets me see how everything will flow, and catch any plot holes or make sure I don't write myself into a corner. When it comes to actually writing, though, I let the story take control. Sometimes I go back and change the outline because of this, letting the 'pantser' take a little bit of the reins. 


In terms of getting a first draft down, I'm a firm believer in 'just write!'. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good! It just has to be written. You can edit a first draft to make it shine, but you can't edit a blank page. I write pretty quickly, writing a chapter per session, usually every day. I can typically get a first draft down in about a month. But then I walk away from it, and don't think about it for a month or so. Let the story settle, and your mind will often pick up on changes or plot holes as time goes on without the pressure of staring at the screen. Make yourself take that break. Then when you go back to do first round edits, you have a fresh view. 


How do you approach fantasy writing? It requires such strong world-building skills!


Our Vengeful Souls was actually my first fantasy! I typically write young adult romance, but wanted to try my hand at fantasy and fell in love. The freedom to create worlds, and rules and magic is exhilarating. I read a lot of fantasy novels to understand world building and how to incorporate it in to a story without info dumping. I think that's the biggest thing...if you want to try writing a certain genre, read a lot of it first. Even if you don't feel like it's making a difference in your writing, I promise it is. 


You seem especially drawn to revision as well. Our Vengeful Souls contains a Little Mermaid villain origins story, and I tend to think authors who enjoy retellings are revision junkies! How do you approach a revision? OR: How do you approach a retelling, being sure to infuse a well-known story with your own voice and vision? 


To be honest, I used to HATE revision. I was a terrible editor, and it was definitely a skill I had to learn. During the revision process with OVS, however, I was fortunate that my editor was amazing and gave incredible feedback. I knew there were areas that needed work, but couldn't quite figure out how to fix them. 


Typically, when I get a first pass, I read over the edit letter several times to get an idea for where the editor sees gaps. Usually, ways to fix this will pop into my head immediately, and I might jot them down on post-its and stick them on the letter, but usually I just sit with it a bit. Then after some time, I will print the annotated manuscript with the editor's comments, and work through it section by section, again putting in post its with ways to fix things, additional chapters to include or remove, etc. It's a long process, but now I actually like revision. 


In terms of retellings, I think you have to consider how you want your version to be different from the original. What is it that you are changing, and how does it tie in to the classic? With OVS, I really focused on the original Hans Christian Anderson version of the story, how the sea witch was portrayed, and considered how she would still end up there at the end of my version. But at the same time, my biggest motivator was making my character relatable and have readers empathize with her. 


You’ve published through a relatively new press–which sounds utterly exciting! What’s the process been like, now that you’re working with a publisher and not doing it all yourself (as you were on Wattpad)?


I couldn't be happier with my publisher, Camcat. They are a smaller press, but the support I've received has been amazing. The entire team is hands on, which gives you a lot of confidence even when you're new to the process. I think the biggest difference between publishing and Wattpad was the revisions. Having someone who knows the business explain exactly the areas that needed work, and give suggestions how to fix them to make the story better. Not to mention the final product: finally holding your book in your hands, and it becomes real. It's exciting and terrifying all at once.


Why YA? What draws you to the genre as a whole?


I actually used to write adult/new adult on Wattpad. But when I got my previous agent, they mentioned that my voice was more young adult, and encouraged me to focus on that demographic. I completely agree, and love writing young adult! The chance to influence young readers, to give them stories they can relate to for the rest of their lives is amazing.


What’s the best piece of advice you can give authors starting out? 


I know it might sound cliche, but don't give up. I started writing on Wattpad in 2014. Started querying agents in 2015, got an agent and book deal in 2018, left both in 2019 and ended up back in the query trenches. Now, I'm published with another book slated for next year. I wanted to quit so many times, but I loved writing more than I hated the rejection. And rejection is synonymous with publishing, so be prepared for a lot of it. But it doesn't mean your writing isn't good. It just means it hasn't found the right partnership. Take the time to learn the craft of writing, listen to mentors, go to conferences, learn, learn, learn!


What are you up to now?


I am in the middle of revisions for my next release, a young adult romance scheduled to publish in 2024. It is the story of a shy girl who vows to help her queen bee best friend get over her breakup, while simultaneously trying to get over the boy in question, herself. It was one of the first young adult romances I wrote, and I'm really excited that it found a home with Camcat.


Where can we find you online and keep up with the latest?


My website is updated often, and has all my social media links In terms of social media, Twitter and Instagram are probably my most active, and you can find me at @kristimcmanus on both. 

Order a copy of Our Vengeful Souls from Bookshop



  1. John Clark (not anonymous) Very much looking forward to reading this book.


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